Chapter 1 Reflection – Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World

by Veronica Boix Mansilla & Anthony Jackson

I.  From your perspective, in what ways are the societal and environmental transformations here described affecting your students’ lives today? How will they be affected in the future?

Economy, Migration and Climate Instability. These societal and environmental transformations are impacting the students’ lives enormously. To see families in town in dire straights over the loss of employment, the moving of family for work or simply survival and the effects of the ever-changing climate is affecting how we teach our students. The continuous change of curriculum and expectations associated with education can cause a person’s head to spin. The unknown of these transformations is what scares some educators the most. How do we know what to teach if we do not know what is going to happen. Authors Veronica Boix Mansilla and Anthony Jackson discuss how jobs have changed from the early 20th century with only 5 percent of the workforce needing specialized knowledge and skills to almost 70 percent in 2009. This statistic will only continue to grow over the next few decades. How will our students know how to adapt if not provided with the skill set to problem solve, think creatively, design, evaluate and manage? The biggest transformation I see for our students today is global climate instability. Just in the past few years have we seen a change in weather patterns that have affected us in large ways. The storms that have hit the northeast have caused extended power outages, loss of property and a need for alternative heating methods. This is just a small example of what our students have seen that has had an immediate impact. Our future leaders will need to devise effective solutions for “managing the consequences of climate change and devising effective solutions for mitigation and adaption” (p. 5). Students will have to be strong in science and mathematics. The ability to negotiate through what is affecting the earth’s climate, chemistry and biology, all occurring simultaneously and create solutions that will protect land and it’s inhabitants. These are challenges that the next generation is facing. Our students need to be able to read functionally in order to be informed  and create solutions for the impending issues of environmental instability. Without teaching students how to investigate, recognize perspectives and communicate effectively, we run the risk of not protecting our future.

 II. In your opinion, what are the key reasons for educating for global competence?

Students need to know how to be productive citizens. In a society that has allowed us to be more within ourselves through technology, our future generation needs to know how to use it in order to be more connected for the betterment of society. As educators, we sometimes find that creating/implementing new curricula is one of the most difficult jobs we have. We spend a lot of time discussing students who are not engaged or motivated. When we push toward instructional practices that provide relevance for students, whether it is a civics class or the development of inquiry based lessons, the outcome needs to be the same. We need productive, educated citizens who can survive in today’s world. So much is changing so fast that we may not even know what students will need in five years. However, this should not keep us from knowing that technology can only help us connect our students to others in the world experiencing the same challenges.  The Internet, media and literature have shown us that there are no boundaries in today’s world. Sometimes, students cross boundaries personally because of the issues with technology. As educators, we need to use the tools that we have to lead children in the right direction of investigation, recognizing different perspectives and communicating effectively. These are skills that I feel are mandatory for lifelong learners.

   What are the barriers such an education might confront?

I feel that the biggest barrier with this type of education is the release of responsibility for the teacher. To become a facilitator is much different than being the end all, be all for classroom instruction. Handing over the learning to the students with inquiry based learning is not an easy accomplishment. Allowing students to develop their own purpose goes against how some teachers were trained. Therefore, providing appropriate professional development for teachers is a must. I do think there are some educators who are naturally able to allow students to explore their own learning. Also, showing students appropriate use of the technology is always a challenge. The sky is the limit with technology, as long as the teachers are aware of the capabilities and help create positive learning environments surrounding the use of the tool.  

III. In your current opinion, what distinguishes a high- from a low-quality education for global competence?

I believe that a high-quality education for global competence is dependent on how engaging the lessons are for students. What skills will the students be implementing with each step? How relevant is this topic to real life? Low-quality lessons only take students to a lower level of comprehension. They don’t show students how it affects them via their community, state, national or international level. Students are used to the immediacy of the Internet and other media formats. Students need to know that what they are being asked to study truly matters in the world today. The ability to share work is another aspect I see as being part of a high-quality education. Students share so much in today’s society, why not make what they are learning at the forefront of developing global communication skills? Also, understanding how the lesson is related to other communities is essential. Much of what is affecting students today (climate instability, economy and migration) crosses boundaries. Knowing that what is happening in their school, their community or state, can also be happening around the globe will help students realize that there is more to contend with in this world than just what is happening to them.

Mansilla, V. B., & Jackson, A. (2011).Educating for global competence: preparing our youth to engage the world. New York, N.Y.: Asia Society.