How 'Globally competent' are your children?


I stopped writing over 20 years ago about the advantages for children’s futures and well-being that an International Baccalaureate (IB) education fosters versus national educational systems such as the English National Curriculum. In this twenty-year period, maybe about a million young people around the world have graduated with IB qualifications. I wish it had been many millions.

The ‘magical thinking’ that gave birth to the IB Diploma programme in 1968, followed by the MYP (1994) and PYP (1997) is staggering in how forward thinking it was then and how it remains so far ahead of the educational curve today.



Take ‘international mindedness’ as an example. The IB, more than any other curricula, goes far beyond just developing knowledgeable young people. IB schools strive to develop students who will build a better world through intercultural understanding and respect. This notion of ‘international mindedness’ has been at the heart of an IB education since 1969 and involves the development of attitudes, values and skills that train students to navigate rigorous academic, collaborative and inter-disciplinary challenges. By embedding learning within international and local contexts, purposely developing children’s’ capacities to think critically and to have the self-belief to challenge assumptions, students in IB schools, have an edge, a ‘learning agility’ that is befitting of the age in which we live.



It is no surprise therefore, to learn, that one of the central pillars of an IB education, global competency, is now deemed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), essential for the success of our children in the twenty-first century. Alongside maths, science and English, students will, from 2018, as part of the tri-annual PISA testing schedule, be tested on their level of global competence.

In a paper released in December 2017, entitled ‘OECD PISA Global Competence Framework’, this skill-set is defined and its importance endorsed. It makes for compelling reading for anyone trying to make sense of our world, so aptly described by Thomas L Friedman as the ‘age of accelerations’ (2016).



The OECD describes global competence as:

“The capacity to examine local, global and intercultural issues, to understand and appreciate the perspectives and world views of others, to engage in open, appropriate and effective interactions with people from different cultures, and to act for collective well-being and sustainable development”

As the OECD writes, schools must play a crucial role in helping young learners develop global competence by:

  • providing opportunities to learn about global developments;
  • teaching students how they can develop a fact-based and critical worldview;
  • equipping students with the means to analyse a broad range of cultural practices and meanings;
  • engaging students in experiences that facilitate intercultural relations;
  • and by promoting the value of diversity

Without hesitation, I can walk into any of our primary and secondary classrooms at ICS and observe our students from Nursery to Diploma being coached in these critical global competences. Our students need core skills to be ready for the new world of work. However, more importantly, in a world where globalisation is a powerful economic, political and cultural force, our children must also develop the capacity to analyse, and understand global and intercultural issues in order to thrive.


Rose Threlfall, Head of School


ICS Comms