Locating the Global: Schooling in an Interconnected World
by Glynda A. Hull & Emily A. Hellmich - 2018
Background: Educators in the United States and internationally have become increasingly interested in incorporating international perspectives into curricula, programs, and policy. Rooted in a long history of international education, these efforts have been described variously as “multicultural,” “democratic,” and “international.” In this article and our work, we use the term global education for this phenomenon in order to signal, along with others, an important shift in conceptualizing how to prepare students for a globalized world.
Objective: This article is an initial exploration of current global education efforts in the United States and internationally. The study asks, “How do schools instantiate the global?” and considers how particular schools incorporated global concerns into their mission, curriculum, pedagogy, and structure.
Research Design: The research design consisted of a qualitative case study of thirteen schools located in the United States and Asia.
Data Collection and Analysis: Data consisted of online document collection, semi-structured interviews with administrators, teachers, and students, and observations. Data analysis consisted of iterative rounds of open-ended as well as thematic coding.
Findings: Findings revealed seven strategies used by schools to integrate a global orientation. Two detailed case studies showcased the complexities inherent in implementing these strategies.
Conclusions: This article underscores the challenges that schools in the United States and internationally face in instantiating a global education, particularly the meaningful integration of technology, second/foreign languages, and service learning as well as making a global education available across socioeconomic groups. It calls for additional research on how to foster global orientations that position all young people to become cosmopolitan members of local, national, and worldwide communities.
The education of children has traditionally been a national enterprise, designed primarily to socialize and prepare individuals for participation in local communities and in autonomous nation-states (Suárez-Orozco & Qin-Hilliard, 2004). However, the world is now radically interconnected and challenged by social, economic, and environmental problems that spill across political and geographic divides (Blommaert, 2010; Suárez-Orozco & Qin-Hilliard, 2004). Economic competitiveness, a frequent motivation for shoring up and rethinking skills required for work, has only intensified as a rationale for schooling both in the United States and across the world (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015; U.S. Department of Education, 2012). Such economic, social, and cultural pressures suggest the necessity of rethinking schooling to ensure that children are adequately prepared for a rapidly globalizing world and for their agentive place in it (Soriano, 2015; Suárez-Orozco & Qin-Hilliard, 2004).
Fostering international mindedness (Hill, 2012) has long been a goal of specialized international schools (Hayden, 2011; Hill, 2012). However, the importance of such habits of mind and accompanying curricular orientations for all students has intensified of late. Indeed, increasing numbers of schools (Hayden, 2011; Ortloff, Shah, Lou, & Hamilton, 2012; Parker, 2011; Parker & Camicia, 2009) and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) (Mansilla & Jackson, 2011) have begun to include international perspectives in their curricula. There are signals, then, that the institution of schooling, once nationally or inwardly focused, is beginning to recognize the need to look outward in order to inculcate global perspectives and dispositions.
In this paper, we explore how schools are envisioning and instantiating a global orientation. That is, we are interested in how schools indicate, through their missions, curricular and pedagogical offerings, structure, and organization, that they address and value global problems and points of view as well as local and national ones. While a variety of terms have been used in association with such efforts, such as multicultural, international, democratic, human rights education (Dolby & Rahman, 2008), we have chosen global to indicate a qualitative break with past manifestations and to call attention to a new frontier of educational practice. It is our contention, as well as that of others (e.g., Hansen, 2011a; Soriano, 2015), that an important shift is taking place as schools begin to come to terms with how to prepare students for different conceptions of citizenship, work, and social relationships that derive from globalization. This shift seems all the more important given current global crises around immigration, the environment, economic markets, and sectarianism (Erlanger, 2016; Sengupta, 2016). We explore that shift first by looking historically at early attempts at international education, a predecessor of the current global movement. Next, we offer a conceptual framework that juxtaposes a more instrumental and nationally rooted understanding of global education with a more altruistic or cosmopolitan-oriented view. This is followed by a set of case studies of U.S. and international K-12 schools that illustrate diverse current paths to global perspectives and practices. We conclude with implications for the future of global education in the U.S. school context.
Current efforts to incorporate global perspectives and practices in schooling are rooted in the long history of international education. Below we discuss two streams of international education, international schools and the internationalization of K-12 education, in order to suggest the antecedents of a global education today (Dolby & Rahman, 2008).
International schools were originally created in response to an emerging class of mobile diplomats and businessmen following World War I (Dolby & Rahman, 2008; Hill, 2012), such as the International School of Geneva and the Yokohama International School (Bunnell, 2008a; Hayden, 2011). Since the 1920s, schools bearing the label international have increased, although their exact number is unknown due to the lack of a regulating body and definitional ambiguity (Hayden, 2011). Scholars have categorized international schools in several ways (e.g., Lallo & Resnik, 2008; Sylvester, 1998), including a distinction based on missions or philosophies: 1) international schools that provide a national curriculum different than that offered in the host country; and 2) international schools that promote intercultural understanding and awareness to a diverse group of students (Sylvester, 1998).
With intensified globalization, especially over the past 15 years, international schools have come to the fore, attracting more students and popularizing certain practices associated with them (Hayden, 2011; Lallo & Resnik, 2008). The increased cultural capital ascribed to international education and schools is suggested by an expanding demographic: while international schools were established for the global elite, they are now sought after by middle class parents as a way to signal social status and to promote upward social mobility (Bunnell, 2008a; Hayden, 2011). International schools now include a range of different types of schools that cater to a range of different kinds of students and families.
Internationalization of K12 education
Dolby and Rahman (2008) identify four foci within the internationalization of K12 education: peace, global/multicultural education, human rights, and the environment (p. 699). We focus here on the second component, global and multicultural education. Known by many names (e.g., world studies, citizenship studies, and global citizenship studies), global/multicultural education at the K12 level came about after World War II and was intended to heighten "students' awareness of their position within a global reality and how they can contribute to the creation of a peaceful world" (Dolby & Rahman, 2008, p. 701).
