When Global Education and an International Student Body Come Together

Fall 2019

By Jefferson Burnett and Ioana Suciu Wheeler

Burnett.jpgThe Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), which is the blurring of the digital, physical, and biological realms, is on the cusp of radically changing our world. Its prime ingredient, artificial intelligence, is recasting the workplace and workforce. The World Economic Forum (WEF) describes this revolution as “disrupting almost every industry in every country,” and that “the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.” WEF projects that by 2030, one-third of the U.S. workforce will need to find new occupations and learn new skills.
Underlying the 4IR is an imperative for global competency. Multiple forces, from tech-driven connectivity and unprecedented global migration to socioeconomic and political developments and increased climate pressures, are shaping this changing landscape. Given this context, the need for talented, globally competent, and environmentally aware graduates is acutely apparent—as is the need for a different skill set. The McKinsey Global Institute’s workforce model projects that it will no longer be as important for students to acquire basic cognitive, physical, and manual skills as it will be for them to master higher cognitive as well as social-emotional and technological skills. 
“To be globally competent, students will need traits like critical thinking, intercultural literacy, digital literacy, and cooperation,” says Fernando M. Reimers of the Harvard Graduate School of Education along with four other coauthors in the book, Empowering Global Citizens: A World Course. “They will need to know how to work together on shared projects; how to use technology as a tool for learning; and how to see themselves as agents for innovation and sustainability.”
Independent schools are uniquely positioned to prepare their students to be global citizens who are knowledgeable, compassionate, ethical, curious, and internationally minded. Global education and international student programs are not new to independent schools, but the intersection of the two has taken on greater significance, with more schools making global competence mission-critical. But what exactly is global competence? Many major organizations, including the United Nations, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the International Baccalaureate, and Asia Society, each have their own definitions, but distilled, they all speak to the capacity for students to examine the world through different perspectives; to collaborate with peers from other countries and cultures; to be change agents; and to examine global issues and identify solutions that can be implemented locally, nationally, and globally. Although there is not one definition for global competence that all independent schools use, schools develop unique definitions for their mission, vision, and community based on these core traits.

Going Global

NAIS began working to promote and support global education in 2005. Since then, independent schools have moved from developing relatively narrow initiatives, such as offering world languages and study abroad trips, to using global competency research to frame new approaches to curriculum and to create more mission-driven, integrated programming.
In the past 15 years, more independent schools have launched international student programs. Both day and boarding schools now actively recruit and enroll international students who share their global perspectives, traditions, cultures, and languages, enriching the fabric of school cultures, classrooms, conversations, and communities. According to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), between 2005 and 2015, the number of international students on F-1 visas studying at NAIS and other private schools grew by more than 200%. By 2017, there were 31,341 international students on F-1 visas studying in NAIS member schools in the United States. (The F-1 visa is for foreign students coming to the United States to pursue a full course of academic study in SEVP-approved schools.) There is a parallel trend in higher education, with international students playing a key role in realizing the goal of internationalizing U.S. colleges and universities. The Institute of International Education estimates that there were 1,094,792 international students on F-1 visas studying at U.S. colleges and universities in 2017–2018.
Aside from enrolling international students to bring the world to their campuses, many colleges and universities follow a comprehensive internationalization plan that the American Council on Education (ACE) defines as a “strategic, coordinated process that seeks to align and integrate policies, programs, and initiatives to position colleges and universities as more globally oriented and internationally connected institutions.” As such, ACE’s Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement developed a six-part model that encourages institutions to:
  • have an articulated institutional commitment through developing robust strategic planning, forming an internationalization committee involving campus stakeholders, and developing an assessment;
  • involve top leaders and ensure that there is an international office and appropriate staffing;
  • develop curriculum that exposes students to international perspectives, global competence, and innovative ways to engage global learning through technology;
  • encourage teacher exchanges and appropriate professional development;
  • support student mobility for domestic students going abroad and for international students studying in the United States; and
  • form collaborations and partnerships with on-campus networks, the community, and institutions and organizations abroad.
Independent schools with well-established global education and international student initiatives follow similar protocols and use NAIS’s Principles of Good Practice (PGPs) on Educating for Global Citizenship and International Mindedness and the Education of International Students in Independent Schools to guide their work when launching, revamping, or expanding their programs. (For more about the PGPs, see “Guide Posts” below.)

