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Four Ways to Engage With the Business Community on Global Education

Kevin Kalra, Director of Innovation & Global Strategy, Montessori Preschool @ Copperfield, in Houston, Texas shares ways to work with businesses to get them involved in local global education initiatives. Chat with Kevin on Twitter during #GlobalEdChat this Thursday, February 9, at 8 pm ET, to learn about more tips, strategies, and resources. (Just type #Globaledchat into Twitter's search box to join the conversation!).  

By guest blogger: Kevin Kalra

Business quote.pngIn an increasingly interconnected global economy, future employees and entrepreneurs will be linked to new markets and diverse cultures. The business community needs employees who can recognize differing points of view, communicate effectively across diverse global markets, and take action. Successful American Fortune 500 companies (such as GE, GM, McDonald's, and Starbucks) and newer disruptive companies (like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Alibaba) are prime examples of organizations that cannot operate without globally competent employees. As companies grow and engage in new markets, they must invest in global competence education, not only sustain their own growth and success, but also to improve the economic and social sustainability in communities in which they operate.

While some are fortunate to have the opportunity to learn global competence on the job, that is often the exception rather than the rule. Global competence should be taught at an early age, in order to provide opportunities to more people—and to meet the demands of industry.

By engaging a company's core assets, philanthropy, and voice, the business community can make transformational investments in global competence education and effectively support our public and private school leaders. In order for this to happen, educators need to make a compelling case to the business community about the value of global competence and build a portfolio of curriculum-oriented projects that lead to sustainable and proactive business engagement.

To begin, the education community must remember that companies have more to offer than just funding. They have valuable employees, expertise, and a powerful voice in advocacy. And as educators, we should keep in mind that business engagement must be framed around a company's needs, social investment interests, and growth plans. 

Below are four ways educators can improve engagement with the business community in global competence education:

1. Articulate the Business Case for Engaging in Global Education
The business community needs a compelling argument to engage in global education. The business case must make financial sense, and it should align with a company's social investment strategy. 

While there is a strong link between economic outcomes and an educated population, there is limited evidence to demonstrate the link between global competence and financial performance. To demonstrate this link, educators might borrow economic data often used by stock analysts (who break down a company's financials) both in US and international markets to demonstrate the impact of successful business deals that required a high degree of global competence. This, in turn, could potentially demonstrate a link between global competence of employees and a better performing company. They can also use a tool like Mapping the Nation (a project of the Longview Foundation and Asia Society) to make the overall case of how many jobs are tied to international trade and foreign-owned companies.

As employers seek to foster the next generation of talent, educators must prove that they are ahead of the curve. To an extent, this is already happening at secondary schools. For example, the International School of the Americas in San Antonio has a curriculum that emphasizes an international perspective and has developed sister school relationships to provide global exchange opportunities. These are critical to instilling a global perspective among students. Businesses focused on philanthropy or social investment strategies could encourage similar developments in their communities—and vice versa: educators should be specific about their needs and demonstrate how working with them can give local companies a competitive advantage when seeking partnerships. 

2. Create a Business Advocacy Platform for Global Competence
We need to convene business leaders to speak about the importance of global competence in K-12 education in order to mobilize new partnerships and increased resources for educators and schools. A platform—such as a digital campaign or a report series—built around a common agenda and brand is useful for companies that would like to engage more deeply in global competence education. It becomes a go-to resource as companies meet with key advocates and thought leaders in global competence education and serves as a way to demonstrate how their specific products or services may support educators in global competence education.

A platform is also a valuable way for companies to engage policymakers. It gives a single, powerful voice to the business community. For example, the Early Matters campaign in Houston convened a broad-based coalition, including business leaders from across the city, to discuss the importance of investing in high-quality early childhood education. The platform was one way business leaders could advocate for increased resources for early childhood education in the Texas legislature. By working together, they were able to play a role in the passage of House Bill 4 to improve the quality of pre-K in Texas.

One way to begin would be through a digital campaign or report series that shows education leaders how the business community could effectively engage in global competence education. This could be done via respective trade/industry associations. In Texas, for example, I might work with local chambers of commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, American Hospital Association, the Texas Medical Center, and others who have vested interests in global competency because they operate in global markets and diverse communities. Initially this platform could be part of these companies' government affairs or education groups, which tend to exist in their organizational structures. 

3.  Develop Informal Education Opportunities
Educators can work with homeowners associations (HOAs), particularly with associations in vibrant and diverse areas, to create informal education groups focused on global understanding. These groups might create cultural presentations and lead a dialogue examining critical global issues in a local context. In Bridgeland, an organization in Cypress, Texas, residents and corporate leadership helped start the Bridgeland International Group, a resident-led, HOA-sponsored organization that seeks to showcase diverse cultures and develop youth programs to develop global competence at an early age.

4.  Start Early (But Don't Stop Early!)
business blog photo.jpgSkills in global competence do not start developing in kindergarten or first grade—they start in the earliest years, when children develop skills in self-regulation and lay foundations for their academic and social learning. Business has played a leading role in advocating for increased access to childcare and better quality early education, but the early education community needs to be engaged more meaningfully. For example, our Montessori preschool highlights an "international doll of the month" to spark dialogue with children about schooling in other countries. Local parents donate the dolls, and each doll represents a child's country of origin. During the month, preschool children explore the geography and culture of the selected doll's country. This is just one example of helping children understand the world during early childhood; businesses and educators can collaborate to develop teaching materials at all levels of preK-12 education.

Educators know the value of global competence education, but we need strong allies to make it a reality for all K-12 students. Through their resources, expertise, and voice, the business community, which recognizes the importance of global competence, can be a valuable partner. Educators need to engage them constructively and effectively.

Connect with Kevin, Montessori Preschool @ CopperfieldHeather, and the Center on Global Education on Twitter. 

Quoted image courtesy of Canva

Second image of classroom at Montessori Preschool @ Copperfield participating in the International Doll of the Month program is courtesy of the school. 

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