Harvard Dialogues on Global Education

An entrepreneurial response to the need for global education

| 5 Comments
by Tyler C. Tingley
Co-Head of School
Avenues: The World School

Other posters in this blog space have documented the marginal progress educators in the United States have made since Professor Kandel's 1928 address challenged the nation to become more effective in preparing students to understand global affairs.  Gerhard Fischer, in his May 5 post, details the reasons that make it easy for a Midwestern parent to support efforts to raise math test scores while ignoring the teaching of foreign languages and other components of global studies.

One of the reasons these short-sighted decisions are replicated year after year in communities across the United States is that to the tax-paying citizen, such curricular decisions are generally cast as part of a zero-sum game.  Education budgets are limited; to add language instruction means that something must be taken away.  It is hard to make an imaginative, long-range decision in this kind of environment of abrasive fiscal discipline.

A number of us who have been involved in non-profit private education have been searching for models that will permit more flexible funding of initiatives to increase access to global studies.  Increasing numbers of independent schools are making global studies a key part of their mission.  The National Association of Independent Schools has recently developed a  separate department to support and encourage independent schools who are developing courseware and experiences in global studies.

Avenues: The World School represents a new direction in the development of global studies programming.  The school is founded on the concept that to be well educated today means fluency in more than one language, understanding of the major cultures and histories of the world, and personal experience outside the home country.  All Avenues families will choose whether their children will study Mandarin or Spanish.  The school will begin these languages in the Nursery years, in a 50 percent immersion program and continue them through high school.

The first campus of Avenues will open in September 2012 in New York City.  Beginning in 2014 Avenues will open two more campuses a year in major cities around the world, until the target of 20 campuses is reached.  At that point, Avenues will be a school of some 30,000 students and 2700 faculty.

The core curriculum of the school will be the same for each campus, facilitating movement of both students and faculty among the campuses.  A unique aspect of the curriculum is the World Course, a coherent  global studies curriculum that begins in kindergarten and extends through the 12th grade.  The World Course is being designed by Professor Fernando Reimers and his associates at HGSE.

The founders of Avenues have designed the school to function as one school with 20 campuses--one faculty and one student body.  When the math department meets, for example, they will Skype to their electronic meeting from five continents.  Such a school would be inconceivable without the power of modern communications media, but in the era of the internet, the potential for students and faculty in such a school to access each other and learn from each other is unparalleled.

Avenues: The World School has been funded by private investors and will be operated on a for-profit model.  While this method of financing is uncommon for independent schools in the US, it is very common internationally.  And given the difficulty of bringing global studies to American classrooms, this access of the entrepreneurial spirit may provide new opportunities and insights into how to bring global studies into the US educational landscape.

5 Comments

Hi Preshanth, take a look at this article. I will be in Boston next week talking with Fernando Reimers the dude who is developing The World School. I will talk to him about letting CommuniKids do their early childhood component.

Cheers!

Here's the article!

I am so excited to learn about the Avenues World School project! My name is Raul Echevarria Director of Curriculum at CommuniKids Language Immersion Preschool in Washington, DC. Our preschool is in its second year of operation and currently has 80 students ages 2 1/2 to 5 years of age. Our students are engaged in a rich, child-centered play-based curriculum while being fully immersed in Spanish or French. Our teaching takes advantage of the unique developmental characteristics of toddlers and preschoolers to maximize the teaching of language and culture as an integrated experience rather than academic subjects. The program also takes the time to explore global education concepts as cross-curricular themes in health, environmental, multicultural education for peace, and consumer education as our students learn to interact with their surroundings. Our program has been extremely well received by the local communities of Washington, DC and Falls Church, Virginia and we have already placed students in many local international and language immersion schools. It is great to learn about a project that seeks to integrate and create connections between students, teachers, business, academics and nations! It is even more exciting to know that the program has an early childhood component which we feel is crucial to the success of a global education plan. Kudos! I am glad to find out about the many of us engaged in this most important endeavor.

Dear Raul, and all,

You make a very good point that Avenues is exceptional in that it includes an early childhood component. In fact, I find a very common conception is that world studies, typically treated in the abstract, should be left to the upper secondary to high school level. My questions to those who are reading this are, first of all, whether we agree that a course in world studies is appropriate for younger students, and then second, why?
For example, when you take a group of very young students and introduce them to development, you are also introducing them to the very difficult issues of poverty, lack of access to education, and global threats. How can this content be made accessible to our youngest students? Is it developmentally appropriate?

Dear Julia and others,

A solid early childhood education must be rooted in world studies as a matter of necessity. The main thrust of an early childhood program is to allow students to find out how to relate to the world. That is simply, or not so simply, to allow children to experience how their surroundings affect them and how their actions and attitudes can have a direct effect on their surroundings.

For obvious developmental reasons (our early childhood program has children as young as 2 1/2 years of age) the school year starts with children working on themes that are very close to our student's lives. As such, our first three themes focus on our student's bodies, families and homes. However, sometime during the end of the first semester our school themes start to become broader. We talk about our community and this allows us to focus on environmental issues such as littering and pollution. We take note of how this affects us and how we can help to clean up our community. We talk about our home country and look at U.S. food, music, dance our national symbols, holidays and cultural traditions like fourth of July and such. We then transition into a unit called "Our friends from different countries" which allows us to sample the food, music, dance and national symbols of our classmates and/or school staff. This is always fun and leads to an understanding of the differences among the many people in our lives and the strong connections we share in spite of these differences.

These themes are shared school-wide and are developed by all of our age groups at approximately the same time. This allows our schools to become little community centers or united nations for a little while. The idea is to create an experience where students can feel the connection that exist between themselves and the world around them. This experiences creates an understanding that the world rich and diverse and that we all contribute to its richness and upkeep.