The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan



Teaching World-class Learners

By Dr. James Langholz

According to Pico Iyer’s talk at the TEDGlobal 2013 conference, about 220 million people live in countries other than those in which they were born.

This figure is four times the population of Canada and Australia combined, and soon this collective body of expatriates will comprise the fifth-largest “nation” on the planet.

Among those expatriates who have returned to their country of origin, a rising number of people struggle to fit in because, compared with their peers, they have developed a more global perspective. This group includes students educated abroad.

Furthermore, to broaden their children’s worldview, parents are increasingly choosing an international school education, even when family members have never lived abroad.

International schools in Tokyo have the opportunity and challenge to build on students’ global experiences, to position today’s youth as leaders of the 21st century.

Central to accomplishing this aim is attracting and retaining passionate, caring, competent, and committed teachers for each classroom. In spite of the many different ways of delivering a first-class curriculum—such as by using diverse technologies—teachers remain the single most important variable for engaging students in meaningful learning that, it is hoped, will make a difference in their lives and in those of other global citizens.

International schools must continue to employ teachers from a host of different cultural and educational backgrounds. This leads to school cultures that transcend national borders and thus prepare students for an interconnected world.

Schools must support these teachers and reward them generously, because they truly make a difference every day in the lives of international-school pupils.
One of the most effective ways to develop global competence is to experience being a foreigner living and working in a context where one’s culture and language are not dominant, states Dr. Yong Zhao in his book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students.

Zhao, a professor of education at the University of Oregon, suggests several ways schools can help educate students to become outstanding learners.

For example, teachers can encourage their pupils to build a global network of partners, to learn a foreign language, as well as to make products and pursue projects with universal themes. In this way, international schools can function like multinational enterprises.

In addition to globalizing education within the walls of the classroom, international schools must find ways to involve students in their host country’s culture. Field trips are an important part of fulfilling this objective.

Such study-away trips should explain the significance of historical and cultural sites in a way that supports a school’s overall curriculum, and which allows participants to view history through another lens. Service learning, or volunteer opportunities, give students a way of contributing to their host country.

These activities also promote the development of empathy, which has been recognized as particularly important for 21st-century learners.

The quality of education offered at international schools in Tokyo will continue to be a factor in the city’s reputation as one of the world’s most vibrant locations.

As preparations for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games unfold, investing in the globalization of education through top-notch international schools will send a strong message to other countries about how we are all interconnected in this fast-changing world.



Dr. James Langholz is the middle school principal at St. Mary’s International School in Tokyo.