Leading Schools into the global age: The challenge of our times

Karolyn Snyder
International School Connection, USA

It is time for educators to fashion a new journey of schooling, one that sheds restraining traditions from the past and connects strongly with the great transformations that surround us. A century ago, guilds and farmers reshaped their work environments for urban jobs in crowded cities. A century later, local industrial jobs are giving way to more technologically-based global networks and corporations, with great migrations taking place around the world (Castells, 1999). National boundaries no longer have the power they once had, and it seems as though living is being redefined in basic ways on every scale and on every continent.

Simplicity is now a faded dream or memory, for the complexity of living compounds daily to make our lives faster and more stressful, and yet more connected to what seems like �everything.� Although new horizons unfold each day, we find that old ways and old rules are no longer as relevant as we pursue new pathways. This paradoxical condition forces us to adjust to uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, while it also stimulates us to search continuously for new information and resources to keep us vital. We no longer question change, for we are trying to learn how better to survive in its mix.

While schools continue to update their infrastructures and technologies, with engagement across schools varying in intensity, there is a growing disconnection between school curricula and learning processes in many nations, and what is required for success in life and in the marketplace. It is time for educators to link together across borders to fashion a new story of schooling, one that connects with the big story of life emerging around the world. The very survival of schooling as a viable social institution, in some form, may well depend on the risks we are willing to take and the roadblocks we trample.

What will it take for education to play in the global theatre of life, along with business, industry, and numerous transnational efforts to promote world peace? Perhaps the very foundations of school learning need to be examined in light of what is happening. Some European nations have promoted student learning across borders for many years, for they are acutely aware of the importance of their linkages with each other. The advantages are observable as student achievement patterns of the Scandinavian countries indicate (PISA 2000 & 2003 Reports). It is unclear what is the extent of cross-border learning in other regions of the world, although there are promising signs everywhere.

Over the last decade the International School Connection (ISC) has evolved from partnerships among school districts and universities that formed across seven nations and three continents (Snyder, 2005) (www.iscweb.org). The ISC connects educators virtually, as well as on-site school visits that are often followed by partnership projects, and on-line and on-site professional development programs. The following assumptions have guided our work, for we expect that now and in the future:

  • The world will be connected via the World Wide Web and other forms of modern technology and global communications systems.
  • Learning will take place across all borders.
  • Commerce will take place across all borders.
  • Cultural understanding and respect will be necessary for learning and commerce.
  • Assumptions about the East and West, North and South of our world are giving way to global struggles for peace, democracy and development.
  • Connecting educational leaders across borders will speed the learning curve for school development world-wide.
  • Schooling can promote democracy, collaboration, and learning across borders.
  • Educational leaders will necessarily reshape schooling to meet future requirements.
What will it take for education to play in the global theatre of life, along with business, industry, and numerous transnational efforts to promote world peace? Perhaps the very foundations of school learning need to be examined in light of what is happening.

Mary Cunning, a leader at the World Bank (www.worldbank.org), gave an address to a 2003 international meeting in Saint Petersburg Russia about the work of schooling for the 21st century. She notes that the world is now engaged in developing a knowledge society, in which two kinds of school learning drive success: 1) personally knowing a subject, and 2) knowing how to find information. The work of school learning, she argues, is to know, adapt, use, find and transform information in order to create new knowledge. This view is in sharp contrast with the 20th century assumptions about truth and knowledge with stable answers to predictable questions. The major challenge for schools, Cunning suggests, is to prepare students for uncertainty by helping them to take responsibility through problem solving, teamwork, and business work.

This vision of schooling raises important questions about the nature of student success today. And, what are the features of school success? Assumptions about school improvement aims and process that emerged during the 1980�s and 1990�s simply lack the power to lift schools up and across borders, regions and continents. Fresh strategies are needed to shift the focus from a place-called-school to a cyberspace universe with information and opportunities to connect educators and students across the globe and to speed the learning curve.

The Seven Growth-Promoters

This article presents a Seven Growth-Promoters Model for school development, which grows out of the work of Snyder/Acker-Hocevar/Snyder, et. al. (2000) and is based on Systems and Chaos theories. Because it is organic in design, the model offers a pathway for schools to become global learning centers over time, making use of the natural local/global conditions in which schools now function. The Model is an image that illustrates the interdependency of each Promoter to each other and to the whole of a change initiative. Consider the Seven Growth Promoters (7-GP) as a natural way to find and explore the future with its trends and opportunities, and to fashion a more dynamic context and strategies for school learning.

