Why Global Competence Should Matter To You

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Why Global Competence Should Matter To You

Over 30 years ago I first started paying attention to the world. Now it’s time we all do. This is called “global competence.”

You see, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, runs an international assessment to measure the reading, mathematics and science literacy for 15-year-old students around the world every three years. It is call the PISA, or Programme for International Student Assessment. 

In fact, in 2015 my then-15-year-old took the PISA test.

Why Is The PISA Important?

So, is the PISA simply a worldwide testing of 15-year-olds for basic academic competencies?

Of course it measures both competencies in key academic areas.

But it is set to become so much more. For the first time ever, the PISA 2018 will assess the global competence of young people are as they are on the brink of adulthood. Why should this even matter?

The reason why is because the OECD is calling for PISA to add a new item to assessment by 2018: “global competency.”

They define it as this:

“The capacity to analyse global and intercultural issues critically and from multiple perspectives, to understand how differences affect perceptions, judgements, and ideas of self and others, and to engage in open, appropriate and effective interactions with others from different backgrounds on the basis of a shared respect for human dignity.”

The BBC article from which I’ve excerpted above does a much more thorough job explaining the OECD’s conclusions. So if this piece of news interests you and you happened to miss it in May 2016, take a look at the linked article.

What Does PISA Mean For You & Me?

Here, I’d rather discuss this development in a practical, hands-on sense. What does it mean for you and me?

First, a few personal qualifiers.

I am a U.S. citizen, but I first consider my citizenship at two higher-order levels before I focus on my nationality.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I consider myself first a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I believe this is a kingdom that transcends time, ethnicities and languages, and borders. God, is my highest authority – and Jesus my greatest hope.

Second, I am a global citizen. I am part of the human race, and I see my position as one of billions (trillions?) over time living, breathing, loving, learning, struggling, persevering, consuming, creating, contributing, overcoming, and triumphing along the journey of life.

I believe we are all part of this citizenry – it’s an honor and privilege. It can be filled with pain as well. But, on balance, what a gift! We are humanity.

Third, I am a U.S. citizen. I didn’t seek that out. I was born into it. And I’m truly grateful for it. I desire to use it for global good.

How do you Gain Global Competence?

I cannot possibly know the individual circumstances of all those who will read this article. But here are 3 key ways to increase your global competence:

1) Want it! Examine your heart on this issue. If you are a American or European (in particular), does the changing landscape (and changing color) of your neighborhood, workplace, community and nation as a whole provoke dread or fear? Or curiosity and excitement? Or, perhaps both?

I am white. Again, nothing I chose. Skin color matters little to me when it comes to friendship or a person’s innate, God-given value.

But I cannot deny I’ve paid attention to the reports about America’s changing demographics. I see it all around me. Does it worry me to learn that America’s white population is declining?

Personally, no! I love the diversity in the Master Designer’s creative license! Having relationships with people who look different, think different and act different is exciting to me. But, I can’t deny, it is riskier than cookie-cutter citizenry.

I want to know how to better connect with and love the changing world around me.

2) Pursue it! In most urban centers (and even outside them) today, it is not difficult to find people who are of different cultures, ethnicities and races from you. Pay attention to the opportunities. You need to be intentional in pursuing relationships with those unlike you if this doesn’t come naturally (and to most people, it doesn’t).

This could mean something as simple as striking up a conversation with a coworker or neighbor. It could mean reaching out to another mom who is of a different cultural background from you. Or volunteering as a literacy tutor in your off hours. It could even mean noticing the many service people around you whom you’ve previously taken for granted.

Make it a priority in your week to expand yourself and reach out, to connect in a genuine way with the stranger. After all, a stranger is (often) a friend whom we simply haven’t met yet.

(This quote has been attributed from as wide a field of strangers as you can imagine – from William Butler Yeats to Barney, the purple dinosaur!)

3) Excel at it! Did you know you are an ambassador? Everywhere you go, you communicate a message, and you represent at least one – and usually more – ideologies, perspectives, identities and nationalities.

One way to excel is to read a lot in this area. Fresh news, yes. But also books that help you grow. That is what our Resources section is all about. And we are producing materials, products and courses we believe will assist in this area as well.

Another way is to learn another language.

“But I’m not good at learning languages!” “I’m too old to learn a new language!” And so on and so forth.

Secret: You don’t need to become an expert in another language to be a good, even great, ambassador! Choose one, two or three languages that represent the native tongues of people with whom you may connect. And then learn 25–50 basic phrases in those languages!

You will be amazed at the mileage (kilometerage?) you can get out of very simply showing your interest in another culture this way.

Of course, as the OECD recognizes, the 15-year-olds of today (and 2018) need to become more globally competent in addition to developing their reading comprehension, math and science skills.

But so does everyone else! We can’t expect the young people of today to be the only ones helping to solve today’s – and tomorrow’s – mammoth problems. We must step up to the task as well!

What one step can you take today to raise your global competence?


While you probably don’t want to read through the entire 494-page document (!), but if you’re interested, you can read a synopsis here.

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Caroline DePalatis

Founder & Interculturalist at CultureWeave
Caroline DePalatis has worked in the field of international education and service for over 20 years. A graduate of Stanford University and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, she's still doing much of what she was trained in: bringing people of the world together. A committed Christ-follower, Caroline longs to shine the Master Designer's awesome creativity expressed through the cultures, languages, peoples and places of our world. And then there's dark chocolate. Definitely a channel for intercultural communications!
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Interculturalist

Caroline DePalatis has worked in the field of international education and service for over 20 years. A graduate of Stanford University and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, she's still doing much of what she was trained in: bringing people of the world together. A committed Christ-follower, Caroline longs to shine the Master Designer's awesome creativity expressed through the cultures, languages, peoples and places of our world. And then there's dark chocolate. Definitely a channel for intercultural communications!