Preparing international students to become global graduates

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The ‘global graduate’ is a buzzword which is encountered ever more frequently in universities and businesses worldwide. It comes as no surprise that global businesses require employees who exhibit global talent and that universities have adapted to provide their graduates with the skills in demand. With ever-improving communication and networking technologies, many companies have been able to free their workforces from geographical constraints and so seek graduates ready and able to work collaboratively and effectively with teams from across the world.

Employers in such situations have higher demands of their graduate recruits than ever before, but for those lucky enough to be able to demonstrate the wide-ranging skill-set attributed to a global graduate, it would seem the world is their oyster. Such individuals are catapulted forward into challenging and rewarding roles, regardless of degree subject or even classification as their worldview and skills are valued more highly than aforementioned traditional measures of competence.

So, what exactly is a global graduate, and what makes them so special? A consensus is developing around this previously nebulous term, even to the point at which universities are putting forward defi nitive ‘global competencies’ to verify the qualities developed in their students. To summarise the range of opinions, global graduates are those with a high degree of cultural sensitivity and dexterity, not only able to understand different cultures but capable of adapting to working within them quickly and effectively. These individuals are open, curious, and innovative, able to apply their knowledge and skills to new, unfamiliar social and cultural situations. Perhaps surprisingly, they are not all necessarily masters of many languages; what is more highly prized is the ability to assimilate the language in the location where an individual operates; the key being adaptability rather than developed ability. Communication skills are vital, but emphasis is rather placed on listening and empathy. Understanding others’ viewpoints and feelings is often informed by an understanding of their background and culture.

Global graduates are those who can bring a diverse team together, fostering innovation. They are happy to move anywhere needed, integrate with local teams, build strong relationships and take their experience with them to the next posting. Indeed, rather than resisting relocation, they positively relish the opportunity to work in different countries and are more likely than average to embrace international immersion, building on their awareness of geopolitics and global affairs.

It is undeniable that successful and internationally-focused universities around the world are alert to the demands of the global employers and are leading the way in providing their students options to help them become global graduates and demonstrably so. An increasingly common method of achieving this is by establishing an overseas campus so students may study internationally as part of their degree, or by building in study abroad or internship programmes into degree courses either as an additional or an accredited option. In this way, the student can show a prospective employer that they have experienced and thrived in similar circumstances to what is likely to be expected of them.

At the moment, the students taking up opportunities for part or all of their degrees in such circumstances are dominated students from China and India, with Brazil and Saudi Arabia making considerable inroads into the US educational marketplace in the last 10 years. The trend for US, British and Japanese students, however, is downward. As national governments become aware of the possibility of their own graduates being outclassed on an international playing field, they are looking to enhance the provision with collaboration between companies, universities and even schools.

However, this is an area in which International Schools already have a significant prior advantage over the majority of national systems. By their very nature, international-mindedness, unity, and cultural sensitivity are core to the day-today operation of such schools. Even for those children studying in their country of origin, the exposure to different languages and cultures in the classroom and beyond becomes a way of life. A true international education is not just about attaining qualifications and excelling in a knowledge-based capacity but is also about holistic development in the sense of outlook, values, and character traits firmly in line with the competencies equated to the global graduate.

International Education is a worldwide growth industry of considerable proportions. It is essential that we critically examine the essential elements of the educational programmes we deliver in order to ensure we inculcate the skills and attitudes of the global graduate in existing student bodies before they even embark on undergraduate studies. International Schools and the curricula they use must be mindful of the needs and expectations of global graduates as they inevitably seek an education in line with their own experiences and worldview for their children.

By Jonathan Warner

Jonathan Warner is the Principal-Designate of Tenby International School Setia EcoHill, scheduled to open in September 2016. Jonathan is an avid traveller who has previously lived in Kazakhstan and Miri, Sarawak in his role as an international educator and researcher


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