Even as the United States tackles the immediate economic crisis, our long-term economic competitiveness and ability to deal with global military and environmental challenges urgently requires citizens prepared for the interconnected world of the 21st century. This national challenge demands immediate action by our new President and Congress, working with the nation’s Governors, educators, and business leaders, to create internationally competitive education systems that are held to world-class standards. To do this, the United States must benchmark its educational system against international standards and practices, redesign high schools to prepare graduates who are college-ready and globally competent, invest in teacher training in international subject matter, expand national capacity for learning world languages--particularly Chinese and Arabic--and expand international teacher and student exchange programs.
To succeed in this new global era, we need not only to increase the number of high school graduates and improve the rigor of our math and science curriculum, but also to ensure that our graduates are globally competent. While definitions of “global competence” and “international education” vary, it is generally agreed to include:
“If we do not reinvent education for a new era, our children will simply not be able to compete in the global economy,” said James B. Hunt Jr., former four-term governor of North Carolina and trustee of Asia Society. “As never before, American education must prepare students for a world where the opportunities for success require the ability to compete and collaborate on a global scale.”
The U.S. education system is already lagging behind some of its economic competitors, and the signatories to the policy paper strongly believe that it will only worsen if immediate action is not taken. The United States can no longer afford to be lagging behind other countries in high school graduation rates (currently the U.S. is ranked 18th among developed nations) and math and science standards (among thirty Organisation for Economic and Co-Operative Development (OECD) member countries, the United States ranked 25th in mathematics and 21st in science), while producing graduates who lack the world knowledge, skills, and perspectives to be successful in this global era.
American business leaders will only succeed if they have employees with knowledge of overseas markets and foreign languages in order to market products and services worldwide. “The more our young people know about the cultural context in which they are operating, the better their competence as business leaders,” says Charles Kolb, President of the Committee for Economic Development, an organization of Fortune 500 business leaders. And most of the global challenges facing the United States will only be solved through international collaboration. ”Now is the time to broaden the curriculum to include international aspects and prepare our students to be citizens in the global 21st century,” said John Wilson, Executive Director of the National Education Association.
What follows are recommendations to ensure every student has a world of opportunities. The future is here. It’s global, multicultural, multilingual, and digitally connected. If we put the world into world-class education, not only will we be more successful and innovative in the global economy, but we will lay an important foundation for peace and a shared global future.
National Policy Recommendations
With the education of our citizens and America’s standing as a world leader at stake, we urge the new President and 111th Congress to make graduating globally competent citizens a national priority and to provide the leadership necessary to make strategic new investments in education that address this challenge.
Five key policy areas should be addressed:
”Now is the time to broaden the curriculum to include international aspects and prepare our students to be citizens in the global 21st century,” said John Wilson, Executive Director of the National Education Association. The organizations recognize that there are many initiatives across the country to increase graduation rates and add global content and new languages to local schools but feel that these piecemeal efforts are inadequate.
“Substantial and strategic new investments are needed in human capital, research, and proven practices and a federal, state, and local partnership must be created that focuses national attention on redesigning our schools for the 21st century,” said Vivien Stewart, Vice President for Education at Asia Society. The purpose of this partnership must be clear: to ensure our nation’s long-term economic competitiveness and national security by dramatically upgrading the skills of our graduates.
Alliance for Excellent Education
Committee for Economic Development
Council of Chief State School Officers
National Association of Secondary Schools Principal
National Education Association
National Middle School Association