By Chris Kellogg-Peeler
Renowned Harvard Professor Fernando Reimers spoke to the faculty about “global competency” at their annual August meeting last Tuesday, addressing a topic whose school-wide applications BB&N’s own Task Force for Global Education has investigated over the past year.
In advance of the August 27 meeting geared toward discussing challenges that students will face in an increasingly globalized world, teachers read Dr. Reimers’ article “Education for Global Competency,” which emphasizes the importance of providing people with the knowledge and skills to “understand the flat world in which they live, integrate across disciplinary domains, comprehend global affairs and events, and create possibilities to address them.”
“The faculty was at different levels of understanding about this school-wide initiative, and Dr. Reimers really helped to frame the importance of this work,” said Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs Charles Ruopp, who heads the Task Force.
Head of School Rebecca Upham, who conceived the Task Force at last year’s August faculty meeting, said its focus on global competency aligns well with the school’s longstanding mission.
“BB&N has always been interested in helping students gain perspective beyond the walls of our school,” she said. “Global education is a very important concept that BB&N needs to wrestle with, and it has such important strategic implications for how the faculty shapes curriculum and programs.”
Task Force member and Middle School Science Teacher Kelley Schultheis added, “This generation is much more likely to work with, socialize with, or live with someone who grew up in a different culture with different social norms. If our students are to be competent and successful in the world, they need to understand much more about the world than did previous generations.”
At BB&N, the Task Force’s primary objective is to develop the school’s philosophy for global education. To this end, the group of eight cross-campus faculty members along with several trustees convened for four three-hour meetings last year, focusing on defining global education and discussing what it means to be a global citizen.
At last week’s meeting, Nell O’Donell, the consultant who helped the Task Force develop its philosophy, spoke following Dr. Reimers’ presentation to provide an overview of the initiative and its philosophy.
A group discussion among the faculty followed, Mr. Ruopp said.
“The real point was to get everyone excited about this new initiative,” he said.
Ms. Upham added, “This discussion will also inspire a next generation of exciting conversation for the faculty. We need to wrap our arms around what these things mean and how to proceed with them at BB&N.”
Mr. Ruopp said the school can increase global competency by focusing on global challenges in teaching, encouraging students to consider information from a global perspective, and collaborating with the international community.
Several curricular components of BB&N have already sought to represent a global focus, he said. Among these are the inclusion of Arabic, Chinese, and Russian—identified by the U.S. government as crucial for national development—in the World Languages Department, the recent move from ancient to world history, and the abundance of active exchange programs.
“This year’s task,” Mr. Ruopp said, “is to start using this philosophy with students B-12 in the classroom and in extracurricular activities, and to document all that we already do that fits under the umbrella of ‘global education.’”
He said he believes the Task Force’s work will move BB&N in a crucial direction, regardless of whether the school reinstitutes some form of it for the following year.
“I think our work will reinforce the importance of many BB&N programs that already exist and spur investment and awareness of the need to include far more ‘global’ lessons and activities in the future,” he said. “These will help each of our graduates to be able to leave BB&N with the skills to enter this new global world.”