by Robert Harrison
International Baccalaureate Organization
Exactly what constitutes global education? At a recent similar discussion ("What Kind of Education Enables Us to Cope With an Interconnected World") sponsored by Cambridge Assessment (UK), a panel of industry and education sector experts tried to forge some consensus about what 'knowledge and skills are attractive to higher education institutions and employers around the world and whether there is a common set of skills, body of knowledge, level of understanding or a mindset that enables students and countries to flourish.'
The panel--with some notable dissent from the august and very traditional perspective of a Senior Tutor from the University of Cambridge--identified five common threads. In an era of intense globalization, they agreed, students need:
1. an understanding of pressing global issues
2. multilingualism, both in terms of multiple language proficiencies as well as fluency in global English
3. information technology (information literacy) skills
4. collaborative skills and experience
5. capacities for innovation and creativity.
Interestingly, educational thinkers from India and China (Hong Kong) added:
6. an appreciation for diversity/ understanding of language and cultures
7. the capacity for independent thinking.
This portrait of global education stands in
contrast to the way many universities continue to think about what's essential
in students' preparation for academic and economic success. At the Cambridge
event, the weightiest player in the room calmly insisted that in the 21st
century, universities continue to seek students who were just about the same as
they'd always sought: young people with intellectual acumen possessing command
of a reasonably-fixed body of specialist subject-area knowledge.
I was struck by the disconnect. It isn't as if the 'Oxbridge' system isn't aware of and responding to changes in the way the world works. A good look around the James Martin 21st Century School at Oxford University shows a fascinating and high-powered model.
But it's a lively question to consider how best to balance traditional disciplinary subject-matter content mastery with the pursuit of 21st century global knowledge, skills, and attitudes. I wonder if the ways nations, states, local educational authorities, and classroom teachers move between and combine these two demands may be the most important big-scale decision facing primary and secondary educators today.