A world map with shapes of people with the colours of their flags
27 July 2017

The importance of global competency

​​The 2016 census revealed that we are a diverse nation both culturally and religiously, with almost as many first- and second-generation residents (49.3%) as third-generation residents (50.7%). Of our overseas-born population, 40% were born in Asia, Indigenous Australians now make up 2.8% of the population and more than one-in-five Australians (22.2%) speaks a language other than English at home. And although the number of people identifying as ‘no religion’ has increased (29.6%), 60% of people still report a religious affiliation. Christianity is the largest affiliation (52%), but we also have significant Muslim (2.6%) Buddhist (2.4%), Hindu (1.9%), Sikh (0.5%) and Jewish (0.4%) populations. Australia is a microcosm of our wider world where people of different cultures, faiths and worldviews live and work side by side. The ability to embrace this diversity is central to flourishing in it.

At a recent education conference1, the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher2 argued that globalisation and digitalisation have transformed our world, and “global competency is the currency in the world of digitalisation”. He defines global competency as “the capacity and willingness to see the world through different lenses, to appreciate different perspectives and value different cultures”. He believes schools have a significant role to play in building global competency by helping students develop a critical worldview that distinguishes right from wrong, by engaging them in experiences that facilitate intercultural interactions and relations, and by promoting the value of diversity. And importantly, he notes, schools need to provide students with “a reliable compass and navigation tools to find their own way through this increasingly complex, volatile and ambiguous world”.

Global competency is at the heart of many of our programs at school. We teach positive psychology to develop optimism, resilience and self-efficacy. Our service education program teaches the value of generosity and community responsibility. Our cultural and language exchange programs give students the opportunity to experience different cultures, build valuable networks and to practise another language. And our core purpose in everything we do is to develop young women of intellect and character who look outward confidently to a diverse world, secured by a strong moral compass to guide them through it.

Interestingly, the 2018 international PISA testing will include, for the first time, the domain of global competence. The domain comprises four dimensions: communication and relationship management; knowledge of, and interest in, global developments, challenges and trends; openness and flexibility; emotional strength and resilience. PISA notes it is critically important to test these domains because “young people need to leave school equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enable them to learn, work and live in a globalised world.”3

That is precisely what we strive to achieve for the girls at St Catherine’s.

1. Global Education and Skills Forum, Dubai. 18-19 March, 2017
2. Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills, and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General at the OECD in Paris.
3. PISA 2018 Draft Analytical Frameworks, OECD May 2016​

Dr Julie Townsend headmistress at St Catherine's  School SydneyDr Julie Townsend
BA (Hons) Cert Ed
Ph D
MBA (Ed Leadership)

We would love to welcome you and your daughter to our school at one of our Open Mornings so you can get a feel for the way we approach education.