Growth Promoter 1: Connect to Local and Global Conditions

Natural systems that acknowledge the changing environment develop capacities to adapt in responsive ways. Schools everywhere are forming dynamic partnerships with local business and industry, creating on-the-job experiences, partnering with community colleges, and networking with social agencies in the care of the community and its citizens. While schools are becoming more integrated into their communities, the challenge of linking with global forces is a reality found in only a few countries, and supported by government funds in rare cases. As one superintendent in Florida recently said: �Global businesses are reshaping even our rural communities, yet our schools are doing little to prepare students for a different kind of adult life than existed in the past.� What are the trends shaping our lives?

Global Trend 1: The growth and speed of the information technology revolution and an information economy are based on networking, which reflects a radical shift in the nature of work. The culture of �virtual reality� with an increasing access to information is transforming all forms of work (Castells, 2000a). Information technology has been democratized, for we all have access to it. English is now the dominant language of commerce and global living, with people everywhere learning how to use it for successful communication and exchange. Over the last dozen years, the British Council has launched major centers around the world to teach English to local citizens, which makes it possible for more and more people to connect and cooperate across borders. Also, many family members are now spread across the globe, adapting to new cultures and new opportunities for making a living. To add to this complexity, computers, TVs, cell phones, and the media create the technology for virtual living.

Global Trend 2: The emerging economy is now a global phenomenon, with local consequences, where capitalism is widespread, although somewhat disorganized. As Friedman (1999) points out so well, the �economic herd� is now in charge, rather than companies, industries, nations, or the wealthy. We can�t stop the herd, for it has a life of its own and is causing nations around the world to shed century old traditions of dominance to engage in global opportunities for local development. Markets now are more often the �masters� of states, a condition that reflects a fundamental shift in world-wide economic conditions. Global networks or resources create the conditions for market forces to expand or decline, with influences to improve economic conditions coming from all sectors of the globe. Unfortunately, crime and terrorist groups have also taken advantage of freedom within the network society, and are presenting a new challenge for 21st century living.

Global Trend 3: Power and politics no longer rest with nations and institutions alone, but rather are found in networks of wealth, information, images, and resources (Held & McGrew, 2000). Power bases are being realigned with entrepreneurs, rather than with bureaucrats, and many are leaving bureaucratic institutions to pursue ventures where there they find more freedom to explore opportunities and dreams. In the course of such change, national dominance in peoples� lives is being replaced regionally by global institutions, such as the European Union, and by political pressure groups, such as the backlash groups against the International Monetary Fund. Furthermore, new regional and global alliances are at work as national leaders seek to support and reinforce strategic directions across borders that enhance the safety and well being of world citizens.

Global Trend 4: Local cultures are being reshaped everywhere. In some parts of the world, the standard of living is continuously improving because of global forces, such as has emerged in Sochi, Russia over the last decade. However, in other parts of the world, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South America, a new fourth world is emerging because of the extent of poverty, social exclusion, and the lack of major global efforts to alter living conditions (Castells, 2000b). These nations are so removed from participation in the emerging global community that many predict a continual decline in their standards of living unless international interventions emerge.

These four global forces are altering life around the world and with it the nature of work, emerging careers, and how one views community living and personal prosperity and satisfaction. The struggle between patriarchal societies and those in which there is freedom and democracy continues to create disequilibrium, and the turbulence of terrorism has tipped the balance of power. This is the age within which young people need to develop personal knowledge about world dynamics at play.

Growth Promoters 2: Identify Emerging Trends

How do major global forces impact schooling and the preparation of youth for society? Let�s consider the transformations in careers and the workplace. Information technology has transformed every career and every workplace. Knowing how to access information from multiple sources, and wade through ambiguous and irrelevant data, has become a requirement for successful employment. Markets that once were local are now more often global, and require that workers and professionals be able to communicate across borders with those in other countries, and often within cultures that are radically different from their own. Social networks of people, with common interests, curiosities, and goals, are not only local and regional, but also global. People want to be connected so they can learn with and from each other about their common pursuits.

Many entrepreneurs are leaving bureaucracies in hopes of finding greater freedom to innovate and grow, and are connecting with other entrepreneurs and their networks of people and resources within regions around the world. The trends of globalization have also transformed blue-collar jobs. Technology is sending more automated jobs to less industrialized countries. It is common today to be on the phone with a telephone or computer service company and find yourself being helped by someone in India or China, which are the new labor markets. Blue Collar workers in industrialized countries now are more involved in coming up with solutions to customer needs, than manufacturing products. Workers within this environment need to think globally, for manufacturing is continuously reinventing itself.

