Global Education at Buckley Country Day School
by Headmaster Dr. Jean-Marc Juhel
In November 2006, I had the privilege of participating in the Principals’ Center of the Harvard Graduate School of Education on leading and managing the independent school of the future. The program included a presentation by Professor Reimers focused on educating global citizens. I remember listening to his extolling the intrinsic worth of global competency skills and thinking that often, at such lectures, we dream about the possibilities, understand the urgency of change, and yet rarely take the next steps to actually implement the changes necessary to insure that our students’ experience and learning reflect the reality of their future.
The following September, Buckley carved out a weekly period in the seventh graders’ schedule for a new class, “Global Perspectives,” designed to give students a global lens through which to experience all new learning. On the first day of class in this course, I ask students to write a brief paragraph (on their laptops, since the class is paperless) and identify the major differences between their world and the world their parents knew when they were their age. Being “global natives,” so to speak, Buckley students intuitively understand that political and demographic changes around the world have had a direct impact on our country, and that exponentially evolving technologies have rendered global communication immediate and limitless. They are not surprised to hear some reports credit Facebook for the overthrow of decade-long totalitarian regimes. They realize that the fate of nations is interconnected, and while they would not use the term coined by Thomas Friedman, they easily grasp the concept of a “flat world.”
Reflecting on Buckley’s overall experience with global education, the following points come to mind:
- It is critical for our students to hone advanced geopolitical skills and knowledge. The entire geography curriculum in grades K-8 has been given much greater emphasis to ensure that students graduate with a solid understanding of world geography and how it shapes international relations. Buckley students compete annually in the National Geographic Bee. Every year, seventh graders participate in a guided tour of the United Nations headquarters in New York City. In the eighth grade, the students’ experience in global studies culminates with an Independent Research Project for which they develop a thesis statement addressing the theme of change in a world region of their choice, research a related specific event, and present it to their peers.
- The study of world languages and cultures at an early age is an essential component in creating a globally-minded school community. At Buckley, Pre-K children start the study of a world language and continue through 8th grade. Other language options are offered in the after-school program as well. Which one they choose to study is less important than the degree of proficiency they reach in their elementary school years.
- Buckley’s internationally rich and diverse community of students, parents, and faculty is an invaluable asset to our focus on global education. Attracting outstanding teachers with international experience has provided our students with an environment closer to the reality of the world in which they will compete and to which they will contribute. In addition, several classes have participated in the National Association of Independent Schools 20/20 Program designed to build educational partnerships with schools around the world.
- A global education program has to be supported by an efficient communication infrastructure. Buckley teachers and students have quick and easy access to Web 2.0 technology that enables them to do research on a global scale and to connect with people around the world.
Ultimately, however, beyond all aspects of global literacy, the success of a curriculum that integrates global education rests in its ability to develop a new mindset in students. It is one that will empower them to value and understand a plurality of points of view.