Modern schools face a new challenge: how to prepare students for success in a globally connected workplace. Beyond the mastery of core subject matter, our students will be expected to compete in the global arena. To confront global issues. To collaborate across international boundaries.

And what’s more, America itself is becoming more “global” each decade. If students are to thrive as our country continues to diversify, they must be able to work effectively with a diverse group of people.

The U.S. will be less competitive and less secure if our schools do not urgently expand instruction in world languages, economics, and cultures. Knowledge of the world is no longer a luxury for the few, it is a necessity for all.

– Vivien Stewart, Executive Director of the National Coalition on Asia and International Studies in the Schools

How can educators prepare students for such a complex challenge? The term “Global Competency” offers a practical solution by identifying a specific skill set for the modern workplace.

A globally competent student:

  • Comprehends world affairs, events, and global issues.
  • Interacts productively with people from a variety of cultures and geographies.
  • Incorporates diverse perspectives to seek creative solutions to a variety of problems.

While understanding the goal of global competency is a step forward, additional efforts are needed to prepare our youth. According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters, companies cannot find enough applicants with the skills needed for positions that require international fluency.

Many schools are meeting this complex challenge through student exchange: international students engage with American culture, and at the same time their very presence engages American students in new ideologies, cultural expectations and assuptions, and entirely new ways of thinking. This grass-roots approach is so effective that it’s catching on across the country.

Texas Dean of Students Erik Ostergren shared that he actively seeks opportunities to welcome exchange students into his school because of the very tangible way they enrich the classroom discussion:

Bringing exchange students into the school adds perspective to the classroom. I wish more of our kids could go on exchange themselves, but for most that’s just not an option right now. The only way they can get exposure to the world and develop global awareness is to have people from different countries come to them. In my classroom, we talk about global issues, like global warming. I tell my students that these issues effect the whole world, so they require a different perspective. And when students learn alongside international students, they start thinking about the world differently.

Just what can happen when a community welcomes an exchange student? A positive ripple-effect of cultural understanding and collaboration that has the power to change the world – one student at a time.