By Tony Jackson
September 22, 2016
Mass migration. Violent extremism. Inequality. Climate change. Interdependent global economies. Today’s challenges reflect a world forever changed by globalization and technological innovation. Like never before, the issues and opportunities of our times transcend international borders and demand global cooperation on an unprecedented scale.
Building on six decades of groundbreaking work, Asia Society is today launching the Center for Global Education at Asia Society (CGE). The mission of the CGE is to transform education to ensure that youth worldwide, of every background and social condition, develop the intellectual, social, and emotional competencies—the global competencies—required to thrive in an interconnected world.
A fundamental shift in education is required. The urgency to do so is reflected in the recent adoption by every United Nations member state of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which set an agenda for global education through 2030 that goes well beyond getting all students in school. Achieving universal access to education is no longer sufficient — it is also necessary to provide all students with a quality education for global citizenship, one that successfully prepares them for life in the 21st century. The UN’s Global Education First Initiative notes, “It is not enough for education to produce individuals who can read, write and count. Education must fully assume its central role in helping people to forge more just, peaceful, tolerant and inclusive societies.”
For decades, Asia Society has pursued a relentless focus on developing students’ global competence—the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that are the foundation of global citizenship. Global competence includes skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity, coupled with the values and attitudes that compel action for the common good.
With the adoption of the SDGs, the world now identifies our world’s intractable problems as problems in learning. Simply put, today’s youth from Boston to Beijing to Beirut are not learning what they need to know to bend the arc of history toward broad scale prosperity for individuals and peaceful advancement of societies. Transforming education to develop global competence thus becomes a matter of our very survival. Adoption of the SDGs is also recognition that access to this type of education is an equity issue. All young people, regardless of their background, deserve to be prepared for meaningful work in the global economy and to take part in solving the global challenges that impact their lives and communities.
Universal education for global competence is an idea whose time has come. Yet worldwide, the recognition of a need to fundamentally disrupt traditional education is not leading to real changes in the classroom. The rhetoric for reform has not yet led to sweeping change in policies or classroom practice. The potential for partnerships across nations and sectors is unrealized, and gaping holes exist in practical knowledge on what is required to develop global competence in all students.
Fulfilling the Center for Global Education’s mission
There is a global leadership gap that the CGE must fill. The CGE will pursue its mission of all youth globally prepared through two key strategies:
- By promoting awareness, demand for, and adoption of education for global competence as a core element in the education policies of nations worldwide.
- By working to vastly increase the capacity of educators, schools, and school systems to supply high-quality education for global competence at scale.
The CGE will work toward broad scale adoption of education for global competence by:
- Identifying and connecting in common purpose key global partners in education, business, policy, philanthropy, and civil society whose influence and impact can be amplified through collaborative efforts.
- Developing awareness and activating constituencies of support for educating globally competent youth by convening dialogues and results-oriented forums among and across relevant sectors.
- Developing and curating knowledge to inform changes in education policy and practice by convening topical working groups, commissioning research and case studies, illuminating “existence proofs” of transformative education, and activating an international learning network of experts to share best practices.
The CGE’s efforts to catalyze greater capacity for educating globally competent youth will focus on:
- Creating enduring partnerships to develop and deploy a global online teacher training and certification strategy to reach 100,000 educators in schools and informal learning settings by 2030.
- Providing resources and engaging decision makers at the city and state or provincial level in developing replicable methods and structures for systemically advancing education for global competence.
- Developing at least 5 national-level partnerships with champion countries to enable access to high-quality global education for 4 million youth by 2030.
A stellar cross-sectorial Council advises and supports the CGE’s work. UNESCO Secretary-General Irina Bokova is the Honorary Chair, joined by Advisory Co-chairs Ido Leffler, Asia Society Trustee and Chairman of Yoobi, and Yu Lizhong, Chancellor of NYU Shanghai. Drawing on deep expertise and a wealth of global experience in education, business, government, philanthropy, and civil society, a partial list of Council members include Sarah Brown, Executive Chair, Global Business Coalition for Education; Frank Brown, Asia Society Trustee and Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, General Atlantic; David Coleman, President of the College Board, Wendy Kopp, Founder and CEO, Teach for All; Antony Leung, CEO, Nan Fung Group; Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of Practice in International Education, Harvard University; Donna Shalala, President, Clinton Global Initiative; Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General, OECD; Felix Ruano, Harvard Class of 2017 and alumnus of an Asia Society International Studies School; Masaki Yamasaki, Director, Benesse Group; and the Ministers of Education of Indonesia, Anies Baswedan; and New Zealand, Hekia Parata.
Strategic partnerships with global institutions will be essential for the CGE to meet its ambitious goals. Our partnership with UNESCO, for example, opens opportunities to work with them and the UN community to raise awareness and build capacity among nations striving to meet SDGs around global citizenship education and lifelong learning. We intend to partner with Arizona State University, a remarkably innovative university with a strong track record of success in digital education to scale up professional learning for teachers globally through online learning. We will build on a long established partnership with the Confucius Institute Headquarters (known as Hanban) to expand learning of Chinese language and culture around the world. Our working relationship with the OECD will enable a major convening to highlight new international data on student learning from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and preview a breakthrough assessment of global competence planned for 2018. Through formal and informal agreements, the CGE will be at the nexus of relationships worldwide whose purpose is all youth prepared for work and citizenship in the global 21st century.
And that is our goal: all youth prepared with the competencies of global citizenship that are the currency for success in an interconnected world. It will not happen over years, rather decades, not by mandate, but by learning and capacity building, and not by the extraordinary efforts of a few, as important as champions are, but rather through the collective work and wisdom of many. Global competence must move from the margins to the mainstream of the very purpose of education. It is how we can bend the arc of history toward prosperous, peaceful global societies. Our hope is that the Center for Global Education at Asia Society will be a leading light in that effort.