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Asia Society Texas Center Hosts

“The Future of Globalism: Educating for Global Competitiveness”

By: Connie Kwan-Wong 


In recognition of the tenth annual National Chinese Language Conference (NCLC) held in Houston from April 06 to April 08, 2017, the Center for Global Education at Asia Center recently hosted “The Future of Globalism: Educating for Global Competitiveness.” Global is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “Of, relating to, or involving the entire world” and globalization as “the state of being globalized, especially: the development of an increasingly integrated global economy marked especially by free trade, free flow of capital, and the tapping of cheaper foreign labor markets.”

The discussion, expertly moderated by Dr. Anthony Jackson, vice president for education and director of the Center for Global Education at Asia Society, focused on the interaction between globalism, education, and competiveness. Dr. Jackson introduced the discussion by outlining the competencies the Center for Global Education feels are imperative for young people to possess in order to enter and be competitive in the complex world of the global marketplace. They are: the capacity to investigate the world and make decisions based on their findings, empathy with which to recognize other perspectives, skills to communicate across cultures with their own and other languages, and values that will drive them to take action for the common good. It is Dr. Jackson’s belief that in order for young people to receive these competencies, education must change to accommodate them.

To discuss this timely topic, the center brought together a prestigious panel of four experts who are formidable in their respective fields:

Ronnie Chan is the co-chair of Asia Society Global and chairman of Hang Lung Group Limited and Hang Lung Properties Limited, which deal in real estate investment, development, and management. As cofounder of Morningside Group, Chan has also owned and managed businesses in manufacturing, public transport operations, outdoor advertising, media, healthcare, online game operating, high-tech and biotech investments, developmental capital investments, and other venture capital investments around the world. A philanthropist as well, Chan is involved with many nonprofit and educational organizations.

Albert Chao is president, chief executive officer, and director of Westlake Chemical Corporation and its limited partnership, Westlake Chemical Partners, LP. In addition, Chao is a Director of Suzhou Huasu Plastics Co., Ltd. of China. For over 35 years, Chao has been involved in international business activities. He also serves on the Board of Directors of: the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers Association, Greater Houston Partnership, Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas, Houston Grand Opera, Asia Society Texas Center, and Houston Methodist Research Institute. As well, Chao is a board trustee of Asia Society New York and of Rice University.

David W. Leebron is the seventh president of Rice University. Prior to his appointment in 2004, he was dean of Columbia Law School. Leebron has brought international awareness to his post at Rice, actively reaching out to other countries, such as China and Brazil, to increase study abroad programs. In 2006, Leebron was presented with France’s Commandeur de l’Ordre national du Mérite, and in 2008, he received an honorary doctorate from Nankai University. In 2010, Leebron and his wife, University Representative Y. Ping Sun, were selected by the Greater Houston Partnership as the city’s International Executives of the Year, and in 2015, Leebron became Asia Society Texas Center’s Huffington Award Honoree.

Horacio Licon is vice president of International Investment and Trade at Greater Houston Partnership, where he is responsible for developing and implementing initiatives to attract foreign direct investment to Houston and for promoting trade development. Prior to his appointment in 2015, Licon worked internationally in Mexico and the UK, coming to Houston in 2009 as energy sector lead for UK Trade and Investment. Later, he served as head of trade and investment for the British Consulate General with responsibilities that included attracting investment and promoting British companies in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Licon is fluent in Spanish, English, and French.

As is evident from the above, the members of the distinguished panel are not only skilled specialists in their own fields, they are all global citizens. Having worked and done business across borders, steeped themselves in other cultures, and studied other languages, they have all developed policies and made improvements for the common good.

When discussing the topic of the need for education to change in order to equip young talent with the competencies required to succeed in an increasingly complex world, the members of the panel were chiefly in agreement. All conceded that although globalism has its pros and cons, it’s here to stay.

For that reason, it was stated, young people must be given the necessary abilities to navigate within that reality and education must conform to it. It was mentioned more than once that biculturalism is important as it helps students appreciate other’s nuances. This is imperative for understanding across cultural divides. Some multilingual members of the panel even stressed how important it is to learn at least a second language affirming that when one begins thinking in another tongue one truly understands the culture associated with it.

It was also agreed that introducing students to multicultural experiences helps to dissipate fear. Once young people understand a culture and learn a new language, they become interested in exploring further and perhaps taking their education to another country to work for the good of the people there.

The panel members also made the point that we are all people of the world, and therefore we are all the same. We just have different backgrounds. Interaction is especially necessary now, they felt, because, for the first time in history, half the world’s population is living in urban areas. It is imperative for that reason that we learn to live with one another and bring harmony to our differences.

I will leave you with this final thought from the discussion. In terms of curriculum, it was suggested that it would be of maximum benefit to students if subjects were taught in context of a global issue or problem such as sustainability, hunger, or justice, framing the topic in context with the subject and teaching it to state standards. By so doing, a meaning for education that is too often lost would be created.

Perhaps this important discussion is the first step in seeing that dream come to fruition.


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