Friday, March 28, 2014

International Education


You have heard me say that we no longer can consider our educational goals on a local or even regional scope. We are living in a global environment, and the students in the School District of Janesville must graduate with knowledge and skills to compete in that global environment, whether that be in the world of work or moving on to higher education.

A few years back The Hechninger Report explored our country’s standing in the world regarding the college graduation rates. While the United States has 17 of the top 20 universities in the world, we rank 16th globally in the number of people and percentage of our population age 25-34 with a post-secondary degree. South Korea is the leader with Canada tied for second with Japan. Russia is fourth.

Are incoming freshman at these elite United States universities unable to compete? If so, why?

I am convinced that a strong international education system at the K-12 level is necessary to prepare our graduates. The School District of Janesville Board of Education agrees. That’s why we have invested in the Janesville International Education Program.

We continue to emphasize and strengthen our students’ understanding of the basics –reading and math for example – but we must ensure that our graduates are up to and beyond new levels of technology. We must also provide a basic understanding of our place in the world and how best to be productive in that global setting. The Janesville International Education Program addresses that component of our overall curriculum.

We have seen a good start in our international education goal. About three years ago, two of our schools, Roosevelt Elementary and Harrison Elementary received the Asian Society’s Confucius Classroom award making them among the top 100 Chinese classrooms in the country.

These successes at the elementary level must be duplicated at the middle and senior high level, and we are working hard to see that happen. A group of Craig High School students are returning this week from a Global Summit Conference in China under the leadership of Craig honors global studies teacher Fritz Elsen.

I see exciting advances in not only our world language curriculum at the elementary and middle school levels, but also at the senior high level and our overall international studies program. It will not be an easy path, but it is necessary to our goals and one I look forward to.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu provided us with this proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” We have taken that first step, and continue to continue the journey.


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