In the United States and internationally, the movement toward including global/multicultural education in K12 schools took serious root during the late 1960s and 1970s. This period was marked by social, political, and economic events, such as the Vietnam War and the launch of Sputnik, which heightened a fear of interconnection with the larger world (Abdullahi, 2010; Dolby & Rahman, 2008; Tye, 2009). During this period, some of the efforts to incorporate global/multicultural education in the United States and in Europe aligned with the idealistic goals, described above, of creating a peaceful world through education (Abdullahi, 2010; Dolby & Rahman, 2008, p. 701). For example, An Attainable Global Perspective, published by U.S. scholar Robert Hanvey, influentially argued for an increased understanding of global perspectives in light of the United States interdependence with the rest of the world (Hanvey, 1976).
Many efforts to internationalize K12 education came under fire or were curtailed in the 1980s and 1990s with the election of conservative governments. In the United States, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, for example, the goal of cultivating a peaceful world through a globalized K12 education competed with more ethnocentric, nationalistic arguments (Dolby & Rahman, 2008). During the Reagan administration (19811989), the publication A Nation at Risk explicitly compared the U.S. education system to other national systems and declared the failure of U.S. schools to prepare an internationally competitive workforce (Ortloff et al., 2012). In other words, global education in support of national competitiveness was foregrounded while global education in support of world peace was sidelined.
The past 15 years have seen renewed efforts to internationalize K12 education. For example, we can see this increased interest in the continued growth of the International Baccalaureate (Bunnell, 2008b). In the United States, this growth has occurred both in elite private schools and also in under-resourced and public schools (Conner, 2008; Bunnell, 2012). In addition, renewed efforts to internationalize K12 education can be found in the establishment and growth of international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as World Savvy (2016) and TakingITGlobal (2016), which specialize in providing global curricula and programs for youth around the world (Mansilla & Jackson, 2011; Parker, 2011). The work of such organizations increasingly grows out of and depends on connectivity through the Internet, itself a major shaper of globalization. Finally, interest at the federal level has been sparked: the U.S. Department of Education report (2012), Succeeding Globally through International Education and Engagement, outlines why global competencies are strategically important to the United States and how they can be achieved. Similarly, the Ontario Ministry of Educations report (2015), Ontario's Strategy for K12 International Education, lays out how secondary education in the Canadian province can embrace diversity and achieve excellence through learning about and from other cultures and education systems (p. 1).
The boundaries between the internationalization of K12 education and international schools are, of course, not hard and fast. A new charter school in the United States that sets out to educate students to understand and respect difference could be considered both an international school (Sylvester, 1998) and the result of internationalization efforts (Dolby & Rahman, 2008). The important takeaway here is that recent efforts to include international perspectives in school missions, curricula, and structures are growing and intensifying, and that these efforts appear to be propelled by the radical interconnection of our world that is the result of globalization. Thus, in order to signal the significant shift that has occurred in the importance, prevalence, and nature of internationally oriented practices and policies in K12 education, we use the term global to describe these current efforts. There is now a growing awareness, shared not only among educators in schools designated as international but also among educators across the board, to prepare students for different conceptions of citizenship, work, and social relationships that derive from globalization.
We situate our work within recent scholarship on cosmopolitanism, as it has been reinvented to theorize a postcolonial, interconnected, and mediatized world (cf. Couldry, 2006). Explored variously as a political philosophy, a moral theory, and a cultural disposition (Rizvi, 2009, p. 253), cosmopolitanism provides a vantage point for conceptualizing and addressing the challenges and possibilities of understanding diversity across globalized, transnational spaces. As we discussed above, efforts to internationalize education have been motivated by competing goals: some frankly focused instrumentally on the need to attain national economic advantage, and others more altruistically attuned to intercultural understanding across borders and cultures. While we acknowledge the continued importance of national, instrumental approaches, we see a focus on intercultural understanding as essential for rethinking schooling in a rapidly changing, interconnected, and yet ideologically divided world. Cosmopolitanism provides a broad framework for doing so.
The signature trope of cosmopolitanism is dialogue: it is through dialogue, according to Appiah (2007), that tolerance and respect for legitimate difference can develop (p. xv). Cosmopolitanism asks us to enact identities as global citizens, whose responsibilities include, yet extend beyond, the local to include larger arenas of concern. It also asks us to construct new spaces for the practice of dialogue, where our human obligations can transcend traditional ties of kith and kind. Our global world is awash in great shifts, challenges, and opportunities brought about by political and economic strife and realignment, environmental concerns and crises, unprecedented migration, and new communication technologies and patterns of interaction. Cosmopolitanism holds out hope that these seemingly unbridgeable differences need not divide us.
Cosmopolitanism represents one roadmap for conceptualizing education that is global in orientation (Hansen, 2010, 2011b). It points us, for example, to the importance of language and the cultivation of abilities to communicate across difference. In previous work, we explored the promise of cosmopolitanism for communication practices (Hull & Stornaiuolo, 2014); for example, we investigated how effective global communication requires a flexible capacity to make meaning across an increasingly complex range of textual forms and modes, as well as an ethical capacity to imagine ones literate responsibilities as an author and reader in a global world (Hull & Stornaiuolo, 2014; Silverstone, 2007). In the current paper, we extend our focus to include the global dimensions of mission statements, curricula, technological infrastructure, and space/time organization of schools today.
Over the course of three years we examined the current worldwide global education movement and its ramifications for the U.S. school context through a qualitative case study methodology. Specifically, we investigated 13 national and international1 schools that claim a global component (for example, a world language program) or orientation (for example, a mission statement that indicates allegiance to global as well as local concerns). We conducted telephone interviews with the founders and principals of four schools and made day or half-day visits to nine schools. We identified these schools through Internet searches and recommendations from leaders in international and independent school networks. Table 1 summarizes the names,2 general location,3 type, and level of participation for all 13 schools. A brief narrative description of each school can be found in Appendix A.
Table 1. Summary of Participating Schools
During the interviews and site visits, we explored each schools global perspective through its mission; its start-up experience, marketing, and financial plan; staffing and professional development; student population, including its efforts to enroll a diverse student body; and technology infrastructure. School visits included in-person interviews with key administrators and teachers; when possible, students were also interviewed in focus groups. School visits included school tours and classroom observations. Both observations and interviews were semi-structured in nature (Miles & Huberman, 1994).
Interviews with students, teachers, and administrators were transcribed for analysis. We wrote summaries of Skype and telephone interviews and field notes of school visits (Miles & Huberman, 1994). These data were supplemented by information available online from school websites as well as printed documents provided by the schools.
