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Focus: Global Education                         Pages 14-15 

 

Preparing Our District to

Compete Internationally 

 

BY CHRISTOPHER P. CLOUET 

Chris Clouet

Two older men, one Chinese and one American, sit at a conference table deep in conversation. Aides approach them with documents and messages. In collaboration with the United Nations, the two governments have assigned the pair to devise a plan to avert a water shortage crisis that is leading to a potential armed conflict between Pakistan and India.

The men know each other well and can speak each other’s language. They met as exchange students and studied abroad in each other’s schools. As students, the two men played basketball and computer games. Now they will combine their skills with their personal friendship to tackle this global conflict head-on.

This fictional scenario is precisely what the school partners that adopted the Global-Oriented Education Model have in mind when they build educational bridges between individuals and cultures around the world. The White Plains, N.Y., City Schools have begun to create such a model to incorporate 21st-century skill-building into our classrooms.

Formal Exchanges
The GO-Ed model, developed largely by our school district, has seven cornerstones: international curricula, progressive foreign language programs, sustainable international partnerships, internationally adapted technology platforms, a committed district administration and board of education, a committed student body and community and internationally immersed educators.

A school district’s move toward an internationally focused curricula typically starts in social studies and world languages. At the K-5 level, schools focus their international units on emerging partner nations’ geography, history, language and culture. At grade levels 6-12, the attention moves to emerging partner nations’ current events and politics.

In foreign languages, schools develop programs around emerging market nation languages, such as Portuguese, Chinese and Russian.

Schools also establish overseas partnerships. These formal relationships include annual student and teacher exchanges during which participants from both sides travel to the partner school for 10-14 days for home stays and in-school experiences. It also involves web collaboration to ensure the students continue to develop their relationships once they have returned home.

As our district has found, the success and sustainability of transforming curricula, establishing sister school partnerships and aligning the existing technology platform to ensure students are connected has only been possible through explicit support from the school board and district administration.

Superintendents and principals in participating districts typically travel to the partner country to sign a formal partnership agreement and to gain their own cultural awareness. Building support among parents and communities ensures sustainability of the Global-Oriented Education model to the extent they provide know-how and financial support.

Joint Music-Making
The White Plains and Croton-Harmon school districts, both in Westchester County, N.Y., represent systems of vastly different sizes and demographic makeups, yet both are committed to the GO-Ed model. Noticeable results have followed from the formal agreements for student and teacher exchanges and ongoing web-based collaboration.

Last summer, one of White Plains High School’s sister schools in Beijing sent 12 students and one teacher to the United States as part of the student exchange. These students stayed with host families, including with my wife and me, attended classes and visited other cities as part of their cultural enrichment experience.

This spring, White Plains is sending a group to Suzhou High School, and we will subsequently host high school orchestra and choir students from Lu He High School in Beijing, leading to a joint performance. Several corporate sponsors are providing assistance.

Croton-Harmon and a neighboring district last year sent 17 students and two teachers to visit a sister school in China. Upon return, students were required to make a formal presentation to the board of education on their overseas experience. Over the summer, the community hosted 27 students and two teachers from China.

Sustainability Efforts
Both White Plains and Croton-Harmon have begun to align their curricula to international standards, including a heightened sensitivity to current global issues and regular interaction via video conferencing around specific projects. Both districts offer Mandarin language classes and are assessing their middle and high school curricula to determine areas that should be further aligned to international standards.

To sustain these programs, White Plains and Croton-Harmon have tried to create deeper roots by getting representatives on the school boards personally involved. Board members from White Plains and Croton-Harmon have hosted students from China and committed to helping their own children develop global friendships and gain cultural awareness. This high-profile involvement helped to promote the initiative. In White Plains, we created a foundation to support participation by students lacking family financial resources.

White Plains and Croton-Harmon both have realized a significant amount of value from the Global-Oriented Education Model. Students are more culturally aware and better able to relate to their international counterparts. Many can communicate with their Chinese counterparts in both English and Mandarin.

From a community perspective, the exchange programs have given parents and community members an appreciation for different cultures. Many students who have been involved in the exchange programs have continued to build on their international relationships and linked those experiences to their course of study.

The hope of the GO-Ed partner schools is that these relationships and academic opportunities will enable our future leaders to more effectively compete as well as to collaboratively manage global issues.

Christopher Clouet is superintendent of the White Plains City Schools in White Plains, N.Y. E-mail: chrisclouet@wpcsd.k12.ny.us. He acknowledges the help of Kusum Sinha and Garrick Yau in preparing the article.

 

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