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What Do Globally Competent Students Look Like?

Editor’s note: this article was originally published on April 26, 2017. It was updated on November 21, 2018.

Our futures are increasingly linked to the challenges of the global community. The world’s population is predicted to grow from 7.3 billion to 8.5 billion in 2030 and to nearly 10 billion by 2050. Such population growth will affect pollution and disease management. It also means the depletion of energy, food and water resources.

For students to take part in this changing world, they must understand it. The 21st century student will work for international companies. They will manage employees from other cultures, collaborate with people all over the world and solve global problems.

Nine in 10 students recognize that jobs are becoming more international in nature. They also believe understanding different cultures would make them stronger employees.

infographic on global education resources and administrative support shortage

Defining global competitiveness

The mission of the U.S. Department of Education includes promoting student achievement. It also includes promoting global competitiveness and equal access.

Strategies for achievement, preparation and equity are vast. There is an expectation in the U.S. that our education system will prepare students for college, jobs and the world in general.

Global competitiveness can be defined as the set of skills that help someone be a productive member of their community and the world.

Being globally competitive today requires developing global competence. Equipping students with hard skills to compete in a global job market is important. Cultivating their ability to communicate across cultures in respectful ways is critical.

Defining global competence

This is where global competence becomes important. We must equip students not only for the world they live in now, but also for the future. Each day, technology makes the world more accessible and increases intercultural interactions.

Ethno-cultural conflicts are the most common source of political violence in the world today. Students need global competence to build a more peaceful future. We must increase students’ capacity to respectfully interact with the world around them.

The definition of global competence is dynamic. These soft skills and characteristics are widely seen as what students need to be globally competent today.

Appreciation of culture

Students see their own cultures as strengths and seek to understand the cultures of others. They are aware of similarities and differences among cultures. They understand that behaviors and values are often tied to cultures.

Evaluation of information

Students regularly question easily accessible information to seek deeper understanding and
thoughtfully evaluate materials and perspectives, rather than accepting things at face value.

Cross-cultural communication skills

Students effectively exchange ideas with peers and adults from different backgrounds. They have the skills to enter new communities and spaces.

Perspective taking skills

Students show curiosity and empathy. They may show compassion for the perspectives of others.

Intelligent humility

Students understand that their knowledge is not infinite. They appreciate how much more there is to learn about the world. Students understand the grandiosity of the world and its complexities.

Divergent thinking

Students see alternative or original solutions to existing problems. They can envision the world differently from how it currently exists.

Technological literacy

Students use and explore existing technologies to communicate and collaborate with others. They also use it to learn and share new ideas and information. Students create new technologies or discover new uses that help them and others navigate the world.

Global education as a path to equity

Recent K–12 education efforts  like STEAM, 1:1 technology and cultural exchange promote global competence. These efforts are growing in popularity, but they are not available to most students.

Definitions of ‘global competence,’ ‘global education’ and ‘opportunity gap.’

All students are equally deserving of an education that prepares them for the world. So how do we as educators create opportunities and deliver instruction that ensures global competence for all? One option is to provide students with multicultural perspectives across subject areas.

A simple term for this is global education.

Successful global education approaches recognize what students need to flourish in the world. They integrate activities that resolve opportunity gaps among students on a daily basis.

This starts by exposing students to a variety of cultural experiences. They don’t need to leave the classroom to do this. Discussing global challenges, doing a virtual exchange and other activities all bring the world to the classroom. They open a students’ mind to different ways of life.

For more, download our ebook, Global Education and Equitable Preparation.

This post is part of a blog series written by Participate on global education. It was originally published on Getting Smart and has been updated. Join the conversation with us on Twitter using #globaled.