In September 2022, the Harris Poll, on behalf of EF Education First, conducted a survey which has important implications for the higher education space. Its results can foster greater coordination between secondary and post-secondary institutions advocating for the value of global learning. The survey was conducted for the purpose of gathering insights of parents of K-12 students on the intersection of knowledge acquisition (critical academic skills) and socio-emotional intelligence, problem solving and adaptability in preparing their students for the global workforce.
The survey results paint a promising portrait that underlines the value parents give to immersive experiences, particularly global ones, in developing students’ cultural agilities. For the higher education space, the survey invites us to consider how we might engage more closely with primary and secondary schools to seamlessly weave the value of the global dimension into the mindsets of students and parents, from the K-12 years through college.
Some key survey findings:
• Parents place importance on the acquisition of “soft skills” that their children missed during the COVID-19 pandemic which they believe are important for their child’s educational success and career preparedness.
• Four out of five parents (80%) believe problem-solving skills are critical to acquire in K-12 education to ensure future readiness (college and/or work force success
). Parents feel similarly about the acquisition of cognitive skills such as critical thinking (78%), self-leadership skills (76%), and social and emotional intelligence skills such as perseverance (75%).
•Many of the parents surveyed indicated that they would prioritize education-based travel and immersion learning opportunities over other expenses. More than 3 in 4 parents of children in grades K-12 (77%) say they would put off other expenses to pay for their children to have the opportunity to participate in an education-based travel or immersion learning opportunity.
Knowledge acquisition and free enquiry should be lifelong and, to be truly impactful, borderless. There is much to be gained by working across our educational spaces to close an intercultural competency gap that remains stubbornly profound. At the opening plenary of the Career Integrated Global Learning
Conference during Forum Education Week in Milan, in October 2022, Dr. Paula Caligiuri, Distinguished Professor of International Business at Northeastern, pointed out that employers and students alike acknowledge that there is a real need to build intercultural fluency.
As the baton is passed from K-12 to the higher education space, we should consider the value of working collaboratively with our K-12 professional colleagues to harness our combined talents and resources to seamlessly weave global learning opportunities throughout a student’s formative years, planting the seed in elementary school, nurturing it in high school and watching it blossom in college. These experiences instill in students the kinds of skills – cultural awareness, adaptability, resilience, perseverance, empathy, tolerance, creativity, initiative, and teamwork – that employers are looking for in their employees. Although commonly referred to as soft skills, they are, in fact, increasingly core to preparing students to successfully access and negotiate decisions across cultures, as they seek to undertake lives of purpose beyond their college years.