We analyzed these qualitative data via multiple rounds of open-ended and thematic coding (Bogdan & Biklen, 2009; Saldaña, 2009). The latter included concepts from cosmopolitanism such as inculcating abilities to see from others points of view, opportunities for dialogue across various kinds of difference, hospitable readings of difference and responses to those perceived as other (Derrida, 2001), a sense of citizenship that extended beyond national borders, and preparations for careers sensitized to finding solutions to global issues. (See Appendix B for a sampling of these as well as open-ended codes.)
After reviewing the broad characteristics of the worldwide global education movement that we derived from the above data, we focus on in-depth case studies of two schools in North America and their paths to the global. At the first school, Connection AcademyNorth America, we interviewed five administrators and teachers as well as four students as part of a focus group during the visit; we also observed two classes: an English as a second language class and a geography class. At the second school, Global Studies High, we interviewed five administrators and teachers in person as well as five students as a part of a focus group; we also interviewed the CFO over the phone following the visit. In addition, we observed two classes: a Spanish-humanities class as well as a humanities-economics class. Jottings taken during the classroom observations at both schools were turned into field notes; interviews were also fully transcribed (Miles & Huberman, 1994). All field notes and interviews were subsequently analyzed, along with information from the two schools websites, using open-ended and thematic coding (Bogdan & Biklen, 2009; Saldaña, 2009).
We present our results in three parts: first, we characterize the worldwide global schools movement, highlighting the intensity of the movement as well as seven strategies that schools used to incorporate a global orientation or perspective. Next, we describe the challenges that schools faced to instantiating a global orientation in a substantial and meaningful way. Lastly, we present two case studies that detail the ways in which two schools in the United States instantiated the global for their students and that reveal the complex, tension-filled, yet promising nature of this movement.
WHERE IS THE GLOBAL? CHARACTERIZING THE GLOBAL SCHOOLS MOVEMENT
Our study confirmed a vigorous global education movement with initiatives in the United States and across the world. Administrators at domestic and international schools described long waiting lists for their schools, for example, as well as pressure to expand or establish new sites from parents and local governments. Indeed, for-profit companies were opening new schools domestically and abroad at a very fast pace, sometimes several new schools per year. One such network planned to open new schools in several countries in Asia in the coming year. Another network that promotes global competences in the US expected to expand to five additional schools in the near future.
We identified seven different ways in which schools sought to instantiate the global:
1) Global Courses
Some schools, such as Global Edge High, offered a particular course or set of courses that explicitly addressed issues of global significance as well as different worldviews. At Global Edge High, these courses included world demography as well as world religions and were offered in some form at every grade level.
2) Global Curriculum
Other schools, like the Equality Charter School, sought to thread global orientations, skills, and competence-building into all classes at all grade levels. This created an overarching globally oriented curriculum that framed the educational experience of students at these schools.
3) Global Extra-Curriculars
Many of the schools we researched included a service learning or community service component into their curriculum. This often centered on economically distant and disadvantaged groups. In principle, this activity targeted the global through connecting students with different communities and cultures both locally and internationally, or in Appiahs words, fostering obligations that stretch beyond those to whom we are related by the ties of kith and kind, or even the more formal ties of a shared citizenship (2005, p. xv).
4) Multilingual Language Policy
Learning second or foreign languages was a common component of many schools. Across the schools surveyed, language learning was situated as both a way to prepare students for a global marketplace (e.g., Global Edge High) as well as a way to engender cosmopolitan habits of mind (e.g., Bilingual Academy) needed to navigate complex cultures and challenges.
5) Diverse Student Body
Some schools sought to achieve the global through a representatively diverse student body that brought different points of view and cultures into the classroom. This often took the form of national and ethnic diversity, without an accompanying socioeconomic diversity. That said, some schools achieved a degree of socioeconomic and cultural diversity through admissions policies and scholarships (e.g., Connections Academy).
Another path to the global centered around looking to leverage cutting-edge technologies to widen educational contexts and increase social ties. This included technology-enhanced pedagogy within classrooms, such as equipping all students with tablets or laptops, as well as efforts to link students around the world tele-collaboratively through in-class projects.
7) Physical Networks
A final path to the global was the construction of physical networks of schools. At some schools (e.g., World Network, Inc.), simply the presence of a broader network was seen as a part of instantiating the global, creating a global community of learners under one umbrella. At others, this was combined with providing students the opportunity to juxtapose cultures, languages, and social worlds through exchanges. Global Edge High, for example, intended its students to study abroad at different sites within its network before graduation.
These seven strategies were used by schools in a variety of ways: some schools focused their efforts on one particular strategy, and others combined two or more strategies to instantiate a global education. (Appendix C lays out the major strategies used for a subset of the 13 schools studied.) Schools also instantiated their global visions with varying depths, dealing with variable degrees of success with several barriers, discussed below, that made it challenging to instantiate a cosmopolitan, global vision.
With the exception of some public schools that included a broad socioeconomic demographic, the worldwide global schools movement at the time of our study served primarily elite populations, the children of wealthy internationally situated families, or a handful of less privileged youth who have received scarce scholarship slots. The price tag for Global Edge High, for example, was quite high at the secondary level. Admissions decisions were made without consideration of financial need, and school materials claimed a desire to establish socioeconomic diversity representative of the local area; however, only 10% of the student body received financial aid. As such, Global Edge High, like many of the schools we visited, was challenged to extend the global beyond elite demographics and to truly cultivate a cosmopolitan orientation in relation to diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
Although the expectation might be that elite global schools would be cutting-edge technologically, our inquiry indicated otherwise: the schools we visited appeared somewhat behind the times technologically, not yet having conceptualized how information technologies can play a role in fostering global identities, or not having implemented such a vision. For example, we visited three schools that reside under the same umbrella organization of Connections Academy. Despite this connection, no technological network had been set up. Further, plans at these schools to advance technology included traditional, perhaps less innovative uses, such as enhancing the transfer and organization of instructional materials.
