With United States graduation rates and scores in math, science and literacy falling behind other developed nations, researchers are now looking at ways to give students an edge to compete globally. While studying general mental ability or Emotional Intelligence can help determine a child's potential, relatively new research shows assessing "Cultural Intelligence" might be just as effective in a culturally diverse world.
According to the Cultural Intelligence Center,
"Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is a person's capability to function effectively in situations characterized by cultural diversity."
This applies when interacting with people from different countries and different backgrounds while abroad or on home turf.
But this isn't news for everyone; some countries already see the importance of implementing CQ into their school systems.
In an NBC Op Ed column, David Livermore, Ph.D., author of "Leading with Cultural Intelligence" and senior research consultant with the Cultural Intelligence Center, reflects on his time spent in Singapore, a country that boasts high school graduation rates around 90 percent:
While in Singapore, I spent time with the Ministry of Education where they're developing a way to incorporate a plan to assess and develop CQ all the way through a child's education. A similar approach is being used in the other nations with leading scores on how they're educating their children. Finland's Minister of Education was also on the panel and readily acknowledged that this is a no-brainer for their educational strategy. There's an underlying assumption that students have to be equipped to be globally conscious and culturally agile.
Livermore told HuffPost that CQ is currently being implemented "haphazardly" into U.S. school systems -- typically it's the "non-traditional educators" that see the value, but that number is growing. Livermore believes parents are also beginning to catch on.
"Parents will often raise their hands and ask, 'Who is teaching our kids this stuff?'" said Livermore.
Similarly, results of CQ interest appeared in the most recent MetLife/Harris Survey of the American Teacher that was released earlier this month:
Two-thirds of teachers (63 percent), parents (63 percent) and Fortune 1000 executives (65 percent) think that the knowledge of other cultures and international issues is absolutely essential or very important to be ready for college and a career -- including about two in ten who think such knowledge is absolutely essential, the highest ranking (19 percent, 24 percent and 18 percent respectively).
While awareness of CQ is slowly growing in the larger education community, programs such as those offered through the People to People Student Ambassadors Program have been promoting cultural understanding to hundreds of thousands of students from the U.S. for the last 50 years.
"My experience traveling with People to People to Greece, Italy and France opened my eyes to new cultures," Katie Gutberlet of Spotswood High School in Harrisonburg, Va., told HuffPost.
"I learned that, in spite of our differences, we have a lot in common. My trip made me want to learn even more about other cultures by traveling in college and as a part of my future career." Another student, Jessica Yukich, 12, of Taft Middle School in Crown Point, experienced similar results during her trip to England and France reports the Northwest Indiana Times:
"Now, when we're learning about certain subjects, I can say I've been there, and that's cool. I have seen, in real life, some of the paintings shown in my Social Studies book. It definitely helped me mature and grow as a person," she said.
Cultural intelligence in carving a future
Americans are often seen at a disadvantage when it comes to being globally and culturally competent. Some businesses abroad can easily recognize the different level of global understanding when comparing U.S. employees to those of other countries, said Livermore.
Now, consultants, executive developers and high potential younger leaders are looking for ways to access cultural intelligence.
"Some CEOs aren't even going to look at someone in management who doesn't have this capability," said Livermore. "It's not enough to know an employee traveled abroad."
But with so many cultures consisting of varying norms and values, it seems difficult to provide cultural training in an "one size fits all" manner without falling into stereotypes. Instead, Livermore explains CQ is more the capability to be effective across various cultural contexts:
"It's less about becoming an expert about every culture and more about developing an overall capability that allows you to become effective and respectful in any cultural situation."
How do you match up? Take you own cultural intelligence assessment test.