Global learning certificate awaits governor's OK

State certificate would recognize high school students with broader understanding

A designation meant to improve global understanding is on the horizon for Illinois students.

Both chambers of the state legislature have approved an amendment to the school code to create the Illinois Global Scholar Certificate. The measure could become law by late July, either with Gov. Bruce Rauner's signature or with the passage of 60 days since it was approved May 26. The governor's office says the bill is under review.

The certificate would give high school students whose schools choose to offer it a way to promote their understanding of global communication and cultural responsiveness, among other skills important in the worldwide business climate, said Seth Brady, a comparative religions teacher at Naperville Central High School and project director for the Global Scholar Certificate.

"It awards students for these competencies that, in many respects, they've been achieving all along," Brady said.

No school would be forced to offer the Global Scholar Certificate. But those that choose to could begin the program in the 2017-18 school year.

Attaining the certificate would require students to:

• Take eight globally focused courses in subjects such as arts, world languages, social studies, communication, sciences and career or technical education.

• Complete at least one globally focused service learning project.

• Collaborate with global peers in person or through virtual communication.

• Participate in globally focused student activities through school or an outside institution.

• Complete a capstone project by investigating a global issue, producing an artifact such as a paper, film, work of art or infographic and communicating the findings to someone affected by the issue.

"It's really cultivating the disposition to learn in any cultural context," Brady said.

As the world becomes more connected, the Global Scholar Certificate will help high school students gain entry to college programs with an international focus, said Jeremie Smith, interim associate director and outreach coordinator for the Center for Global Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The university's global studies undergraduate major has more than 400 students and the program is growing, Smith said, illustrating increased interest in studying the world at large.

"The more students have on their high school academic record that they've tried to learn more about different cultural perspectives and different places around the world, it really gives them a competitive leg up on applying to these programs," he said.

The Center for Global Studies plans to help teachers provide instruction from an international perspective so their students can meet certificate requirements. The center offers free teacher workshops on topics such as U.S. foreign policy, the rise of China as a world power and human rights, and it frequently connects teachers with their counterparts across the world so they can learn from each other.

Through a program called Study of the U.S. Institutes, the center has connections with 60 teachers from 40 countries, all of whom are interested in communicating with Illinois teachers and their classes.

Smith said these connections could help students find a modern pen pal or a global peer to talk with by video chat, fulfilling the "global collaboration and dialogue" requirement that might otherwise be tricky to meet.

"I think the framers of this program did a good job of making those requirements flexible," Smith said. "It'll make the certificate more accessible to more students."

Before the certificate is available, Brady said, educators and the Illinois State Board of Education will develop teacher training workshops and further define the five core certificate requirements to determine, for example, which courses count as "globally focused" and what's the difference between global service learning and community service.

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Seth Brady, a comparative religions teacher at Naperville Central High School, has directed a project to establish the Illinois Global Scholar Certificate. Daily Herald file photo, October 2014
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