Like technological innovation, bilingualism and multilingualism were often promoted as a core feature of most global schools and a way to advance cross-cultural understanding; however, it was rare to find examples of schools in which students were taught systematically and meaningfully in two or more languages across the school and curriculum, calling into question the extent to which the cosmopolitan orientations engendered by language learning could be accomplished (Byram, 1997, 2008; Starkey, 2007). For example, many of these schools contained more comprehensive language immersion programs, in which content was delivered in multiple languages, at the pre-primary and primary level; however, this immersion tended to be substantially reduced in favor of English for the high school years. Schools in the United States often offered language courses in Mandarin or Spanish, but they remained restricted to one or two class periods at the secondary level. Similarly, schools outside the United States most often used English as the medium of instruction at the secondary level; home and other second or foreign languages were relegated to specialized courses that focused on grammar and literature. Finally, at many of the international schools we visited, secondary students without English proficiency were at a distinct disadvantage, often left to learn the language without support from the school. A notable exception to meeting all of these challenges was Bilingual Academy: beyond offering the greatest percentage of language immersion at all grade levels, the school had deeply contemplated what it meant to teach in multiple languages, considering, for example, how pedagogy might differ when language and culture differed.
The limited instantiation of a global education continued with the practice of community service or service learning. While community service, including extensive trips to help disadvantaged communities locally and internationally, was a feature of most schools, the impact of these experiences seemed limited. For example, many of the schools we visited used the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, which includes a mandatory service-learning component. However, several school heads and teachers worried the touristic aspect of many trips and projects undertaken to fulfill this requirement were not substantial: they did not require sustained interaction with local populations and did not instill notions of community engagement.
In a nutshell, our inquiry into the worldwide global school movement confirmed a thriving movement, yes, but also revealed substantial challenges to the instantiation of the global, even at schools rich with resources. This leads us to conclude that as a whole these schools were still working to become contexts in which we more fully acknowledge and engage with the Other in her sameness and difference (Corpus Ong, 2009, p. 463).
We turn now to two case studies to illustrate in more detail the complexity, challenges, and opportunities that schools encounter as they attempt to instantiate a global education. These two schools, Connections Academy-North America and Global Studies High, took intersecting yet distinct paths: while Connections Academy-North America realized a global education primarily through its international and culturally diverse student body, Global Studies High found a path that combined a locally diverse student body with a globally oriented curriculum.
Connections Academy-North America
Connections Academy-North America was a small residential two-year school for rising 11th and 12th graders. The school selected and assembled students from different national, cultural, and social backgrounds and engaged them in the rigorous two-year IB Diploma Program. Indeed, the global at Connections Academy-North America was located in the students themselves.
Diversity of us. Both students and administrators pointed to this student body as what made the school distinctive and what made them global. For example, Kela, a first-year student from Belize, cited the primary difference between Connections Academy-North America and other high schools as the people:
Connections Academy-North America brings people together so it's like, people from here, there, and everywhere like, like places like you weren't even taught of that (1.5) that just make this, Connections, together and like, one big community.4
This sentiment was echoed by Shenshen, a second-year student who hailed from the Peoples Republic of China:
But what really makes it special is, us, like, what we think and what we do here, how we interact with each other. (1.0) Yeah (1.0). So like t like the diversity of us and also the diversity of our ideas make us special.
For students, then, the distinctive global centerpiece of the school was, in fact, themselves: an internationally and culturally diverse student body strategically brought together at the school.
Administrators confirmed the centrality of the student body in instantiating the global. For example, the head of school, Trevor, noted the presence of diversity within the global world but highlighted the significance of bringing together this diversity:
So, you know (1.0) getting to know somebody because they came from Cambodia, or getting to know somebody because they came from Tanzania or whatever. You know, you can get that from all over the world now, with blended families and the mobility of people. So what drops down to a deeper level for me is when you bring all the diversity together.
In other words, Connections Academy sought to bring students together from diverse backgrounds in order to promote a substantive level of cross-cultural understanding.
The diversity of backgrounds gathered together at Connections Academy-North America differed from the diversity brought together in schools that draw on diverse local populations. As scholars and educators have noted, the mobility of people characteristic of globalization has increased the linguistic, national, and cultural diversity of classrooms around the world (Blommaert, 2010); that said, this diversity is subject to local contexts, defined and shifted in relation to the majoritarian national culture. What made Connections Academy-North America different was an emphasis on respect for and retention of national identity: for example, there was no majority national identity among students, and the schools location isolated it somewhat from homogenizing influences of U.S. culture. Furthermore, the schools culture itself emphasized the students national identities. For example, students came to naturally position themselves as representatives of their national background, introducing themselves as Shenshen from China or Reza from Sudan. Thus, national and cultural differences seemed to be valued and retained; as we will see, this paved the way for important cosmopolitan impacts on students.
Comfort with all different kinds of people. Indeed, the Connections Academy-North America experience set the stage for students to engage deeply with difference and to open their minds to alternative worldviews. As Shenshen mentioned above, their national and cultural diversity also necessarily created a diversity of ideas. For Kela, this interaction stemmed largely from classes where dramatically different perspectives on everything from literature to environmental policy were shared on a daily basis:
You learn from that culture and you're like oh wow well my culture wouldn't accept it. And then some things that I would find taboo is like normal in (1.0) in another country and like so being in that class makes us think differently and how to judge people differently. Like we're not supposed to judge people. Like now we have different perspectives like oh a person from maybe Sudan would say this, as a person from China would say something else. So like we get that perspective.
Importantly, these multiple perspectives had taken root and had begun to manifest in her schoolwork: the different views she was learning in her classes were brought to bear on her assignments, forming a globe on a paper.
For fellow first-year Maya, originally from New Zealand, the impact stemmed from more socially oriented interactions outside of class:
We have [common] rooms and I don't know it could be four o'clock at night and your, all your ideas are being challenged by these different people from these different cultures and because of the culture of the school, even though you can completely disagree with someone's idea, you can still be like be friends with them and that's such a special thing.
For both Kela and Maya, then, Connections Academy-North America created spaces where respect and friendships were cultivated despite and across difference through interactions with their peers inside and outside the classroom; in opening their eyes to different cultures, worldviews, and perspectives, Kela and Maya embodied the principle of comfort with all different kinds of people which stood at the heart of Connections Academy-North America (Interview, Head of School) and illustrated the cosmopolitan impacts of the schools instantiation of the global.
