To kick off International Education Week 2013, the U.S. Department of Education cohosted the release of Mapping the Nation, an innovative online resource developed by Asia Society, Longview Foundation and SAS. Using an interactive map and infographics, Mapping the Nation shows how connected each state and county is to the rest of the world. With nearly one million data points related to economics, demographics and education, we can see how prepared our states and local communities are to operate effectively in an increasingly interconnected world.
I decided to look at the data for Virginia, where I live. As a state, we are highly global: an increasing percentage of the state’s population is foreign born and we have substantial engagement in international trade. The map shows, however, that there is quite a bit of variation within the state. This new interactive online map and the infographics are powerful because they bring the data together in one place and highlight facts in a visual and compelling way, providing the spark for analysis, discussion and action.
In Secretary Arne Duncan’s introductory remarks during the release, he said that “tools like this will help us to better understand the current and growing demand for globally-competent workers. … This type of information can help inform bold education reform and workforce development strategies in our states and communities, in ways that will grow the available talent and better meet our employer needs.”
During the event we heard from an esteemed panel about how the map can inform and help advance efforts at the national, state and local levels. We heard how important it is for a state to prepare a globally competent talent pool in order to attract international business and investment. For example, we learned how businesses like SAS are looking for technical skills, but in conjunction with second languages and cultural awareness, since many staff will work with teams in other countries. We also heard that Kentucky is working to develop a global competency diploma that would recognize students who have studied world languages and other coursework with strong global implications.
Another suggestion was to share the map with teachers so they can understand what is happening in their communities and see how it links to what is happening in schools. If teachers are convinced of the importance of global competency and are globally competent themselves, they will more easily impart that to their students.
The data highlight different patterns across communities—some have high concentrations of international students and scholars; some have diverse immigrant populations who are spread across the wider area; some have highly concentrated immigrant populations; and some have little diversity. These different patterns have quite different implications for business and education.
I’m optimistic that Mapping the Nation will spark conversations across the country–with teachers, students, parents, business leaders, policy makers and others—and challenge all of us to work more effectively to build a stronger pipeline of globally competent young people.
Maureen McLaughlin is senior advisor to the Secretary and director of International Affairs