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Global Education Expands Horizons
November 17, 2014

I grew up in rural Bedford County, Virginia. During my childhood, I never traveled beyond Virginia and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. When I was in the fourth grade, I had a teacher named Mrs. Anderson who had traveled the world before she came to teach at my school. She was not from Virginia, and with my limited knowledge of anything beyond my home state's borders, I just assumed she was from a foreign country that happened to be named Michigan.

I remember Mrs. Anderson talking with us about the Scandinavian Countries. She shared with us that in these countries, it is dark all of the time in the winter. The places she described sounded like they might as well have been on Mars. I never in my life thought that I would travel to Mrs. Anderson's home state of Michigan, much less to other countries. I just didn't dream that was possible.

During my 20s, when I was teaching school, I got a part-time job working for a travel agency. That was my first experience in traveling abroad. I was able to travel to Italy, Columbia, and Mexico. It was during those experiences that I realized just how big the world really is, and how people are different, and how they have different customs and cultures.

And since that time I have had the opportunity to go to Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, Italy, the United Kington, Brazil, Singapore, Korea, and India. These trips help me to gain a deeper understanding of what education looks like beyond the borders of North Carolina and the United States. In some cases, there are many similarities. Sometimes however, our schools are quite different.

Each of the trips I have taken has been about much more than finding out what happens in schools in other countries. We are always looking for ways to bring global learning opportunities to the teachers and students in North Carolina. We also like to find ways to help other countries learn from us.

For the same reasons, the North Carolina State Board of Education and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction have Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with the Education Ministry of Spain, the Jiangsu Provincial Department of Education in China.

As a part of these agreements, we are working together in student and teacher exchanges, hosting joint conferences, and collaborating on professional development and classroom projects. We share a goal to improve our students' understanding of our respective countries, cultures and traditions.

But we certainly do not need an official agreement to reach out to and learn from people in other counties. All across North Carolina, there are students and teachers who are emailing, posting on Facebook, Tweeting and Skyping with others in locations all across the globe. Technology has made it possible for us to learn about other cultures first-hand, without having to buy a plane ticket or even leave a classroom.

With so much global industry growth, North Carolina's high school and college graduates will be competing against people from other countries for jobs and working with other people from around the globe. When students gain a deeper understanding of other languages and cultures, they will be more prepared to enter the global workplace.

All of these reasons are why North Carolina's public schools, teachers and students are embracing global learning today. As we celebrate International Education Week this week (Nov. 17-21), I commend all of the students and teachers who are finding creative and innovative ways to learn about other places and cultures. The knowledge and skills we gain as we expand our horizons beyond North Carolina are so important to the future of this state and our country.





June St. Clair Atkinson
State Superintendent