Friday, November 2, 2012

International Summer Institute

As Commissioner Kristin Hesselbacher and I prepare to sojourn in China, our objective is to build connections with school districts in China, so that we can increase our knowledge of this vast country and develop a deeper understanding of global competencies within the School District of Janesville students.

International education is generally taken to include knowledge of other world regions, cultures and global/international issues, as well as skills in communicating in languages other than English, working in global or cross-cultural environments, and using information from different sources around the world; and values of respect and concern for other cultures and peoples. International education is not an additional or separate subject, but rather an emphasis that is integrated into all the major curriculum areas.

By developing relationships with school districts in China, the SDJ will open doors for our students to build strong global competencies through engaging SDJ students with Chinese students. We hope to open an International Summer Institute beginning in 2013 (see SAC minutes). The International Summer Institute would connect schools in Beijing and Shanghai to our Chinese language program in the SDJ, opening dialogue for a reciprocal exchange between SDJ staff, students and parents to Chinese partner schools for a Chinese summer institute.

The program would bring approximately 20 Chinese elementary school students to Janesville for around two weeks, and approximately 20 Chinese high school students for two weeks following. During the time that the elementary students are here, 20 SDJ elementary students will also be involved with the summer institute, providing them a chance to engage their Chinese peers. This opportunity will also be presented to 20 high school students. Janesville families of students currently partaking in the Chinese language programs would be given first priority to house the Chinese students and families visiting the United States. This provides ample opportunity for our students to practice their language skills, while engaging in another culture.

Students’ understanding of the global world would be deepened, as their eyes are open to the world outside of the United State. By building this foundation, we prepare students to succeed outside of their school career. When it comes to hiring, employers are looking for employees who have more than technical experience. Students need to be adept critical thinkers, strong communicators and aware of what is happening in the world, but more than that they need to be able to engage people in a cross-cultural environment. Our world is opening up. It is no longer separate.  

As was recently shared with me by a principal at a Chinese school, “No one will do business with you, if you can’t speak their language. The language is key to understanding culture. If I only speak English, then I know you, but you don’t know me.” We need to be teaching our students to think outside of our little world, and prepare to engage with the world around us. Students need to be able to connect to the heart of those outside of the U.S., reaching to understand the cultures that it is becoming essential to connect with, so that they can thrive in this ever increasing global community.

By creating this institute and providing new opportunities for our students, my hope is to better prepare our students, giving them a competitive advantage as they prepare to move past our school district and into the world.

As the comments below clearly indicate, increasing global interdependence, though a dominant feature of our age, has, until recently, been a neglected aspect of American education reform. What many know intuitively— but have not dared to admit — is that American students’ knowledge of other countries, cultures, and languages has not begun to keep pace with the escalating importance of this knowledge to our nation’s economic prosperity and national security.

“As diverse as America has become, it remains remarkably inward-looking. Without an educational and media establishment that takes on the responsibility of teaching and informing and respecting the riches of foreign cultures, this country could become a paranoid and parochial suburb of a vital global village”. — CBS News Correspondent Morley Safer, Co-editor, 60 Minutes

“We live in a truly global age .. . To solve most of the major problems facing our country today — from wiping out terrorism to minimizing global environmental  problems to eliminating the scourge of AIDS— will require every young person to learn more about other regions, cultures, and languages.” — Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell

“Ours is a world of 24-hour news cycles, global markets, and high-speed Internet.
We need to look no further than our morning paper to see that our future, and the future of our children, is inextricably linked to the complex challenges of the global community. And for our children to be prepared to take their place in that world and rise to those challenges, they must first understand it.” — Former U.S.
Secretary of Education Roderick Paige

Building global competence into all PK–12 schools throughout a district is a complex process that requires the engagement of the education, government, and business sectors, in addition to nonprofit, community, and parent organizations.  The Superintendent is meeting with business leaders to seek support both financially and through public relations.

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