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International Education Means Preparing Future Leaders to Thrive in a Global Economy

All Images © 2014 Ed Cunicelli Photographer Inc. All rights reserved.

All Images © 2014 Ed Cunicelli Photographer Inc. All rights reserved.

The world we live in today is not one-dimensional, made up of people who all look, speak, and think alike. No, today’s world is one of a melting pot of diverse and rich cultures, languages, and religions. If our world is one that speaks of diversity, shouldn’t our schools emphasize a global approach as well?

International education has become a hot topic in education in order for students to thrive in today’s global economy. In fact, in 2012, the U.S. Department of Education instituted its first- ever complete strategy for international education, which reflects the need to prepare young people for a globalized world and to improve education through international engagement.

As stated in the international strategy, it is no longer enough for schools to focus on a purely domestic curriculum; today’s world requires students to have advanced math, science, and technical skills and to think critically and creatively to solve problems, communicate effectively, and successfully engage in a world with a competitive economy, global challenges, and a diverse U.S. society.

Westtown School in West Chester, PA is no stranger to the importance of a global education.

Westtown’s focus on international education is actually two-fold: the school emphasizes both a global curriculum and on-campus diversity. Westtown students do not just read about other cultures; they experience them firsthand through international programming and from the direct perspectives of their classmates who hail from 18 states and 18 countries, including Nigeria and Spain – just this year alone. “We don’t just put kids in a dorm and expect magic,” notes Margaret Haviland, Westtown’s Director of Teaching and Learning. “We have a residential curriculum that teaches them to live together.”

“It’s an amazing space to explore and engage with the world – a safe place where kids can be kids and yet go to school with others from all over the world,” says Terry Dubow, Westtown’s Associate Head of School.

The Global Leadership Initiative at Westtown immerses students at all grade levels in an international curriculum and community. Students do not just study other cultures in the Lower and Middle School, but they also learn with fellow classmates of other cultures, eventually preparing them for international travel and, for some, a truly international boarding experience during the Upper School years.

“Having voices with different perspectives shapes each student’s worldview,” Dubow adds. “That’s why the Global Leadership Initiative at Westtown is woven throughout the whole school.”

Westtown’s Global Leadership Initiative starts with the specialized Global Competencies Curriculum that emphasizes:

  • Ethical living and cultural understanding
  • Leadership and collaboration
  • Communication
  • Scientific literacy
  • Analytical reasoning
  • Information literacy
  • Creativity

Next, the International Student Program makes sure that all international students at Westtown feel at home. To help them assimilate, there is an International Student Organization, an International Student Coordinator, and a Host Family Program. Students hailing from abroad even take part in biweekly meetings to discuss a range of issues and to ensure they are adjusting well.

What about study abroad and international travel?

By the time Westtown students reach the Upper School, they have the opportunity to take part in a variety of unique international travel experiences and faculty-led senior trips. Imagine exploring the wonders of France, Ghana, Israel, Palestine, Mexico, Martinique, or Spain; it’s all possible through organized travels and Senior Projects at Westtown.

Immersive international experiences are not only geared to Upper School students; in fact, third graders at the Lower School are directly involved with Heritage Academy, a school in Ghana started by a Westtown teacher.

“Westtown prepares future leaders who will engage with the world’s problems and promises,” he says. “It’s a really powerful experience where students are prepared for the real world – where not everyone looks and talks the same.”

One thing is for sure: graduates of Westtown truly understand what it means to live and learn in an interconnected world.

For more information about Westtown School and how Westtown can benefit your child’s educational experience, please visit www.westtown.edu.

Westtown School, a pre-K – 12 college prep school that offers day and boarding options, was founded by Quakers in 1799. Westtown offers a challenging and diverse curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking, creative problem-solving, collaboration, service and social action.