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Expert Q&A | Jeffrey Beard

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Expert Q&A:Jeffrey Beard

Q: What can be done today to help students become global citizens?

A: At an IB conference in 2007, Jean-François Rischard, the World Bank's vice-president for Europe, described two forces at work that will continue to change our world at accelerating rates. The first force he referred to as a "demographic explosion," where an increase in population will only add stress to the planet, and he cited the effects of global warming, infectious diseases, urban migration and several other factors. The second force is the new world economy, driven by a radical and almost universal shift toward market-oriented policies and by new technologies. Rischard sees existing human institutions, namely nation-states (including their education systems), as hopelessly self-serving, cumbersome or inadequate for the task. He warns that by not adequately addressing global issues, we are exacerbating their consequences. He advises that overcoming a national mindset will require new methodologies, instincts and politics such that we "think and act like global citizens."

The new workplace goes beyond national boundaries. Most importantly, the world is becoming more interdependent in recruiting the best people for jobs; many recruiters are looking internationally, not locally. Many now use the commonplace term of "global citizen" to describe what used to be reserved only for people like Socrates in ancient Greece, Seneca in Rome four centuries later, and Thomas Paine–all of whom saw themselves as citizens of the world. Bringing an intercultural, international and a global perspective to students throughout their school life. Forward-thinking education systems will adapt our institutions, raise skill levels and ensure high standards and equitable outcomes for all students. It will also be essential for preparing students for the knowledge economy.

Q: Who will become the global leaders of the future?

A: I travel around the world, talk with educators and discuss with people the question of how to articulate the skills and values students will need for the future. The attributes that I hear consistently emerge tend to be wrapped around these six themes:

  1. language and communication skills
  2. global social consciousness, empathy
  3. character, integrity, ethics
  4. leadership, teamwork skills
  5. ability to think creatively
  6. expertise/competence in a chosen field

Q: How can students be encouraged to contribute to societies outside their borders?

A: IB students take an active part in, and contribute to, their school, their local community and their global community.

"Think global, act local" is a way of life for IB World Schools. Many IB World Schools offer their students the opportunity to participate in exchange programs so that they can learn from their experiences. For example, many IB students organized projects to help tsunami-affected children in Sri Lanka, linking schools in the developing and the developed worlds.

Q: How can a school partner and network itself to be more globally aware?

A: Through IB programs, schools can become part of a like-minded community of schools–called IB World Schools–everywhere from Australia to Zambia, and in 136 other countries in between. These schools share the mission and commitment of the IB to quality international education and play an active and supporting role in this worldwide community of schools. We are able to harness the global-village power of the Internet to provide online teacher conferences, networking, collaboration and teacher training.

Q: How can schools expose students to different cultures, traditions and religions?

A: IB students are internationally aware citizens, with open minds and open hearts. All IB students learn a second language, together with skills to live and work with others both locally and internationally. But this international perspective is not gained at the expense of their own language or culture. Our commitment to international education starts with a belief that the only way to appreciate someone else's culture is first to be confident in your own. The "international-mindedness" that permeates our programs is about more than learning a second language. For example, in biology, students might learn about not only the typhoid bacteria but also its impact on life expectancy in a developing country. Students learning about the history of their town or region might look at the broader context of history and the effects of certain global events, and how these apply to their local environment.

—Jeffrey Beard
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