The residential bubble. This deep level of cosmopolitan understanding expressed by Maya and Kela was rooted in the design of the school itself, namely its residential campus. As Maya explained, If we weren't living here, I don't think this place would be such a special place. Dean of Students Sally offered an explanation of the importance of a residential campus for instantiating the global through the student body:
[Boarding school] well, I think what it causes our students to deal with on a daily basis is-are those conflicts. So you may be a White conservative from the South and you have this um a very different liberal roommate from somewhere else. You have to learn how to deal with that. And if it was not a boarding school, you could go home, and just still be yourself at home and not have to ever deal with that conflict.
What Sally underscores here is that the residential component of Connections Academy-North America was integral to taking the cosmopolitan habits of mind that stemmed from discovering different worldviews to a deep level: putting the student body into sustained contact set the stage for serious and sustained engagement with difference.
This residential component of the school combined with its remote location contributed to the notion of Connections Academy-North America as an isolated bubble separated from the larger world. For students, this isolation seemed key to their experience. The dean of students noted, for example, that parents didnt always understand the radio silence from their children while at the school. She explained that although part of that stemmed from the students heavy workloads, it's also that they don't want to have the outside world come and influence them here.
This desire to avoid outside influences also became clear through the students mixed feelings about being too connected via technology. For example, Maya acknowledged the benefits of access to multiple news sources and multiple languages online but also saw computers as a hindrance out of class. Reza and Shenshen picked up on this, further explaining the tensions around technology:
Yeah, and [technology is] really a hindrance when you're supposed to be like I think that's one of the (0.5) the things that I could lead to stopping global discussion like out of classes that people are on technology the whole time like (2.5)
Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, it goes on and on and on and on.
Because we're supposed to go to people's room and talk, instead of
talking on Facebook.
But you actually end up speaking more to people on Facebook than you do in real life. Yeah, it's interesting.
What the students highlight here is a strong desire to take advantage of the schools diverse student body and isolated location to cultivate deep relationships as well as cosmopolitan understanding; they also highlight the perceived threat by outside influences to this sacred time and space, particularly ubiquitous in social media. This further supports the centrality of the residential as well as isolated experience at Connections Academy-North America in cultivating a cosmopolitan understanding.
Challenges and tensions. This deeply cosmopolitan agenda was not without its challenges. All the students we interviewed seemed to agree that there was an individual challenge to engaging in difference in this way, which Kela distilled thusly:
If you want to be here, you have to accept that challenge from within, so like you have to say Oh I'm up to make that challenge or I'm up to face that. 'Cause like okay if you're not happy with yourself or like in your own community back home, if you can't stand someone, how could you stand or appreciate people on a global perspective?
In other words, this engagement with difference required students to have a well-developed sense of self and to accept the challenges associated with this engagement. This is no small feat for adults, let alone still maturing adolescents.
Not surprisingly, then, the residential component of Connections Academy-North America also resulted in challenges in addition to fostering cosmopolitan benefits. Given that students shared rooms with one or two other students from different years and different geographic regions, conflicts were inevitable. Some conflicts stemmed from the banal issues that arise when people share living space, such as cleanliness and sleep schedules. Others related to the different cultural and national backgrounds of the students; for example, a student from a politically and socially liberal country living with a student from a politically and morally conservative country.
Bringing together students from a range of backgrounds also brought together different socioeconomic statuses, which represented another challenge. Students at the school were either on full scholarship, partial scholarship, or were full-fee payers; this created an awareness of socioeconomic gaps between some students. As Dean of Students Sally pointed out, these gaps remained salient despite the fact that all students were fed and housed:
I think that when you constantly see your roommate who orders something from Amazon and gets a new pair of shoes every day and you can't do anything. You've come with your one suitcase of clothing and you're not gonna change thatthat's very wearing on some of the students.
The Dean of Students highlights here that, in practice, an understanding of and respect for different socioeconomic backgrounds did not always factor into the larger cosmopolitan understanding targeted by the school. This points to the challenge of fully executing a cosmopolitan agenda, at Connections Academy-North America and at any school.
A final challenge faced by Connections Academy-North America stemmed from the changing world itself and the financial feasibility of this approach to the global. In total, each students education cost around $40,000 and $44,000. While some students paid full tuition fees, many of the students were on partial or full scholarship. The school had historically looked to cover the rest of its budget through philanthropy. However, the philanthropy scene had shifted in recent years, according to the Head of School, Trevor:
[Philanthropists] are changing their approach to it, you know? You know what I mean? Well, I mean I love the smiling African boys on the cover of your magazine, but what's the scale of that? You know, I think in the old days it was like, Wow, I'd really like just to support that kid. I'm gonna give you my 20,000 bucks and that's making me feel good about my philanthropy. I think it's really changed a lot. If you look at young people with money, Like okay, that's nice. But that's not enough. They wanna know like how are all these schools gonna work together to create this global movement, you know?
In response to funders desires to see a larger scale in the global education movement, the Connections Academy organization had made plans to open new campuses over the next few years; this was a deliberate attempt to change with the times in order to attract more philanthropic attention.
Despite challenges and tensions, Connections Academy-North America represents a path to the global that is rooted firmly within a cosmopolitan frame: the school sought to promote cross-national and cross-cultural understanding through the cultivation of a diverse living and learning environment. We will discuss the implications of this model for the global education movement more generally in the last section.
Global Studies High. Located in the United States, Global Studies High engaged local students in a globally relevant, project-based learning curriculum led by teacher teams within small, separate, but interconnected schools. In juxtaposition to Connections Academy-North America, a school that took one primary path to the global, Global Studies High sampled and combined two primary strategies in instantiating the global: its student body and curricular design.
Locally diverse student body. Similarly to Connections Academy-North America, Global Studies High sought to instantiate the global through its student body. In contrast to Connections Academys largely national diversity, Global Studies High targeted diversity that reflected the local cultural and socioeconomic diversity. This equated to about 40% Latino-American students, 35% White Students, 12% African American students, and 13% Asian and Pacific Islanders as well as 35% first-generation college students.
The most salient piece of this diversity for students and administrators was socioeconomic. Indeed, what was termed social integration was one of the guiding principles of the school. As Dean of Students Natalie noted, all decisions in the school had to be in line with the following questions: Is it in support of social class integration? Is it about bringing our young people together in a space that honors all of them and supports them with what they need? In other words, the school sought to create a school space that brought together students from different socioeconomic and ethnic/racial backgrounds that intentionally respected and supported students in this integration.