Other trends with more negative consequences have implications for school learning programs: 1) A growing distance between rich and poor nations, 2) a global environment that threatens the future, 3) a backlash against globalization for perceived predatory behaviors to dominate the marketplace, 4) the end of patriarchalism as a dominant practice in government, business and in families, 5) the rising influence of far-right religious groups that is based on partriarchial principles, 6) the rise of global systems of terrorism and their power bases, and 7) the rising influences of the Middle East and the Arab World. Contradictions grow as the East meets the West, for Saudi schools are teaching intolerance and indiscrimination to its students. What will be the role of students from democratic societies in shaping new world orders of the future? And, how well will schools prepare citizens to influence the future?

Thomas Friedman (2002) talks about the end of the West, as we know it, and suggests that other dates are now historical markers, such as September 11, for creating a divide between peaceful and terrorist movements. The evolving fourth world is a global problem, which Friedman notes in a New York Times December 12, 2003 editorial; poor nations have hit a glass ceiling in their development, and educating girls is the best way to break through it. The Report charges that HIV/AIDS and other diseases will not be eliminated until both boys and girls can exercise their right to a basic education. Gender discrimination has sufficiently undermined development policies, and as a result women must be encouraged to participate in national economic growth.

New knowledge about human learning is transforming instruction in many schools. For example: 1) The current flurry of Brain Research has prompted a more engaging and physically active role of students in school learning, with emphasis given to a positive learning and healthy emotional environment, with renewed interests in art and music (Sousa, 2003); 2). Knowledge about the power of collaborative systems has led to cooperative learning, teamwork and learning communities in businesses and schools for creating sustainable momentum for growth (Senge, et. al, 2000); and, 3) The power and influence of school culture has promoted more collaborative working and learning systems in which common visions and goals guide progress and celebrations (Snyder, et. al., 2000).

Growth Promoters 3: Recognize Disequilibrium within Information

Given the trends in global society and its development, what might be the response of schools? Of all the Seven Growth Promoters, disequilibrium and its effects may well be THE critical feature in pushing an organization forward. A natural tendency is to ignore uncomfortable information and to carry on as before. The sciences tell us that life at the edge of chaos, a point of significant disequilibrium, creates the most promising context for growth. Information, when acknowledged, pushes the natural system to the edge of chaos where the only response (if growth is the choice) is to make fundamental changes. For an organization to live at the edge of chaos represents a choice for remaining at peak performance and responsive to changes in the environment. By contrast, to ignore information is a choice for remaining virtually unchanged, with predictable decline as a consequence. When educators understand the function of disequilibrium in prompting change, they act more courageously and confidently because of its profound and invigorating effects.

Given the dynamics of a global network society, consider this question: �What is an educated citizen today?� When global trends, along with new knowledge about human learning and the transformation of careers, are considered, very little will remain the same. What will become the standard for student success in a dynamic global context? How will school programs prepare young people adequately for success? What relationships do schools need to develop with local, regional, and global education systems? What opportunities will help students build friendships and work partnerships across borders during their schooling years? If schooling is to survive in any form, these questions will drive the transformation of school curriculum, foster connections with educators and students in other countries, and stimulate partnerships with businesses and agencies.

The disequilibrium created for schools by global forces, is compounded by continuous international comparisons of student success and readiness to be a productive citizen. What matters greatly to educators and to parents is how well students perform on local, state, national, and international tests. The Organization of Economic and Cooperation and Development (OECD), a Paris based think-tank (www.pisa.oecd.org) launched an initiative in the late 1990s to test and compare the performance of 15 year-olds across nations of the world (OECD, 2001). Over 30 partnership countries became involved in shaping and reshaping a test known as PISA: Program for International Student Assessment. Features of PISA extend beyond routine subject-matter tests, and assess both the knowledge and skills needed for full participation in society, as well as problem solving capacities. PISA also asks 15-year olds to report on their motivation to learn, their beliefs about themselves, and their learning strategies.

From analyses of the 2003 test results, which are just now being disseminated to the public, only one in five 15-year olds in OECD countries can be considered a reflective, communicative problem solver. These students are able to manage multiple conditions simultaneously. The results of PISA assessments and comparisons provide reliable indicators of overall performance to school systems, which can help to guide local and national policy, and shape monitoring practices.

Finland was identified in both the 2000 and the 2003 Reports as the top ranking country educationally in the world (www.minedu.fi/minedu ). Irmeli Halinen, Head of the Basic Education Unit at the National Board of Education, commented recently that Finland values PISA for several reasons. First, it takes into account cultural differences and variations in curricula across nations. Second, PISA is concerned with student capacity to apply knowledge and skills, as well as to interpret, analyze, reason, and solve problems in a variety of situations. What do the Finns do differently from others? There is no inspection system nor any national test during the basic education years; the first test administered is to 18 year-olds when leaving upper secondary school; there is a national core curriculum from which every municipality develops a local curriculum and then each school its own variation. There are strong consistent standards of teaching and learning across regions; little social variation; and, strong social support for education.