Offering Deeper Experience

Global education is no longer seen as an isolated program in independent schools. And amid a heightened national discourse about civil society, global education has become a differentiator for many schools. Being a truly global school requires robust and well-integrated global education and international student programs. Schools must be intentional, and support from the board, head, leadership team, faculty, and staff is critical.
The Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG), an organization of K–12 schools that researches and establishes best practices in the field of global education, recently found in its 2017–2018 study that: there are now more schoolwide global education committees (46.3%); global education staff are now serving in senior-level positions, often combined with other large umbrella roles such as director of innovation, institutes, or leadership; strategic plans include goals on preparing students for a more interconnected and complex world; and nearly 29% of GEBG schools offer a global diploma, certificate, or equivalent. It’s clear that the importance of global education is resonating.
At The Packer Collegiate Institute (NY), what was once the “global coordinator” position has evolved into a leadership-level role: the director of global programs and community engagement. TenĂ© Howard, who serves in this role, is now part of the leadership team along with the head of school, director of diversity and equity, and others. “The position rests centrally with the leadership staff who think strategically about how the school runs and what is important,” Howard says, “and the team, as well as the board, felt that a global education program is very important to ensure that every student has international experiences of some sort.” 
In the past, Packer Collegiate didn’t have a framework for building a global program around best practices for global competence. That changed, however, after Howard looked at the student travel offering and started to ask foundational questions: How can travel experiences enhance the mission of the school, and how can the school enable students to have an experience that can deepen their perspectives of the world in order to have an impact on it? Howard developed a framework for global competence, based on the Four Designs of Global Competence model from the Center for Global Education at Asia Society, which gave her a blueprint for setting benchmarks around mission-defined goals. “We are a part of the globe, and engaging students in understanding how they are impacted by global issues and how they can also impact what is happening in our world is core to our work as a school,” she says.
Pace Academy (GA) has had a global education program for many years. But global education at Pace is now integrated at every grade level, and the school uses global leadership as the centerpiece of its curriculum. In 2010, the board explored some critical questions related to its globally rooted mission “to create prepared and confident citizens of the world,” asking: “What does that mean? How are we doing that?” Consensus on the board was that kids were prepared for college but they were insulated. One former trustee who worked for a multinational corporation noted that the school prepared students well academically, but needed to move the needle further to prepare students for a more global future, to graduate students who can work as well in the United States as they could in any other country. As a result of the board’s exploration, the school established the Isdell Center for Global Leadership, a program that cultivates leadership capabilities among students and faculty in the lower, middle, and upper schools. By exploring an annual global theme and examining it from all angles and at all ages, the school builds critical-thinking skills that students then apply to other issues. This year’s annual global theme is energy; in previous years, the focus has been on water, food, climate, and conservation.
Implementation looks different in each division. The lower school curriculum is about building awareness of global issues while introducing students to myriad cultures, perspectives, and problem-solving skills; in middle school, it’s broadening students’ understanding and encouraging diverse interests and passions; while in the upper school, the curriculum fosters engagement with global issues while helping students solidify and pursue their interests. According to the school, students in all divisions have opportunities for intellectual and cultural exploration through age-appropriate curricular and hands-on activities, interactions with visiting scholars, and faculty support. 

Tomorrow is Now 

So what do independent schools need to prepare our students for 2030?
As the 4IR changes the world paradigm, more schools are recognizing that global competency is essential for student success and that it is critical for them to have the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values to thrive in and shape their world.
“We expect our graduates to work toward creating a better world for others, and providing them with the knowledge and skills to be accomplished global citizens will be central to their success in doing so,” says Bernie Noe, head of Lakeside School (WA). “It is incumbent on all of us in independent schools to teach students about the beauty and complexity of other countries and cultures, including the history, literature, art, music, economics, and religious and social dynamics of different countries and regions.”
And this is something that independent schools are poised to do well.

Guide Posts

The NAIS Principles of Good Practice (PGPs) define high standards and ethical behavior in key areas of independent school operations. When developing and enhancing international student and global competency initiatives, there are two PGPs in particular that schools should be familiar with and refer to:

Go Deeper

Explore the many NAIS resources related to international students and global education.
Jefferson Burnett

Jefferson Burnett is senior vice president at NAIS.

Ioana Suciu Wheeler

Ioana Suciu Wheeler is NAIS’s director of global initiatives.