Acknowledging that national borders need not constrain our thinking, we have examined a selection of alternative academic cultures and, in some cases, specific schools, in search of solutions to common challenges we face when we consider reorganizing American schools. A wide range of interviews and e-mail exchanges with international researchers, government officials and school principals has informed this research, which was supplemented with a literature review scanning international reports and journal articles. Providing a comprehensive global inventory of competency-based education is not within the scope of this study, but we are confident that this is a representative sampling.
The report that follows first reviews the definition of competency-based learning. A brief lesson in the international vocabulary of competency education is followed by a review of global trends that complement our own efforts to improve performance and increase equitable outcomes. Next, we share an overview of competency education against a backdrop of global education trends (as seen in the international PISA exams), before embarking on an abbreviated world tour. We pause in Finland, British Columbia (Canada), New Zealand and Scotland, with interludes in Sweden, England, Singapore and Shanghai, all of which have embraced practices that can inform the further development of competency education in the United States.