Other top ranking countries include Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Poland, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, New Zealand, and Australia. The USA performed below the median value in OECD Countries in all areas of the 2003 test administration: reading, math, science, and problem solving. In the analysis of the 2000 results, Andreas Schleicher, Head of PISA Analysis, observed characteristics in the top ranking nations: 1) Schools have high degrees of autonomy and responsibility, 2) Feedback on test results is given to teachers and parents, 3) Schools decide the curriculum, establish learning environments and manage resources, 4) Schools are responsible for tracking, stratification and managing diversity, 5) Teachers do not transmit knowledge, but rather help students on their knowledge journey through goal setting, facilitating, monitoring and assessing progress, and 6) Teachers manage the pathways to learning. Schleicher also noticed that high performing countries are shifting from control over resources to managing learning results, and from a focus on instruction to student performance.

The OECD PISA is fast becoming an international benchmark for nations around the world. Evidence of this is in the numerous requests that Finland faces in hosting visitors. So extensive has been the demand that Finland now is hosting international conferences for those who want to study Finnish schooling (riina.Johansson@helsinki.fi), and offering training to large groups of principals from other countries.

The disequilibrium created by information about global forces, and about dramatic changes in education systems around the world, raises questions about the responsiveness of schooling to changing conditions. We need to face this question head-on! Barry McGraw, Director of Education for the OECD, in a recent speech delivered in St Petersburg Russia, argued that continuing to improve schools as they are currently designed is not likely to make a difference in the quality of education that students receive. Further, he predicts that there will be a meltdown of current education systems. McGraw urges educators around the world to make major investments in fundamental change to either re-school or de-school education systems: 1) create schools as learning organizations or as the community core social centers (a re-schooling approach), or 2) dismantle school systems altogether in favor of market-driven programs and services; those which serve needs will survive (a de-schooling approach). It is time to rise above the details of current approaches to schooling, and consider bold new approaches to preparing the next generation for success in life.

Growth Promoters 4: Encourage Self-Organization

Welcome news is that the sciences tell us how disequilibrium fosters a new order within which complex systems self-organize in unpredictable ways. Natural systems such as schools can figure out how to adjust to new information to promote continuous growth. When facing the drama on the world stage, and its implications for preparing young people, many educators are learning to respond adequately. A bureaucratic top-down approach to development tends to give way to local participation in reshaping learning conditions. This does not mean that the national, state, and local governmental systems have no voice, but rather a symbiotic relationship evolves naturally between and among agencies as everyone participates in redesigning schooling for a global age.

While the PISA findings at long last allow for international comparisons of national school systems, questions surface about the dynamic role that immigrants play in measurements, along with their integration into a new society. The immigrant phenomenon is found in many nations, and although it is not an explanation for results on the PISA, it is a feature of global living that cannot be ignored. Canadian communities are addressing the immigrant issue boldly, such as in Toronto and Ottawa, where a multicultural mosaic influences the mission and success of schools. School district programs have evolved to ensure that students are integrated well into communities and schools: 1) International Languages Programs, English as a Second Language, Diagnostic Welcome Center, and Multicultural Liaison Officer. Soon the ISC Ottawa Hub will be organizing events for others around the world to learn from their experiences and from the programs they have designed for immigrant success.

The PISA 2003 Report has spawned debate and dialogue around the globe about what is being measured on the PISA and its relationship with national curricula. To illustrate a debate underway in Sweden, former School Superintendent Sture Norlin was published in the national press arguing that Sweden has a more democratic school system than Finland, an orientation that evolved over 85 years of no national involvement in wars. Instead the quest for world peace led to emphasis on student contributions to world peace and to participation in international activities. The emphasis on democracy and peace is the foundation of the Swedish education system today, rather than student performance on tests. Norlin suggests that we pay attention to the PISA findings, and also keep the main focus on schools that help every student develop self-confidence in knowing how to access and use knowledge. The purpose of schooling today, Norlin pleads, is to develop educational processes that advance peace and democracy around the world.

