World Savvy: 2012 Global Competency Survey
World Savvy’s Global Competency Survey was designed to cover knowledge, skills, values and behaviors –and demonstrate the degree of global competency we could expect the average American high school graduate to possess. The results highlight the gap in this critical area in the US education system: we are not preparing today’s graduates for the reality of a global economy and workforce. This Survey was conducted by Colligan Market Research between June 29th and July 6th via an online survey among 502 respondents. In order to qualify for this study, respondents had to indicate that they were between the ages of 18-24, had attended high school in the United States, and had graduated from high school or obtained a GED. The survey included quotas to ensure that the demographics of this audience (gender, age distribution, college enrollment, etc.) matched that of US population of 18-24 year olds.
There is a high demand among young adults for global competency education. The young adults polled in this survey overwhelmingly report an interest in, and professional need for, global literacy in their lives today. In fact:
- 86% of those surveyed say they agree that a solid foundation in world history and events is crucial to coming up with solutions to the problems in the world today.
- 6 in 10 say that they would be better employees if they had a better understanding of different world cultures.
- Nearly 9 in 10 believe that developments abroad can have significant implications on the US economy.
- 79% say that it is important in today’s world to be comfortable interacting with people of different cultural backgrounds (on par with the perceived importance of writing skills (78%), technical skills (76%), and math skills (77%)).
- 80% believe that jobs are becoming increasingly international in nature.
Global issues not regularly discussed in high school; Knowledge somewhat lacking. While the vast majority of young adults see the importance of global literacy, only 12% of respondents say that they “agree completely” that in their 6th-12th grade education they received instruction that helps them to understand the roots of global issues that affect their lives today. In fact, 48% actively disagree with this statement while the rest say that they agree only somewhat. Respondents explain:
- Instruction was very US-centric and exposure to the rest of the world was limited.
- We only were taught about our country.
- Discussions were centered around the US only.
- I don’t think my teachers had that much knowledge.
- Don’t recall anything on world events.
- We hardly had such discussions.
- I don’t recall people discussing current global issues.
- I wish it was discussed more often.
- I don’t remember learning much about this.
In reality, the majority of the young adults surveyed (63%) indicated that they did not discuss world events in their high school classes. It may come as no surprise that many students could not accurately answer questions related to important global issues of today. For example:
- What is the most commonly spoken language in the world? (Only 22% answered correctly)
- Which country is the US’ largest trading partner? (Only 23% answered correctly)
- Afghanistan is located in which region? (Only 28% answered correctly)
- Libya is located in which region? (Only 53% answered correctly)
- The term “Arab Spring” refers to what? (Only 56% answered correctly)
- Roughly how many Euros (EUR) can you get for $100 (USD)? (Only 57% answered correctly)
Data suggests a relationship between global event discussions in high school and future interests/behaviors. Interestingly, when we take a look at those who say that world events were discussed regularly in their high school classes and compare their interests/knowledge/behaviors to those who say that world events were not discussed regularly in their high school classes, we see a number of very interesting differences.
Those who discussed world events in their high school classes were more likely to report that they regularly or often discuss news and world events with other people ( 21%), that they actively seek out news and information about world events ( 17), that they vote in local and national elections ( 14%), that they received a very well rounded and useful high school education ( 13), that diversity is an asset ( 9%), that they have volunteered to support a cause they believe in ( 8%), that they are curious about the world around them ( 8%), that they believe that what happens in the US affects people around the globe ( 7%) and that developments abroad can have significant implications on the US economy ( 8%).
This suggests that exposure to global literacy education in high school helps to inspire young adults to stay abreast of world events, be active in their communities, and understand the interconnectivity of global economies.
The vast majority of respondents wish their high school curriculum had a more global approach. The desire for more globally focused education is widespread. 3 in 4 say that they wish that the classes they took in high school had a more global, rather than just national, approach. Unfortunately, many schools may currently be ill equipped to provide this type of education on their own. Only a little over half (54%) of respondents think that their high school teachers knew a lot about global events and incorporated a global perspective into their curriculums.
- 1. Only 38% of respondents say that world events were regularly discussed in their high school classes.
- 74% say that they wish that the classes they took in high school had a more global, rather than just national, approach.
- 48% of respondents say that they disagree with the statement, “In my 6-12th grade education, I received instruction that helps me understand the roots of global issues that affect my life today.”
- Only 36% of respondents say their understanding of roots of international conflicts is strong.
- 86% agree that a solid foundation in world history and events is crucial to coming up with solutions to the problems in the world today.
- 86% agree that developments abroad can have significant implications on the US economy.
- 83% believe that diversity is an asset.
- 80% say that they are curious about world events.
- 77% would like to work with people of different cultures.
- 70% say they actively seek out news and information about world events.
- 60% of 18-24 year olds say they wish they had more instruction in foreign languages in middle school and high school.
- Only 28% of those surveyed could identify which region Afghanistan is located in.
- 53% knew that Libya is located in northern Africa.
- Only 22% knew that Mandarin is the most commonly spoken language in the world. Forty-five percent thought it was English.
- Respondents, on average, under estimated the size of the global population by over half a billion people.
- Only 23% of respondents correctly identified Canada as the US’ largest trading partner.
- Roughly 6 in 10 were able to convert dollars to euros.
- 77% think it is important to understand the habits and customs of different cultures.
- 74% think it is important to know where countries in the news are located.
- 74% think it is important to understand global economics.