In 1953, Winston Churchill said: “All the great empires of the future will be empires of the mind.” Over the years, eminent scholars and educators have echoed Churchill’s sentiments: If you don’t know history, you are condemned by ignorance to repeat, rather than learn from, the lessons of the past. The World Affairs Council-Washington, DC (WAC-DC) advocates a liberal arts education approach to help prepare teachers and students to be ‘global citizens’ in our diverse, multi-cultural and interconnected world.
International leaders in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) education movement also believe that educators and students in the 21st century must acquire knowledge of world history, geography, social studies, civics, arts, humanities, psychology, philosophy and communications to be successful in work and life, particularly in the international arena.
The WAC-DC is an institution ‘Where Learning Happens’ and it defines global education as: The ability to understand the interconnectedness of people and systems, to express cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity, to empathize with others, to maintain an open-mind, to see different perspectives, to apply knowledge of global dynamics, to practice effective problem solving skills and to communicate and work efficiently in diverse environments.
Our customized programs are focused on empowering educators, students and citizens through a ‘Knowledge Transfer’ process that is based on ten core ‘Global Education’ competencies, that can easily be infused into any existing high school or college curricula: Critical Thinking; Making Connections; Leadership Skills; Cross-Cultural Awareness; Problem-Solving Skills/Decision Making Skills; Communication Skills; Understanding Others Perspectives; Investigate the World; Understanding of Major Global Issues; and Media Literacy.
The Council is concluding the evaluation phase of a MasterCard Foundation-sponsored 2015/16 Global Education Teachers – International Exchange Program (GET-IEP) between high school teachers and students in the Washington, DC metro area and their counterparts in South Africa. What we’ve found is that only 13% of students surveyed in the US and South Africa said that they are currently getting the global education insights and knowledge they felt they needed to better understand their own nation, the global community, and how people and societies can work effectively together to develop understanding of, and mutual respect for worldwide differences. It’s through GET-IEP and other global education programs that we provide opportunities for learning and growth outside the classroom.
As future generations continue to innovate in the fields of science and technology, we must also empower them with a well-rounded understanding of our global history. Our world is increasingly globalized and more interconnected than ever before, so it is vital that our students learn about the world that surrounds them. A global education enables students to better identify problems, solutions and the vehicles for change; constructing modern ‘empires of the mind’.
Our students are inheriting a world that presents challenges, but it is also a world filled with immense opportunity. The WAC-DC is committed to providing those same kinds of opportunities for learning, through global education programs for teachers and students worldwide.
Tony Culley-Foster is the President and CEO of the World Affairs Council-Washington, DC. He is profiled in Who’s Who in the World; a visiting Professor in Communications at the University of Ulster; Board member of the Illinois Institute of Technology – Stuart School of Business; and is a recipient of HRH – The Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award; and numerous American and international commendations for voluntary service, international education, social responsibility and contribution to peace in Northern Ireland.
Today’s learners must be able to think critically, recognize patterns, solve problems and communicate effectively in the workforce and society to be successful. Sixty-three percent of education leaders state job placement as the leading success factor for higher education, though only 43% of industry leaders indicate higher education is preparing learners with the needed workforce skills.
Technology has rapidly increased globalization creating a worldwide system of integration the likes of which we have never seen or experienced before in history. In the past, countries and their economies could be nearly 100% self-sufficient. But technology has now enabled ideas, products, services, people and knowledge to transfer around the world, linking economies and nations and making them both interconnected and interdependent.
Nearly 100 years ago, at the end of the First World War, the World Affairs Councils were founded in the spirit of fostering international engagement. We can be grateful for the unique role they have played in promoting an informed debate on international affairs. Then as now, the world demands a global education. Our greatest challenges today, be it international migration, eradication of poverty, or climate change, transcend borders, are by definition shared by the world community.
The world’s population is growing at a staggering pace, which is a relatively new phenomenon. After expanding only a tiny fraction for tens of thousands of years, according to History.com, the population hit one billion in the 1700s. The following century, the number of people in the world quadrupled.