Measuring New Zealand students' international capabilities: an exploratory study

15 Jul 2014

Executive summary: This exploratory study considers the feasibility of measuring New Zealand senior secondary (Years 12/13) students’ 'international capabilities'. Building on background work undertaken by the Ministry’s International Division, the methodology had three components. An analysis of New Zealand and international literature pertinent to assessment of international capabilities was undertaken. Small-group workshops were conducted with 13 secondary school staff, 21 senior secondary students, and 10 adults with relevant expertise and perspectives about expression of international capabilities in post-school life. The third component was a visit to the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to discuss similar assessment challenges in their work.

What are international capabilities and why measure them?

Broadly speaking, international capabilities can be described as the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that enable people to live, work, and learn across international and intercultural contexts. These capabilities, or aspects of them, are described by a range of terms in the literature, including international knowledge and skills, global competence, global/international citizenship, global/international mindedness, and intercultural competence.

The Ministry’s background work suggests international capabilities can be seen as “the international and intercultural facet of the key competencies”. Focusing on development of New Zealand students’ international capabilities could, among other things:

  • help make more explicit what the key competencies look like when they’re applied in intercultural or international situations
  • provide a way to open a conversation with schools about internationalisation of education
  • support New Zealand schools to better understand, analyse, and talk about the intercultural/internationalising learning activities they already do 
  • open conversations about cultural diversity in New Zealand schools and communities and the opportunities this can provide for intercultural learning 
  • create an opportunity for schools to revisit parts of The New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007) vision, including the notion of students being “international citizens” 
  • encourage schools to connect with businesses and the wider community to develop learning opportunities that help students to develop innovation and entrepreneurial capabilities and
  • connect these capabilities with intercultural and international contexts.

Measuring New Zealand students’ international capabilities could help us to better understand how the schooling system helps to “increase New Zealanders’ knowledge and skills to operate effectively across cultures.” It could feed into ongoing developments within educational policy and practice to better align curriculum, assessment, and pedagogy with the high-level goals of The New Zealand Curriculum. Looking further into the future, knowledge about how our schools support the development of students’ international capabilities could assist with longer-term redesign of educational policy, curriculum, assessment, and qualifications to keep pace as demands and pressures on learning and schooling continue to change through the 21st century.

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