Global Washington recently launched the Global Education Initiative, which seeks to bring together independent efforts to promote global education throughout the state. More than 1,000 parents, educators and advocates have contributed to the Initiative, proving that all the people working to bring the world into the classroom could achieve more if their efforts are centrally harnessed.
Expanding educational focus to make students more international in their thinking and scope will help to put the state’s economy on a surer footing going forward, says the organization. Even today, a large number of industries that make their home in Washington State, rely on international trade both for sustaining and growing themselves.
Over 40% of jobs in the state rely on markets outside the United States, making Washington one of the most connected for any state in the country.
Washington’s economy ranks 2nd in the country in the “New Economy” (knowledge-based, global, entrepreneurial, and innovation based). Seattle Public Schools enroll students from more than 98 countries, and teachers support students and families who speak more than 208 languages. Global connections are the fundamental driver of Washington State’s economy, yet, as this study by Global Washington has found, our students are not sufficiently prepared to succeed and contribute in the dynamic and rapidly changing global environment.
Thanks to hundreds of hours of interviews, community meetings and written suggestions, the Global Initiative was able to put together a list of 36 recommendations aimed at bringing more international understanding into the state’s schools. Among them are awareness efforts in K-12 educational institutions, as well as study proposals aimed at identifying goals such educational approach should hope to meet.
One of the immediate steps districts can take would be to expand learning of second languages, something that has been on the decline in the recent years.
According to the OSPI student registration database, CEDARS, in 2011, it appears that only 36% of Washington’s high school students were enrolled in a world language course. When schools steep learners in an environment of cross-cultural sensitivity, critical thinking, and cooperative, non-violent problem-solving, young people are prepared for and interested in participation in the civic process.
The Global Education Initiative Survey found that 59% of respondents considered “increasing access to world languages in P-12 a top priority.”
A more middle-range goal is to change the way new teachers are trained to make them more “globally competent.” This means acknowledging that the schools play a vital role in creating civically-aware and diversity-friendly populace and must take these responsibilities seriously.