Spanish students, an international example of adaptation to an interconnected and globalized world


The word “Pisa” sounds like the Italian city with the leaning tower. But for teachers it is also synonymous with international comparisons of student academic performance.

The “culprit” is the OECD. For two decades, it has used PISA as an acronym for its International Performance Assessment Program – Program for International Student Assessment , in English – which assesses the reading, mathematical and scientific skills of 15-year-old students in different developed countries. You have now measured Global Competition. In it, the Spanish are above average.

After 20 years, the OECD has expanded its analysis and in 2020 has valued what it calls Global Competition (CG). Lately, this is being worked prolifically. Recently, Fernando Reimers’ book Global Education to improve the world (2020) was published and Mª Paz Menéndez’s doctoral thesis, Education for a globalized world , has been defended .

Globalization and the internationalization of social, political and economic processes to which it has given rise are phenomena that have led to this boom.

The pandemic has revealed more than ever the need to address global problems from our immediate space, but with a supranational perspective.

In these times, nation-state solutions do not have the appropriate scale to solve them. Would the vaccine have reached Spain on December 27 without the help of the European Union?

How Global Competition is defined

But what exactly are we talking about? All competence can be expressed with a definition (performance) and dimensions (which, put into action in a combined way, make this performance possible, in an efficient and contextualized way).

GC is defined as the performance of operating in a social context of globalization and participating in that context actively and constructively, taking into account the points of view of different social and cultural groups.

In its cognitive dimension (knowledge), this competence implies knowing global problems (sustainability, climate change, migratory movements, major geopolitical conflicts …) and assuming that an interconnection between local, regional, national and supranational instances is necessary to resolve them.

But also knowing the diversity of cultural expressions that the human species presents and assuming, without denying them, a conceptualization of human dignity that leads us to understand from that shared dignity the equality of all people for the equal value they have as members of the same species.

And, in the same way, relate that human dignity to a framework of inalienable rights such as human rights.

In its instrumental dimension (skills), CG involves acquiring tools such as constructive dialogue, the proper management of points of view in contrast to those of other different people, or conflict resolution.

In the attitudinal dimension (referring to values) it is necessary to develop, as a minimum, a deep awareness of respect for others, of acceptance of different points of view – with the limit that they do not attack human dignity or the fundamental rights that are intrinsic to that dignity- and openness to interculturality, along with assertiveness and empathy. It is about applying, in short, the challenge of thinking globally and acting locally.

Spain, with 512 points compared to 499 for the rest

According to the Spanish Report on Global Competence , Spanish students are better at it than those from other developed countries. The assessment of competence is developed in the report from various indices such as those related to global issues (knowledge about these issues, self-perception of effectiveness in solving them or initiative regarding them), attitudes towards immigrants, intercultural communication, interest in learning about other cultures, understanding the perspectives of others, respect for the positions of others …

Indeed, Spanish students obtained 512 points in Global Competence compared to 499 on average in the study countries. A more complete idea of ​​this position can be found when compared with other countries.

Knowledge about specific problems

In the General Report of the OECD we see that this score is position 25 out of 65 countries. A better position if we refer to specific indicators. For example, in the knowledge about some specific global problems such as the pandemic, Spain ranks 19. And in the knowledge test on local issues connected with global issues, it ranks sixth out of 27.

I want to finish with one of the indicators that seem most significant to me: in understanding the perspective of others, Spain occupies the ninth position among 65 countries analyzed.

It is true that all these measures must be taken with caution. Comparisons must take into account the contextual and socio-educational differences in each country. In addition, many of these measures, except those of the knowledge test, are based on self-perceptions of the respondents, which can lead to subjective descriptions.

In any case, this affects all countries, so it should not invalidate the general conclusion: the Spanish educational system prepares its students well to live in an interconnected world and understand it from a globalization perspective.

Some factors that represent an important social change in Spain in recent decades may be behind these data. One may be the increased mobility of your students, derived from European exchange programs. Also the active attitude towards the information of the networks.

The global showcase that the web represents today, and that gives access to the global village from the computer window, is undoubtedly a source to assume international interconnection and internalize knowledge and attitudes related to global competition.

It has also been possible to influence the fact that the Spanish curriculum has strongly incorporated global issues (climate change, sustainability, alternative energies …). But you can always do more.

The new LOMLOE has a great opportunity to make, from a truly competency approach, a curricular revolution that places the Sustainable Development Goals as the cornerstone of the essential content that must be transmitted to children and young people. Surely with this the Global Competition will be even better.

Author Bio: Javier M. Valle is Director of the Research Group on Supranational Educational Policies at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid