Commentary by Gilles Bousquet and Tony Evers

MADISON—It is widely recognized that we live and work in a world that is increasingly interdependent and interconnected. Yet, the financial resources at our disposal to respond to the educational challenges of this global environment continue to shrink. 

We might feel a strong impulse to simply pull back and hunker down. But, for the future of our students, our communities, and our state, we must resist this impulse.

In Wisconsin, we have plenty of assets to leverage:

  • We have no shortage of good ideas; the recommendations to advance global education produced by the Governor’s WITCO Taskforce on International Education in 1998 and the Statewide International Education Council in 2005 are still relevant today.
  • We have no shortage of talent, as demonstrated by the achievements of students from around the state.
  • We have systems of K-12 and higher education capable of putting good ideas into practice and developing our precious human resources.

Making the most of these assets requires deep collaboration—involving educators at all levels, businesses, government, organizations, communities, students and parents. We need to break through the barriers that separate us and begin reaching beyond our traditional spheres.

The Global Education Summit, on February 24 at Madison’s Monona Terrace, provided an opportunity to reinvigorate discussions about the importance of international education for Wisconsin. More than 300 educators, business people, and leaders of key organizations participated in this momentous event, which was organized by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of International Studies, the State Superintendent’s International Education Council, the Southern Wisconsin Education Inservice Organization, and Global Wisconsin, Inc.

We cannot afford to let those critical discussions end where they began. We need to carry the conversations about the vital role of international education across Wisconsin—into school board meetings, corporate offices, classrooms, coffee shops, and the myriad places where communities come together.

More importantly, we need to translate our words into actions:

  • More schools and businesses—from small, local enterprises to large corporations—need to come together to improve mutual understanding, identify shared interests, develop joint projects, and raise awareness in their communities about the importance of educating students with a global mindset.
  • School administrators, school board members, and other community leaders need to recognize that internationalizing education—e.g., increasing and deepening world language instruction, integrating global perspectives across content areas, and expanding international experiences and engagement—is critical for the future of our students and our state, and they need to demonstrate their support in tangible ways.
  • Stakeholders from all sectors need to view international education not as an add-on that subtracts from core content areas, but as an essential component of a well-rounded, 21st century curriculum. The Common Core State Standards, adopted by Wisconsin and 45 other states, specifically call for all students to be “prepared to succeed in our global economy and society.”

Collectively, we need to accept the responsibility to ensure that our students develop the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to thrive in a global environment, whether they pursue careers in far-away places or right here in Wisconsin.  

Why must we do this? What happens thousands of miles away increasingly affects us in Wisconsin.

Today, global growth is multi-centered—occurring in such places as China, India and Brazil. These are places where leading American businesses—including homegrown Wisconsin companies—are focusing efforts to expand their markets and grow their businesses.

We have heard executives from these companies talk about their hunger for global talent. For Wisconsin to effectively address this need for talent, all of us need to work together.

We need to focus our efforts at the local level, on creating environments that prepare students to compete in today’s global marketplace. We need to connect educators with resources and support in their own communities and beyond. We need to start now.

Gilles Bousquet is the Dean of International Studies and Vice Provost for Globalization at UW–Madison, and chair of the State Superintendent’s International Education Council.

Tony Evers is the Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction.