Re-defining literacy: Internationalisation as a form of literacy…



One focus of my research areas has been to consider the skills that, as educators, we should be teaching our students. It is a project which includes a collaboration with Dr David Hornsby (from Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa) – who has co-edited an excellent book discussing large class teaching.


In my previous post, I discussed some of the skills that students need in preparing for the ‘jobs of tomorrow’.  One of the skills I mentioned was ‘literacy’ – and asked ‘what does literacy mean today?’ We have rapidly moved from a time of information scarcity to information abundance – and as IBM recently noted, 90 percent of data is been created in the last two years.  In this way, we have moved from looking for the perfect book or report in the library to having to decipher 1.7 million hits on Google!


As such, literacy today must include the ability to quickly assess what information is relevant, what is needed, combine it and present it in a way that is accessible.


Another dimension of contemporary literacy must include ‘internationalisation’: that is, the ability to work in a cross cultural environment.


At a time when many opportunities emerge internationally as well as a domestic work environment that is rich in diversity, we must consider the ability to work in cross-culture teams and in an inter-cultural environment as a fundamental skill. Be it in the classroom or the workplace, a social or professional situation, cross-cultural understandings are fundamental.


In the attached article I wrote for Education supplement of The Australian, I discuss how we can better bring international and domestic students together. While there is a social and cultural imperative here, also fundamental is the recognition that ensuring better interactions is part of building internationalisation as a new literacy. I have touched on this before when talking of cultural humility.


The article is here: International Literacy_Arvanitakis.pdf


My argument is simple: in our globalised world, this form of literacy is as important as any other (be it reading, writing or arithmetic). Anything less is a wasted opportunity — socially, culturally and economically. This is something that we all – be it educators, policy makers or politicians – must recognise.


As always, your thoughts are welcomed!


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