Many students are �tuned into� global trends through the media, and have a strong sense of what they will need in order to be prepared for the future. When US students who attended a conference in Helsinki in June 2003 (First Global Forum of the Society of Organizational Learning) were asked about how well their schools were preparing them for life in a global age, several remarks emerged. Twelve year old Sam asked: �I wonder what would happen if teachers and students would interact as if they were old friends. I wonder if they care what I am curious about; I want to explore my own interests or my mind will just shrivel.� Seventeen-year old Won Mae argued: �Change in schools needs to come from students, all of them, all of the time.� Fourteen year old Courtney claimed: �Students need to know the big concepts about how life works now, which will stimulate students to learn and enjoy it more. I am an �A� student who is burned out by the stress and all that detail in my classes, and nowhere is there attention to what is going on in the world.� Every student has perspectives, which if considered in the aggregate could turn school learning up-side-down overnight.

Schools can become lighthouses for democracy, where every student has a voice not only about governance, but also about the content of what is learned, how it is learned, and with whom it is learned. Students want to be connected with students in other parts of the world, to learn with and from them about local conditions and potential partnership opportunities. Outside the school context, many young people are making friends in other parts of the world through the Internet, and pursuing their common interests over time. Most who are connected to global media know about trends, and have perspectives that are fresh and vital for transforming school learning. Not only is student participation in school development important, but so also are opportunities to connect with dramatic changes in careers and living conditions and the challenges they present. Democratic student voices lead naturally to responsibility for learning and living, as well as benefits for development as world citizens during the schooling years.

Ten years ago the Swedish national education system (www.skolverket.se ) dropped the traditional emphasis on content courses, and created 17 national career programs (1994). Emphasis in schools is given to career preparation, rather than to tests of academic subjects. Each preparation program provides a broad general education, and ensures eligibility to study at a university or post-secondary institution. The National Education Agency determines which courses are compulsory for a national specialization, and most communities offer some of these in their schools. A motivating factor is that the new curriculum gives students considerable influence over the content of their specialized program, where local leaders in special careers often assess student performance in school. When American educators asked Swedish Secondary Students, during a 1997 visit to Sweden, why they were so focused on their schoolwork. Their reply was stunning: �We are developing ourselves for our future role in society.�

Many secondary schools in Sweden offer students courses from another country. For example, students learn horticulture from Holland, fishing from Canada, filmmaking from France, forestry from Hungary, and so on. The question that drives each pursuit for new courses is: �What country in the world provides the best example of X? Let�s pursue a course with someone in the country�s industry.� It is also common for schools in Sweden to have many international school partners, with each program area in a school seeking its own international project partners for students. Hans Forsberg, a principal in Norrk�ping Sweden had students in Earth Science connected with students in all the countries around the Baltic Sea. The student challenge was to research the problems of the Baltic Sea, working in cross-border learning teams, and then present research results to adult conferences.

A good example of a promising new connection is found in the partnership plan between Williams Middle Magnet School for International Studies (www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/williams.middle/index.htm ) in Tampa Florida USA and Gymnasium School Number 15 in Sochi Russia. As an outgrowth of a school study visit by Russian educators to Tampa Bay in 2004, the partnership emerged to reflect common interests of both schools. The range of their projects includes culinary arts and technology programs, geography, inquiry and research, science, and performing arts. For each school, this is one among several international school partnerships. Williams has another partner school in Italy, and Gymnasium Number 15 has a school partner in Helsinki.

Schools can become lighthouses for democracy, where every student has a voice not only about governance, but also about the content of what is learned, how it is learned, and with whom it is learned.

As is evident from these few examples, self-organization is moving far beyond the school-bound structures of cooperative learning, teaming, and learning communities to create cross national learning teams. School teachers and principals from Ottawa were trained along with their partners in Katrineholm, Sweden to develop Silent Films with their students. These films are sent through the Internet to their partners who discuss them in their own languages, and in the process develop an understanding of life in their partner�s country. Nothing can replace connections that cross borders for both formal and informal learning about life in other places.

Growth Promoters 5: Build Connections to Sustain Growth

The sciences tell us the strength of connections matters in the growth of a natural system. Connections that occur randomly generate no potential for growth; connections that occur regularly may lead to limited development. However, when exchanges are continuous, the connection system generates its own energy for addressing challenges, which in turn promotes continuous exchange and growth. Gerzon (2003) refers to this energy as synergy, which turns impossibilities into possibilities and leads to results. Where adults and students work together in learning communities or teams, there is noticeably more energy for addressing opportunities. The isolated classes, curriculum and learning traditions of the past simply fail to build sufficient connections and energy. This is also true for the self-contained school within a community. It is urgent for schools to connect across communities, borders and regions to stimulate the kind of energy for development that will build competent world citizens, for students and educators alike. To influence the school, those connections need to be many, varied, and increase in their intensity and complexity to be sustained over time.