The schools desire for respectful inclusion of students from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds was not lost on the students. For example, senior Hanna immediately cited the student body in listing what was distinctive about Global Studies High:
I think the design of it allows forand I think this doesnt become apparent until you become older and youve been in the system a whilethat you have socioeconomic diversity because of the lottery-based system that differs from a traditional public school in that you dont have the same kind of kid either in a positive or negative way all at the same place.
Similarly, the Chief Administrative Officer, Henry, shared a story of a student:
[She had] only worked with kids who looked like her [at her previous school], and she had ideas about kids who didnt look like her, but she didnt know because she actually never met them before coming to Global Studies High. And all of a sudden she has to sit with kids who dont look like her, and she realized that the kids who dont look like her are different than what she thought, and also everyone else is having the kind of experience that shes having, and so now, she just likes all kinds of people.
Students, then, were keyed into the unique composition of their schools student body and socialized to attributing value to it.
Project-based learning. Interestingly, Hanna went on to describe the intersection of this diverse student body with a second path to the global, the schools curriculum:
By doing that the way public schools do, you lose that sense of diversity. Thats such an abstract word, but by having people from both ends of that spectrum that youre working with in very, very close relations withyou know, eight hours a day, five days a week, with the same group of 25 kids, because we stay with our classes for the most part, at least for an entire semesterI think that allows for a lot of crossing of ideas, a lot of crossing of understanding, seeing where different people are from and seeing how different people have grown up and a crossing of cultures even within the same county that is unique.
Hanna cited here the importance of the schools curriculum in helping students from different backgrounds engage with differenceexchanging ideas and cultivating understanding across differences.
Moreover, the curricular context that Hanna describedworking eight hours a day, five days a week with your classmateswas a special one. In contrast with the curriculum and organizational structure of most schools, Global Studies High centered its curriculum around project-based learning (PBL) or learning through immersion in projects that are authentic and relevant. Jerry, a media and arts teacher at the school since its launch, described this approach simply as learning through doing and making. Indeed, the school itself was covered floor to ceiling with the projects that had guided student learning over the years. One project that we saw in action combined a humanities class and a Spanish language class in the creation of a food truck meant to promote cultural understanding through the fusion cuisine served; the project involved ethnographic research essays on existing food trucks in Spanish and English as well as research reports on the cultural significance of different ethnic cuisines represented in the area (Mexican and Korean).
The 20 students who participated in this particular project and other projects at Global Studies High spent hours working together with a common goal of seeing their student-generated project come to successful fruition. As Dean Natalie noted, this time spent together was both critical and challenging:
We have students coming from homelessness and students coming from billionaire families, and they work together on projects. There is a lot that comes up in that interaction and thats the social class integration piece is that I think that when we do this, we are preparing them to be leaders of the world. That doesnt just happen though. We have to be very conscious of the spaces we put them in, the way we choose the groupings, the places they sit, the spaces we create for them, physical and thought spaces.
This explanation points to two things. First, it was the intersection of diverse students with a project-based curriculum that promoted substantial engagement with difference and a cosmopolitan understanding among students; the curriculum was the mechanism through which cultural barriers and boundaries were broken. Second, the school paid attention to school structures and spaces in order to target engagement and understanding through the project-based curriculum. In sum, it was the combination of a diverse student body and a project-based curriculum that produced cosmopolitan habits of mind, although not automatically and not without challenges.
The project-based curriculum used at Global Studies High can also be understood as a way to instantiate the global outside of its connection to the student body: PBL at Global Studies High was centered around doing and making what was relevant to the global world. According to Founding Head Len, the whole idea [behind Global Studies High] is that [the students] realize that building and making things is isand thinking thingsis really the future, you know? Thats basically it. Len expounded on what skills this future required later on in the interview:
Because what we want them to have here are, you knowbecause we use different words with them over time like commit, curiosity, being resolved to pursue something, finding it endlessly interesting, being able to do advanced reading in a group, working collectively, being able to schedule, something thats complex, multifaceted that takes a long time to accomplish with others or by yourself. Those kinds of skills.
In other words, the curriculum was future-oriented, looking to impart to students skills that will help them succeed in a global world.
This orientation toward the future was salient to the students as well. For example, Jamie, a junior at Global Studies High, noted that:
Well most of the lessons you learn, and the projects that you do, the teachers will relate it to something outside. Its usually what all their lessons are based around, so that way, youre not learning things where youre like, I dont know when Im going to use this. So you actually know when youre going to use it and it gives you an idea of what you want to do.
This outward orientation was also picked up on by senior Laura, who commented that Global Studies High is really involved with kind of looking at how the world is progressing and kind of tailoring the curriculum to that. From Lauras perspective, this took the form of an emphasis on public speaking and STEM-related careers, such as robotics, and integrating that into the curriculum. Students also mentioned multiple opportunities to explore different career paths and to forge professional connections in these fields through guest speakers and guest teachers from industry, field trips, and internships.
Tensions and challenges. For students and administrators, then, the project-based learning curriculum brought in relevant connections to the outside, globalizing world and worked to prepare students for success in this world by equipping them with the necessary skills and connections. Importantly, this success was largely defined in terms of economic success: the ability to secure employment in the face of a rapidly changing, globalizing job market. Students and staff both emphasized the link between the curriculum and careers or, as Laura summarized, that fact that Global Studies High identified careers that are becoming popular, the ones that are becoming really successful, and kind of tailoring the curriculum to fit that.
With global relevance of the curriculum defined largely in terms of jobs rather than in terms of understanding or helping global Others, this future-looking curriculum aligned more with the entrepreneurial and economic discourses that have surrounded global education. This stands in juxtaposition with the more idealistic and cosmopolitan agendas expressed by students and staff when discussing the student body. We are left, then, with a notable tension at the heart of Global Studies High between an internal focus on cosmopolitan integration and an external focus on global job markets.
