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The Nexus Between the Global World and Education

Jul 29, 2016, by Meredith Lovelace
Tags: Higher Education, International Community

By Asmaa Abumezied, ATLAS Fellow

I recently attended the Nexus Youth Summit in New York as part of the Atlas Corps Delegation. Each attendee represented Atlas Corps, as well as our host organizations. As my passion for education grows with time since being a part of Internet2, I am always on the lookout for sessions that address education and its challenges, and the Nexus Summit didn’t disappoint me.

On Friday, July 22, at United Nation headquarters, I attended the Education in a Global Age: Access, Equity and Excellence workshop. The workshop investigated the aim of education in various countries and across the globe. The main question posed was “What is a seldom asked question in education that critically needs to be on the table?” The attendees’ answers reflected concerns regarding the obsolete skills which don’t fit in the job market, especially with the rapidly changing environment, the gap between education and application, whether education reflects diversity and different cultures, how technology and education interact to achieve the best results, education safety and accessibility, and lastly, education in conflict areas and the consequences of brain drain.

One of the areas that reflected the evolution of education was the focus on global competence. Dana Mortenson, the Co-Founder and Executive director of World Savvy, shared how conventional education focuses on transferring knowledge in isolation by separating the teaching of each discipline into classrooms. This educational method is not fit for the complexity of the world we are living in as boundaries among cultures, countries and problems are blurred. Dana shared how World Savvy is concentrating its efforts in three areas, which encompass, first, student engagement in the education process and solving interdisciplinary problems.

The second area is related to teachers gaining and being trained on global competence skills and schools are the place for acquiring this competence and an understanding of diversity, global and social issues. Global competence is defined by the National Education Association as “the acquisition of in-depth knowledge and understanding of international issues, an appreciation of and ability to learn and work with people from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, proficiency in a foreign language and skills to function productively in an interdependent world community.” With easy access to knowledge and information through the internet, teachers might act as facilitators who encourage dialogue and international and cultural awareness.

The last area is related to assets-based education, where diversity is an integral part. Liana Ghent, Director of the International Step by Step Association, argued that the question to be asked is not whether the child is ready for school or not. The main question should be “Are our schools ready for the children in addressing diversity, culture, and child bullying in schools?” As a result, classrooms are being redefined in countries like the Netherlands and Belgium where experience is the focus. Cultural intelligence and gamification are tools currently being used to revolutionize the education process, especially with refugees, as stated by Garvey Chui, Director of The Verb Group.

Although the session discussed the evolution of global education from its current state to a more integrated learning approach with the intersection of different domains, it left us with many questions that need more discussion and analysis. Questions such as:

  • How can technology be utilized for vulnerable communities’ access to education?
  • How can experience be assessed and standardized on a larger scale?
  • What needs to be done in the face of severe public funds cuts to overcome higher education's reluctance to promote experience learning despite the existence of evidence proving its benefits?