Global education is the best answer to globalization backlash
SHANGHAI, July 27, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Lambert Okma, a world-renowned principal, founder of three prestigious American public high schools, said at a recent Harvard event that only global education could save the world from today's globalization backlash. We are experiencing unprecedented technological and economic changes, he said, and education has to embrace these changes.
"What is happening in the world is a wave of populism. The new environment is very challenging, and for some people, it is a challenge that they do not feel comfortable with," Okma said. "I think their negative reaction is actually a validation of just how big this change is and how important education should be."
Okma was the founding principal of the International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The school is the first all International Baccalaureate Diploma Program public high school in North America and was recognized by Newsweek magazine as the top public school in the nation. After retiring from the International Academy, Okma started the International Academy of Macomb, which also adopts the International Baccalaureate program and was ranked by U.S. News as the No. 1 Magnet school in the nation in 2018.
The talk, hosted by the Harvard Alumni for Education and Blue Oak Education, took place amid an unprecedented globalization backlash that started in the U.S. but is rippling around the globe. In the realm of education, the Trump administration has been targeting Chinese talents in the U.S., scrutinizing researchers and restricting student visas. The dramatic changes worried educators in the U.S.
"At best, this resistance to a world that is coming together at accelerating speed will exacerbate tensions, and cause us to miss many opportunities to collaborate along lines of difference in improving the world," Harvard Professor Fernando Reimers said in an interview with U.S. News. "At worst, this rejection of the results of globalization will lead to social instability and conflict."
To Okma, today's education needs to respond to the changing environment, and schools need to be redesigned from the ground up.
"I feel strongly that global education should be the center piece for our curriculum, as is the case with all the schools I have founded," Okma said. "Students have to be much more adaptable. They have to have critical thinking and collaboration skills. They have to work on teams that are international, which is a big part of being part of an international world."
Since his retirement from the International Academy schools, Okma has traveled to India and China to help local schools establish curriculum that centers on global education. He thinks that the education system in Asia has distinctive features.
"What I noticed in China is much more sincere effort and dedication towards the academic aspects of education, which is consistent with the students in school and with the parents," Okma said. "Professional educators are operating in a context in which the parents and students are extremely motivated within the school day and even beyond the school, whereas American kids may pursue personal interests or sports after the school day."
But he found that countries around the world are becoming more similar. Chinese young people are now pursuing their own interests and have their own ideas.
"Chinese students have been much influenced by western media, and to some degree, western values. Some of the interests are the same, whether it be gaming, social media, movies, or music. Those things are important to Chinese students now, which may be frustrating to their educators," Okma said. "It is a worldwide phenomenon. Educators around the world have to adapt quickly and embrace the change."
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