Within a global context for learning, perhaps school accountability needs to shift its emphasis from compliance with rules and regulations to continuous adaptation to changing conditions. Using the 7-GP Model as a frame, school leaders can become responsible for how well their school:

  1. responds to local and global environments,
  2. uses information to create the disequilibrium necessary for change,
  3. builds strong connections within and across a school, and with the community, state and region,
  4. supports self-organization among staff and students, and
  5. encourages the piloting of promising new ideas.

Over the last decades we have observed principals in many regions of the world, and under varying conditions, lead significant change initiatives in their schools working with students, teachers, parents and the community. Four conditions have evolved that inform us about the quality of leadership for these times. Condition 1: Leaders develop a shared vision about the future for their students, analyzing information continuously from a wide range of sources. Condition 2: Leaders engage everyone in a dialogue-focused community, where the vision becomes the lens through which challenges are addressed and options are pursued; Conversation is the core value. Condition 3: Human resource development is the key element in changing anything, for organizations will only be as good at adapting to changing conditions as its professionals know how to think and act as a unit. Condition 4: Leaders let the chaos in, meaning they use information to stimulate disequilibrium and then insist that it be addressed. This intention to grow and to be the best describes the heart of dynamic and growing schools.

Do connections really matter in shaping the school�s learning environment? In a research study of 28 schools in four states in the USA (Snyder et. al., 2000), it was found that certain characteristics tend to be quite different in low teacher involvement schools than in high involvement schools. It�s the connection system, and the energy it generates, that makes a difference. Low involvement schools are characterized by few connections among teachers, students, and with school leaders and parents. There is significant resistance to change, and programs tend to be isolated from each other. Teachers emphasize student success in isolated courses and on their tests, while students who have learning or social problems are sent elsewhere for help. The principal is viewed as the only school leader. In high-involvement schools, the natural energy that is created from strong connections enables teachers to manage their students� problems, and they are less inclined to seek outside assistance. A high degree of energy for development exists; programs tend to be integrated about themes rather than isolated subjects. Connections exist both within school learning communities and their parents, as well as with the larger community. Teacher concerns center on managing the energy explosion they experience because of a growing sense of empowerment and its effects. Teachers view themselves as leaders along with their principals, and a perception of broad-based caring about the success of all students permeates these schools.

The demonstrated power of professional and student connections has prompted the question: What might happen if we link educators, students and their schools together across borders and expect them to learn something together? The International School Connection (ISC), which is a nonprofit organization with international leaders and Board Directors, emerged after six years of exploration on three continents. The ISC connects educators across borders to become involved as partner schools with student projects, which in 2004 included: 1) A visit of Ottawa Canada educators to Katrineholm Sweden, 2) A visit of Spanish principals and leaders to schools in the Tampa Bay of Florida USA, and 3) A visit of educators from Sochi Russia to schools in the Tampa Bay Florida USA. Additional ISC school study visits during 2005 include Helsinki Finland, Sochi Russia, Ottawa Canada, and Tampa Bay Florida USA, and during the ISC Global Summit in Madrid.

A School Observation System has been created to facilitate school observations for the 21st century of schooling. The Seven Growth-Promoters Model (7-GP), along with benchmarks for Schools as Global Learning Centers provide the frameworks for learning and growing. Knowledge that has been gained from the PISA Report, and other research studies on school performance, suggests that it is neither the curriculum nor the teaching strategies that makes a difference in student success. Rather, the edge is found in the natural support provided for each school and student to succeed in the global age of living, and in cross-border connections where miracles seem to happen. The 7-GP Model not only helps observers to study what is occurring in a school, but it also prompts observations about the way in which the school is embracing information from the local and global stages, as well as information about student readiness to function as citizens in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex and ambiguous world. We observe that building connections within and across schools and nations in unprecedented ways nurtures curiosity and continuous learning for adults and students alike.

Growth Promoters 6: Evolve Naturally Over Time

Nothing that is natural grows in segments or in parts; rather, growing systems emerge whole over time in relation to environmental conditions, and are stimulated by extra nutrients. Consider the growth of a tree or a forest, the growth of a family or community, or the growth of global businesses. It is the health of the system as a whole that affects its performance. We need to shed all evidence of segmentation and parts-thinking as we lead schools into the global age, and consider the life of each student and how well the adult community supports them in preparation for the knowledge society. Let�s connect students to the drama being played on the global stage, not merely to read about it, but to actively participate as a global citizen.

