According to Don Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), adopting educational strategies used in other countries prepares your students for their place in the world.
With the opportunity to interact with educators around the world, I have experienced school systems very different from ones I had become accustomed to in my 30-year career. And I am left with the overriding impression that most progressive systems around the world have acknowledged the globalization of education and embraced it in a way we only fantasize about across most of this country.
Teacher preparation programs in the Philippines and Jamaica are striving to prepare their teachers against international standards to ensure they are “fit for export” when teacher supplies plummet in the U.S., U.K., and China. In Coast Rica, high school teams for web development and network design provide interesting learning models, which, both face-to-face and virtual, pop up in surprising places. Ranging from a nationwide project-based curriculum in Denmark to a classroom of 70 Chinese students monitored remotely by video surveillance and supported with digital tools for English language learning, systems once characterized by extreme rigidity are now taking advantage of innovative and experimental strategies to position students to compete globally.
While traveling in the Pearl River Delta of the People’s Republic of China, I was fortunate to visit the Dongguan City Science and Technology Education Center. There, local students work in software development teams, supplementing their high school curriculum with undergraduate software engineering coursework and collaborating as part of the Brea Olinda Global IT Academy to develop real-world international software solutions with their colleagues in California. Education leaders in Dongguan and throughout the wealthy Guangdong Province were eager to know more about online learning for students and teachers and about other solutions to ensure they were providing a relevant 21st-century education to the largest possible percentage of their young learners.
It would be a serious error, however, to think all we have to learn from the global education community is how to get students to achieve better in science, math, and technology. In elementary classrooms in Costa Rica and Panama, for example, students work in digital environments to express ideas and concepts through visual images—fostering creative thinking and 21st-century communication skills while mastering academic and technology skills. There are schools in Brazil with very impressive programs for using technology to support students with a wide range of disabilities. Some of the most successful nongovernment Indian schools in Chennai and Delhi provide self-improvement programs for disadvantaged youths who could never afford tuition.
An education leader today cannot claim to be an informed leader without knowledge of what is happening in education within and outside that leader’s own country. Learning with and from the global education community stimulates ideas that might never have come to mind otherwise. Understanding how educators and young learners in other countries overcome shortages of resources can provide both inspiration and strategies to help the most seasoned leader.
Also, while most school administrators are dealing with a wide cultural array among their student body, there will very shortly be an influx of qualified teachers from a variety of nations and cultures leading students to learn online and face-to-face. Thriving within this cultural diversification among professionals in our schools will probably require new skills, new attitudes, and new background experiences among our leaders. It will almost certainly require deeper appreciation for diverse cultures. Some deliberate effort to prepare for the emerging multicultural landscape within which we will have to lead is important, as is maintaining an awareness of important trends in education within and outside the United States.