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The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) began assessing global skills in 2018. PISA is the assessment sponsored by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that assess student knowledge and application of skills and concepts at a deeper level than typical pre-PARCC and pre-Smarter Balanced tests. Students in the US score in the middle of the pack amongst the 40-odd nations, relatively better on reading, worse in science, and worse still in mathematics (OECD, 2007; 2009).


PISA’s plan raises several questions: What are global skills? How do we teach global skills? How can global skills be integrated into existing curricular and instructional successes? How can we formatively assess student learning of global skills?


I have intentionally left out the question, why focus on global skills, assuming (hoping) that question is unnecessary.


The workplace and world is increasingly diverse and an awareness of different cultures and beliefs is fundamental for success, and even happiness. Globalization is a powerful economic, political, and cultural force.


So, let’s start with, what are global competences? The question is emotional and contextual.


Globalization means innovation and higher living standards for some, and social division and economic inequality for others. Automation and a digital economy represent opportunities for entrepreneurism for some, or weakened job security for others. The desire to cross borders represents diversified and expanded product and service positioning for some, and escaping from poverty and war for others.



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The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has defined next-generation skills in areas related to globalization. They define social and cross-cultural skills as interacting effectively with others:

  • Knowing when it is appropriate to listen and when to speak
  • Conducting oneself in a respectable, professional manner
  • Working effectively in diverse teams
  • Respecting cultural differences and working effectively with people from a range of social and cultural backgrounds
  • Responding open-mindedly to different ideas and values
  • Leveraging social and cultural differences to create new ideas and increase both innovation and quality of work

They define global awareness skills as:

  • Using 21st century skills to understand and address global issues
  • Learning from and working collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, religions, and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue in personal, work and community contexts
  • Understandingother nations and cultures, including the use of non-English languages


Other countries have made these competencies part of their curricula. In the US, schools are increasingly (and appropriately, I think) focusing on the 4Cs: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. We should begin to begin to focus globally as well.


For the record, PISA defines global competence as “the capacity to analyze global and intercultural issues critically and from multiple perspectives, to understand how differences affect perceptions, judgments, and ideas of self and others, and to engage in open, appropriate and effective interactions with others from different backgrounds on the basis of a shared respect for human dignity”.


PISA aims to assess students’ knowledge and understanding of global issues and interactions with other cultures; their ability to communicate appropriately and effectively with people from other cultures or countries; comprehend other people’s thoughts, beliefs and feelings, and see the world from their perspectives; metacognitively revise thoughts, feelings or behaviors to fit new contexts and situations; analyze, think critically, and scrutinize information; demonstrate openness towards people from other cultures; and behave sensitively toward, curiosity about, and a willingness to engage with other people and other perspectives on the world.


Global competences, according to the OECD, are shaped by three principles: Equity, cohesion and sustainability.

  • Equity: Income, education, opportunity inequalities make the equity and inclusivity of growth a pressing global topic. The digital economy raises the bar on the skills that people must acquire to be employable. This can represent liberation or a traumatic change in what it means to work.
  • Cohesion: We are witnessing an unprecedented movement of people in the world. Positive integration and isolated extremism are the polar possibilities.
  • Sustainability: We must meet the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, in the face of environmental degradation, climate change, overconsumption, and population growth.


I hope that US schools interpret the challenge represented by PISA’s plans to assess globalization as an exciting opportunity to continue to progress in creating more contemporary and engaging environments within which students become future ready. It will certainly be a challenge.

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