It’s no longer enough for our students to simply graduate from high school. They must be ready to compete in a 21st century global society. That requires a global education, which will be key to Houston’s future.
A global education helps students learn more about the world, appreciate other cultures and work with people from varied backgrounds. It encourages them to learn new languages, which makes them better thinkers and learners.
Most important, a global education ensures students will be competitive internationally. We want to make sure students can compete for jobs – in the dynamic and diverse city that we call home, but also around the world.
We’re already making great strides toward this goal. HISD leads the state when it comes to dual-language and immersion programs. The district offers Spanish dual-language programs at more than two dozen campuses – and we’re planning an expansion that will nearly double that number by fall 2015.
HISD also has language-immersion magnet schools focused on Mandarin Chinese and Arabic. Our Mandarin Chinese school opened at full capacity in 2012. By its second year, it had four applicants for every available spot. Our Arabic school is on track to open this fall, and we’ve already had to increase the capacity to accommodate the applications.
These schools are a testament to the demand in Houston for global education.
Additionally, HISD – a member of the Global Cities Education Network – has developed globally-themed schools as part of the Asia Society International Studies Schools Network. This national network includes 30 schools focused on preparing students for an increasingly diverse world.
We believe so strongly in this concept that we’re developing a team dedicated to supporting these efforts and ensuring their success. This month, we hired a Global Education director to focus on dual-language programs, awareness of the world and international standards.
Of course, it’s not enough to simply say we’re providing students with a global education. We must measure and compare with our counterparts across the world.
Last year, more than 500 schools from around the world took the OECD – Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – Test for Schools. This international exam is given to random samples of 15-year-olds to assess their performance in math, science and reading, as well as critical thinking and problem solving.
Unlike state standardized tests, which measure mastery of curriculum, the OECD measures how effectively students apply what they know to solve problems. It also gauges students’ perspectives regarding the general climate on campus. There is no test preparation.
Randomly selected students from 15 HISD high schools were among those tested. Even with this limited number, the results show we have students who are outperforming their counterparts at some of the best schools in the world.
We also see areas in which we need to improve. That’s exactly why global education is important. We know we have pockets of excellence throughout the district, but ultimately we want to make that a reality for all students.
That’s why we participate in America Achieves’ Global Learning Network, a learning community for schools that take this exam. It is thanks to this group – and the Asia Society – that we’re able to bring together our counterparts from across the state to analyze and learn from our results and identify our next steps.
More important, we will begin building a regional community of educators who are committed to providing all students with a globally competitive education. Our students will be better off because of it – and so will Houston.
By Terry Grier, superintendent of the Houston Independent School District.
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