The power of connections and forming partnerships is illustrated in Spain. Luis Perez Martinez was hired several years ago as a facilitator/consultant by five schools across Spain. Recently Luis brought together the principals to explore potential common futures. In March 2004 the new group visited Tampa Bay USA to observe schools that were using Systemic and Quality approaches to schooling and classroom life. By the end of their weeklong visit, several cross-border projects had been designed and the principals decided to pursue more international school connections. After the USA visit, a number of ISC consultants from the USA and Sweden visited Spain. These Spanish principals are intent upon developing the best learning environment possible for their students. Deciding to form an ISC Hub in Spain, the group will expand and study schools in Helsinki, engage more international consultants, and host the next ISC Global Summit in Madrid, October 2005. How did this all happen so quickly? The leaders are committed to find the future for their schools.

Anneli Rautiainen�s Kapyla Elementary School in Helsinki, Finland (www.kapya.edu.hel.fi) illustrates the power of pursuing connections. Her school is a member of the European Union�s Commenius Project. Partnership schools are from Ireland, Luxemburg, and Iceland, with Turkey, Italy, and Romania wanting to join the group. Their work focuses on a three-year environmental education project, during which teachers will exchange with a school in Luxemburg this year and next year with a school in Iceland. In a Futures Education Project, her school partners with schools in Sochi Russia. Another connection is with a school in Vyborg, Russia, where students are exchanged each year. Anneli is also involved with a British Council principal shadowing program, and works with a partner in Scotland.

Ismo Lehikoinen�s school in Helsinki, Katajanokka Elementary (www.kataa.edu.hel.fi), works with 10 schools in the Helsinki metropolitan area on the Futures Education Project, linking with schools in Russia, Sweden, and the UK. Teachers study about futures education, which influences their learning programs for students. Another venture is the Astronomy Project of the National Science Teachers Association, a school activity since 1997. In this program, students world-wide register for courses where they share data, stories and myths about the sky, and includes schools in the USA, Canada, Argentina, Japan, Kuwait, Israel, and Switzerland. In addition, a friendship school in Estonia involves teacher and student visits that include various educational and cultural co-operations.

All this global activity must somehow translate to high levels of student performance, for these two schools are preparing workers for Finland, which intends to be a leader among nations. In addition, students are preparing to work in careers and work centers in other parts of the world. As a consequence, every school in Helsinki has one, and sometimes many, school partners from other countries.

Growth Promoters 7: Let Go and Move On!

The natural cycle of life provides for shedding the old, and evolving new features of life. It is time to abandon many time-honored traditions in education in order to remove constraints to natural and sustainable growth. In a cyberspace age, where place and time have only relative importance, many features of schooling designed for the industrial age need to disappear, such as the graded structure of student placement, established habits of curriculum and testing, and the concept of school as a place with a set curriculum, inflexible time parameters, and teachers who mainly dispense information. Instead, students need to experience the current realities of virtual working to explore options and information, and to connect with students and others in places and time zones that are different from their own. The concept of student failure needs to be abandoned altogether, so that everyone will learn in ways that excite the imagination and capture the human spirit.

In Sochi, Russia, a large resort city on the Black Sea, the Department of Education has had an International Education Division for over a decade, where international school projects are showcased each year by teachers during an education festival. In addition, students are engaged in tough dance competitions and music performances to eventually compete on the world stage, performing now for international groups of visiting educators. And to prepare for international living, everyone is busy learning English as the global language, adults and students alike. The Education Department now is vitally linked to the City of Sochi�s International Department to promote cross-border connections (www.sochi-international.ru).

In Tampa Florida, USA, The Independent Day School (IDS) Corbett Campus, (www.idsyes.com) worked hard for many years to build a cohesive professional team of educators to focus on the success of each child. In 2004 the school won the distinguished USA Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education for academically superior gains in student achievement. Joyce Swarzman, the Headmaster, reports that the vision of IDS is to accelerate the learning process by creating a brain-friendly environment that is both joyful and challenging, and which promotes high expectations and standards. The staff, under her leadership, published a book about their school�s development process and core values (Cohen, 2003): It�s all about Kids. The staff is engaged in continuous training in best practice and the latest research, and also they train many future teachers in a nearby college. Eventually all best practices that have an impact on the student success became part of the school�s comprehensive model called The MORE Approach: Creating Multiple Options for Results in Education, which now stimulates about 400 visitors each year to observe the school. IDS is ready to pursue international school partnerships, and in 2004, hosted school study visits for the ISC Tampa Bay Hub by visitors from Spain and Russia; sent a teacher to a school in Spain for a year; and consulted with Spanish schools on IDS� MORE Approach to school learning.

