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Implementing a Bilingual Authorization Program

In Fall 2022, Whittier College’s Teacher Education program launched their online bilingual authorization program (BILA). In year 1, the program was initially fully asynchronous,...

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HomeOpEdLearn Local, Think Global

Learn Local, Think Global

Daniel Ward explores the opportunity to globalize our learning


Our concept of global education needs to adapt more quickly to the reality of our increasingly interconnected societies, where kids play and chat online with friends all over the world, events oceans away have real consequences on Main Street, and new neighbors often speak a language we may have never heard. No longer should international education be the privilege of the few; it should permeate the curriculum so that different cultures and languages are no longer “foreign” to our children but fascinate and enthuse them.

For anyone who still thinks that American kids should only focus on their own country and that isolationism is even an option, just consider the current and obvious example of how the conflict in Ukraine has had such a wide range of worldwide repercussions, which in turn have had implications for daily life around the world. Our “pain at the pump” and other increased energy costs may be the most obvious consequence of sanctions against Russia, but you can add to them the effects of poor wheat production in Ukraine, which is causing shortages and strife in the Middle East and Africa, and the steady flow of Ukrainian refugees crossing into the US from Mexico. And, if that’s not enough, think about the greatest challenge that our children will face—the stabilization and maintenance of our environment, and how on earth that can be accomplished without understanding of and compromise with different cultures and societies.

Although we immediately think of study abroad as the classic mode of international education, it’s only the icing on the cake realistically. Global education can start in kindergarten, or even earlier, with the introduction of words from different languages, appreciation of international foods and customs, and understanding of different belief systems. Cosmopolitan schools have the advantage of students being able to share their cultures, but teachers in more monocultural schools can be creative to give them a more culturally diverse education. Dual language schools can be the perfect environment, but even there, educators may feel that teaching beyond the twin cultures may be too much when it might actually be exactly what is needed to help kids put their learning into context.

The enforced isolationism of school shutdowns has ironically given us an enormous opportunity to globalize our learning through the sudden adoption of remote learning practices. Now, through the use of Zoom, Google Docs, and other everyday programs, the idea of two classes of third graders on opposite sides of an ocean collaborating on a project while learning about each other’s cultures and languages seems completely feasible. Such projects need to become the norm rather than the exception. Despite the conservative backlash against the modernization of education to suit 21st-century goals, now we have the technology and skills to globalize our classrooms and curricula. Teaching tolerance is not enough, but fortunately our children can learn to understand, appreciate, and cherish the diversity of this world and its peoples before our lack of tolerance leaves it beyond repair.

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