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Middle Schools and Global Learning

Students at an international studies school prepare for the World Affairs Challenge. Photo courtesy DCIS.

Students at an international studies school prepare for the World Affairs Challenge. Photo courtesy DCIS.

What Does Global Competency Really Mean?
The question remains: can the kind of education for adolescents described in Turning Points infused with international content, perspectives and skills produce better outcomes for students? Our contention is that it isn’t either/or – either closing the achievement gap, or equipping students with global competencies. Rather that thoughtfully infusing an international perspective within a rigorous instructional program can drive school improvement. It can make learning more rigorous, relevant and engaging to students and lead to better outcomes on the very accountability measures that you live by every day. If there is any one message I hope I can convey to you it is that international studies is not really a new program or a new approach, and certainly not something that gets layered on top of existing practice. It is simply a way of teaching that embeds the kinds of knowledge and skills students must have to be college ready and work ready in the 21st century within highly rigorous instruction and relationship driven, culturally rich

Defining the knowledge and skills students need for the global era, or defining global competencies, if you will, is still a work in progress. Our views on this are still growing as we continue to talk with thoughtful adults in a wide variety of walks of life, as well as kids themselves.

Take a look at Asia Society’s International Studies Schools Network Profile of a High School Graduate. This is our guiding vision of what success looks like when schools are able to produce students that are college ready and globally competent. The Graduate Profile spells out what we mean by the kind of knowledge, skills and dispositions young people need to compete, connect and cooperate with others in a global era at the end of high school and as such, they provide a clear set of goals that we use in framing education for the students in our schools beginning in the middle grades.

What are some of those skills?

Knowledge about the World

  • Have an opportunity to learn about world cultures, have experience of becoming expert about world culture or world issues.
  • Understand deeply how the world’s people and institutions are interconnected and know how critical international economic, political, technological, environmental and social systems operate interdependently across nations and regions.
  • Deep content knowledge in science, math – importantly, know how to used scientific and mathematical knowledge to explain and understand the world, hopefully contribute to solutions to world issues.

International Skills

  • Are “literate for the 21st century” and are proficient in reading, writing, listening and speaking in English and in one or more other world languages.
  • Analyze and evaluate global issues from multiple perspectives, gather and synthesize relevant information from around the world, and draw conclusions that consider the impact from various viewpoints.
  • Are proficient in the use of a digital media, can evaluate the validity and integrity of information, and can identify sources of bias.

Values, Habits of Mind

  • Understand and value the opportunity to work collaboratively with individuals from cultural backgrounds different from their own and can see the world from the perspective of others.
  • Are comfortable and competent in different cultural settings and know how to shift behavior and language to respectfully interact with people from different backgrounds.
  • Understand that decisions and actions taken in the United States may have international consequences and that events worldwide may have national and local implications.
  • Understand their responsibility to make ethical decisions and responsible choices, to weigh the consequences of their actions for themselves and others across the globe, and toact toward the development of a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world.


See full definition here.

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