The Global Leadership Challenge

These examples of cutting edge initiatives are evidence of mind-shifts taking place when educators link with the latest knowledge on human learning, and with others across regions to pursue the challenges of student success in life. The leadership quest today is different from that of a century ago, and even a decade. Can there be any question that schools need a major overhaul to gear them up for a new century of challenges? Is there any doubt that teachers and principals need to participate in learning about global trends and forces, and also to be able to listen to their students in unprecedented ways to rethink the meaning of schooling and learning for life? Is there any question that schools need to act on the latest knowledge about human learning, and also be connected every day to both local and global forces? Is there any doubt that leading schools into the global age will require tough and persistent leaders with a vision for the role that education will play in reshaping society for a new future?

What kind of leadership will it take to transform a school�s journey for a global future? Futurist Joel Barker (1999) observes that leaders build bridges to the future, to which he has given the name Leadershift. A leader, he claims, is someone you choose to follow to a place to which you probably wouldn�t go by yourself. Lesson 1 calls for leaders to build bridges between today and the future by first finding and then securing the future; if you can�t see it, you can�t lead to it. Lesson 2 calls for leaders to watch for new paradigms, which show up before people are ready for them. Lesson 3 calls for learning how complex systems work, and by anticipating effects; little disturbances can create huge effects in complex systems. Lesson 4 calls for leaders to have an impact on the productivity of their workers, for those who work for charismatic leaders work 20 times better than those who work for bullies. Lesson 5 calls for a shared vision, which Barker claims is the single most powerful force in building bridges to the future. In sum, Leadership in the global context of schooling is about vision, connections, intention, and responsibility. It is about preparing for the next century by leading schools into the future.

Leading schools into the global future is an imperative. History tells us that as power shifts have occurred over the centuries, some nations developed greater capacities than others to respond to changes. As the world is being reshaped now by global forces, and as education systems adapt to changing environments to prepare a new generation of citizens and leaders, we must ask tough questions about schooling, and develop educational processes that can advance peace and democracy around the world. How ready are we to meet these education challenges? Let�s see what emerges from strong connections across the world as educators explore their opportunities for the future.


Barker, Joel (1999) Leadership: Five Lessons for Leaders of the 21st Century. A Video Tape. St Paul, MN: Star Thrower, Distribution

Cohen, Debbie Happy and the Faculty and Staff of Independent Day School/Corbett Campus (2003) It�s all About Kids: Every Child Deserves a Teacher of the Year. Tampa: Bee Happy Publishers.

Castells, Manual (2000a) The Rise of the Network Society. Volume 1: The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Castells, Manual (2000b) End of Millennium. Volume 2: The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Friedman, Thomas J. (1999) The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

Friedman, Thomas J. (2003) Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World after September 11. New York: Farrar, Straus, Girous.

Gerzon, Mark (2003) Leadership Beyond Borders: How to Live and Lead in Times of Conflict. Boulder, CO: Mark Gerzon.

Held, David & Anthony McGrew, eds. (2000) The Global Transformations Reader. Cambridge UK: Polity Press.

Knowledge and Skills for Life: First Results from PISA 2000, 2003. Paris: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. www.oecd/pisa

McGraw, Barry (2003) Teachers: A Key to Educational Equity and Reform. Speech delivered in St Petersburg, Russia, October 2, 2003, British Council Conference: Integration for Impact: Sharing Best Practice in Education.

OECD (2001) Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators. Paris: OECD

Schleicher, Andreas (2003) Improving Quality and Equity: Insights into International Benchmarks on the Performance of Education Systems. Speech delivered in St Petersburg, Russia, October 2, 2003, British Council Conference: Integration for Impact: Sharing Best Practice in Education.

Sousa, David A. (2003) The Leadership Brain: How to Lead Today�s Schools More Effectively. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.

Senge, Peter & Nelda Cambron-McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Bryan Smith, Janis Dutton, Art Kleiner (2000) Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education. New York: Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.

Snyder, Karolyn J., Michele Acker-Hocevar, & Kristen M. Snyder (2000) Living on the Edge of Chaos: Leading Schools into the Global Age. Milwaukee, WI: ASQ: The Quality Press.

Snyder, Kristen M. (2005) �Is �Dialogue� possible online? Findings from an International Study of Educators Engaged in Professional Mentoring Groups in a Web-based Environment�, Technological Aspects of Mentoring, Fran Kochan, J. Pascarelli (eds). Grenwhich, Conn: Infoage Press.

The Swedish School System: Upper Secondary School. Stockholm: Skolverket. http://www.skolverket.se/english/system/upper.shtml.

Karolyn J. Snyder
International School Connection