Global Studies High faced other tensions as well in instantiating the global. One challenge to implementing the curriculum itself stemmed from the very nature of the curriculum: its non-traditional nature did not fit all students, teachers, or parents. Jamie explained, for example, the shirking nature of his graduating class:
We have a much bigger freshman class than we do senior class, because there are a lot of kids that this just isnt for them, and theyre not doing as well as they should be, or as well as they feel they should be. Because at the end of the day, they dont try because it seems like this foreign idea of learning and its just not for them, so they end up leaving.
This foreignness of the curriculum did not always sit well with parents, either. Jerry, the media and art teacher, laughed that:
Parents are like, My kid had too much fun at school today. Whats going on? Why arent theyI took Chemistry and I was miserable, how come my son is having such a good time? And so they pull their kid out.
Teachers as well faced challenges in implementing a truly project-based learning environment. Jerry went on to explain that:
Even still here at Global Studies High, well get new teachers and theyll cognitively understand were doing project-based learning but in their hearts, they just cant believe it. Theyre like, No, but I have to lecture to them. I have to do this or I wont be a good teacher. And youre like no, make something, do something.
In other words, instantiating a truly project-based curriculum remained a challenge to implement even when the will was there.
In addition, this curriculum and the school itself demanded a lot from teachers. Laura described the availability of her teachers:
And a lot of the teachers are kind of available all the time. Where in like traditional schools, theyll go home right as it hits or theyll be there right as school starts. But our teachers are here early in the morning, and theyre there until at least 5 PM every school day. Even some weekends theyre here. A lot them will give you their phone numbers so you can text them if you have some kind of problem with an assignment. Theyre always available to help, which is really great.
Another student brought up the example of a teacher who had recently stepped in to support her:
[Teachers] go above and beyond to make your education the best one possible. So, Ive been working on a project and Ive been really stressed out, and I havent had enough time and the project was actually from last semester. But yesterday, we were building a garden at a preschool. My teacher actually took me out, we drove over to the preschool, and we worked on it after school and it helped me a lot with finishing the project. It was less stressful. They go above and beyond, even if its something like that.
These student testimonies illustrate the importance of relationships between students and teachers to the PBL curriculum and to the school model as a whole. That said, this intensive time was not sustainable for all teachers. For example, Jerry was the only teacher from the initial team still teaching at the school 10 years later. Hanna summarized this, saying, [Teaching here is for everyone?] Oh absolutely not. It requires so much effort out of the teachers. Teachers then faced the enormous challenge of sustaining this model and this curriculum for students without burning out.
Global Studies High illustrates a hybrid path to the global through a socioeconomically diverse student body and a globally oriented curriculum. This path looked to promote both cosmopolitan habits of mind within the school and 21st century savoir-faire for life after school. We turn now to a discussion of this path and its tensions and opportunities as they relate to global education in the United States more broadly.
IMPLICATIONS AND CONCLUSION
Our findings confirm a flourishing worldwide global schools movement that was nevertheless marked by challenges in the substantial and meaningful instantiation of a global orientation. We identified seven strategies that schools around the world used to integrate a global orientation and detailed the complex path toward the global taken by two schools.
These findings point to several implications for the U.S. education context. First, we want to acknowledge the considerable challenge of instantiating the global as well as the great importance of meeting this challenge. Schools around the world are still working to figure out what it means to provide a global education and how to do it: all of the schools we visited faced significant challenges in meaningfully instantiating the global. Even in schools with seemingly unlimited resources, substantial obstacles remained: integrating second/foreign languages, service learning, and technology, for example, or welcoming students from all socioeconomic walks of life. In some ways, it should not be surprising that a cosmopolitan orientation toward others that recognizes the legitimacy of alterity (Dooley, Tait, & Sar, 2016; Levinas, 1969) and insists upon dialogue is difficult to achieve, especially at our particular historical moment. At the same time that digital media have connected us, the same technologies have brought into bas-relief our stark differences and the even starker inequities that characterize our world, both within nation states and across them. Indeed, how to speak and hear across these differences, we would argue, is one of the most important educational, ethical, and political issues of our time. We call for robust, sustained, cross-disciplinary research on how to cultivate, nourish, and foster global orientations in our schools that position young people to become citizens of the world as well as responsible members of local and national communities. How, for example, can students be concretely supported to encounter differencea different way of speaking, sounding, interacting, thinkingwith curiosity rather than fear?
In our study, the schools paving the way toward the global, or claiming such an orientation, were primarily private schools that catered to elite populations. The concern that globally oriented skills and knowledge sets are most available to certain segments of the population, that a move toward a global orientation will simply raise or shift the bar and create another gap or divide between the privileged and the not, is a danger that is not lost upon us. To be sure, one of our cases featured a public charter school in the United States that served a socioeconomically diverse student body. Nonetheless, we are concerned that a global education be viewed not as a privilege of the few but a basic right of all. We urge educators to reclaim cosmopolitanism, not as elite privilege but as a fundamental orientation and values set essential in a globalized world where all people need to be able to interact with and understand divergent, diverse others (Blommaert, 2010; Darling-Hammond, 2010; Kirkwood, 2001; Mansilla & Jackson, 2011). How to reconcile national standards, vocational orientations on one hand, and global, cosmopolitan orientations on the other, should, in our view, top educational policy agendas. This may involve inquiry into the few models for providing a global education to students from under-resourced communities or the rising middle class, such as the Asia Societys International Studies Schools Network (Asia Society, 2016). In addition, work in this area could identify new models for providing global education that have yet to surface.
Third, as digital media have propelled the forces of globalization and made possible an instantaneous flow of ideas, images, and information across geographic, cultural, political boundaries, the role and use of digital technology in global schools and toward a global orientation remains limited and problematic. We do not mean to imply that the radical connectivity of the Internet is always helpful and certainly not that such connectivity promotes a cosmopolitan ethic by itself. But we are interested in how such tools, in the hands of skilled educators, could promote such an ethic. At Connections Academy-North America, technology was ultimately positioned as a threat, criticized by the students as a hindrance to their in-person relationships. While commendable in its intentions, this stance seems at odds with a global reality marked by digital connectivity and leaves opportunities to further a cosmopolitan outlook via digital social presence unfulfilled. At Global Studies High, conversely, technology was central to pedagogical offerings; however, it was leveraged toward preparing students for a job market increasingly dominated by technical skills and know-how, again stopping short of deploying technology to connect with distant or different others. These findings underscore the need to explore digital media and tools in research and practice as a pathway to greater cosmopolitan connection, moving beyond common perceptions of technology as a threat or as a tool just for the global job market.
Finally, our findings confirm a tension between instrumental and altruistic orientations to global education that has long characterized its existence in the United States and abroad: global education has been and continues to be framed both as 1) a way to remain economically and militarily competitive as well as 2) a way to promote cross-cultural understanding. The two focal schools embodied these two orientations, preparing their students for the larger, global world in very different ways: as cosmopolitan leaders at Connections Academy-North America versus as competitive career-driven entrepreneurs at Global Studies High. We certainly acknowledge the continued relevance of instrumental orientations to global education, and indeed, the importance of career orientations at a time of economic instability and slow wage growth. However, we believe that cosmopolitan orientations cannot be forgotten or left unfulfilled, lest we position youth too narrowly and jingoistically for work lives with a singular focus on a national economy. Even as educational institutions across the board emphasize preparation for employment (Grubb & Lazerson, 2007), it is more important than ever to interleave such preparation with the development of a cosmopolitan ethic given the inescapable connectivity of our world. Globalization has created a world in which information and ideas, people and politics, as well as conflicts and crises cross borders with still disconcerting ease. It has also created a world in which fear and suspicion toward others runs rampant, constructing new walls to fortify old borders and barriers. With Appiah, Hansen, and others, we submit that a cosmopolitan orientation to education that respects difference, that encourages dialogue, and that is embedded both locally and globally is essential for our collective future.
Although each of the schools that we visited would agree that its path to the global is not yet complete, they have all made important moves away from exclusively instrumental curricula. We take our hats off to them for their commendable efforts to imagine and offer their students an education suited for the 21st century. Inspired by these schools, we encourage the educational research community to turn focused inquiry and attention to educative contexts, both in the United States and around the world, that are locally embedded yet globally aware in order to help us understand what models best promote cosmopolitan leanings for students, preparing them not to fear what lies beyond familiar borders but to respect, understand, and engage with it.
We gratefully acknowledge our colleagues at UC Berkeley who supported and enriched our thinking on global schools: Jessica Adams, Katie Fischer, Sarah Freedman, Dan Gillette, Jeanette Hardy, Judith Warren Little, Jose Lizarraga, Teresa McGuire, Adam Mendelson, Jeeva Roche, Jason Sellers, John Scott, Ariella Katz Suchow, Laura Tobben, and Peng Yin. We salute the teachers, staff, and students in all of the schools we visited. We are immensely grateful for their engagement on the front lines of striving for what schools can and should be in a global age.
1. Schools visited internationally were located in Asia. This choice was rooted in the rise in popularity in global schools and education in Asia (Hayden, 2011; Sharma, 2016).
2. All names are pseudonyms.
3. To preserve the anonymity of the schools visited, we indicate the general region in which they are located, rather than a specific city.
4. Transcription conventions: pauses are marked in seconds enclosed in parentheses. For example, a pause of two seconds would be marked as: (2.0). Restarts are marked with an em dash ().
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NARRATIVE SUMMARY OF PARTICIPATING SCHOOLS
Bilingual Academy, located in Asia, housed 1,500 students, pre-primary to 12th grade. The school offered some scholarships, but most students paid the full US$20,00026,000 tuition fees. Students were a mix of expatriates and from middle/upper middle class local families. The school required Mandarin-English immersion at all grade levels.
Connections Academies were small college preparatory programs for students from many different nationalities. Most programs offered an IB curriculum. English was the medium of instruction, with options available for second/foreign language learners as well as native language maintenance. Service learning was cited as central to many of these school models. There was a mix of full scholarships, partial scholarships, and full-fee payers.
Equality Charter was a network of a half dozen K5 schools around the U.S. Over 2,000 students were served, network-wide. The charter charged no tuition and focused on the local manifestations of globalization. It centered its curricular model on support and embracing racial and socioeconomic diversity. It offered some foreign language classes to older students.
Global Edge High, located in the U.S., served 1,500 students in grades K12. Students were largely from affluent families. Tuition cost US$45,000 per year. Included at every grade level was a globally themed course. Language immersion was implemented in lower grades, with a traditional foreign language course model at the secondary level. All students at the school received high-end technological hardware (tablets or laptops) that was used in classes. The school also had plans to connect future campuses via telecollaboration.
Global Studies High, located in the U.S., served 600 students. As a charter public school, it did not charge families tuition. The student body was selected to reflect the socioeconomic and racial diversity of the surrounding community. English was the medium of instruction, and foreign language options were available to students. Curriculum was project-based with frequent use of current digital technologies to make learning relevant to the 21st century job market.
International Studies Institute, located in Asia, served 3,000 students, primary12th grade. Tuition ranged from US$23,000 to $26,000, with little financial aid available. The students were largely expatriates, very few of whom held local passports. The medium of instruction was English, with a focus on Mandarin studies at all levels. Service learning through international charities was central to schools mission and self-packaging.
Lakeview, located in the U.S., served 400 high school students. Tuition cost US$40,000 per year with some financial aid available. The school demographic was mostly affluent and White. The school offered traditional foreign language classes and implemented a 1:1 laptop policy for all students.
Local Academy in Asia served 2,000 students in grades 112. Unlike many of the other schools visited in the region, this school served primarily local students. English was the medium of instruction. Tuition cost US$6,500-1,000, and admission was need-blind, with substantial financial aid available to students.
Peace School, located in the U.S., served about 500 students in grades K8. Tuition cost US$30,000 per year. Half of students were students of color, and one quarter received financial aid, although the scholarship amount per student was not clear. English was the medium of instruction, with foreign language options.
World Network, Inc., was a network of multiple schools across multiple countries. Tuition and scholarships varied by school. Similarly, a range of curricula (e.g., IB, British, American) were offered, based on school. The network claimed that global perspectives were integrated into all courses and curricular components. It also sought to connect classrooms across the network via technology.
A SAMPLE OF CODES USED IN DATA ANALYSIS
Altruistic or Cosmopolitan Orientations to Global Education
Hospitable relation to difference
Service to others
Instrumental or Nationalist Orientations to Global Education
Diversity vs. homogenous student population
How Six Schools Used Different Strategies to Instantiate a Global Education