Education Impact column
By Sara Ostergaard
Throughout South Carolina, there are more than 850 international companies employing more than 162,000 jobs across the state (Global Business Alliance website). Among these, companies from Germany, France, and Canada support the most jobs here in SC. As a percent of total employment, foreign direct investment (FDI) is responsible for 9.4 percent of SC jobs (Global Business Alliance). As a percentage of total private sector employment, in 2021 SC ranked #1 in biggest concentration of FDI jobs (Global Business Alliance). FDI is an important economic indicator because it represents long-term investment in the community and spurs further development in supporting industries.
Throughout SC, in 2020 about 8 percent of South Carolinians spoke a language other than English at home; this is similar for Lexington and Richland counties (SC census). Spanish, German, Chinese, and French top the list. In comparison, in 2018, 32.9 percent of students at Irmo High School spoke Spanish at home, 12.9 percent Vietnamese, 8.9 percent Arabic, 6.9 percent Micronesian, and 3.8 percent German, among a whole host of other languages (IHS website). These students’ families participate in our local economy, offer skills, essential services and/or own businesses, and sometimes also have children in other Irmo Cluster schools such as Seven Oaks Elementary or Irmo Middle schools.
Further, Irmo Middle School is an International Academic Magnet (iAM), and any child in LexRich5 may apply to attend. This magnet “inspires learners in grades 6-8 to become model global citizens and provides the tools for them to be successful as part of an international community” (IMS website).
Continuing the international education theme, Irmo High School offers two International Baccalaureate (IB) programs that each unite our local learners with a greater perspective by directly incorporating global issues throughout the IB curriculum. While linking local learning with global issues, students consider the IB mission: to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. According to the IHS magnet webpage, “[a]cross the world, inclusive education has grown from a movement that was about the inclusion of students with disabilities to a holistic approach that is about all learners and values the diversity of the student population.”
It is in a similar spirit that the Irmo International Festival was created. A “one day International experience,” the festival is a collaborative effort among the Town of Irmo, local volunteers, and local globally-focused business and nonprofit organizations. This year, the Irmo International Festival is held at Irmo Community Park on Sunday, April 30. It is free to attend and is a wonderful event for the whole family. Please visit irmoscinternationalfestival.com for the performance schedule and more information.
Realizing the importance of global awareness and understanding the impact of global actions in our local community is an essential component of a well-rounded education, but it is not limited to our schools. As local residents, we all experience the effects of global supply chains and benefits of global cultural understanding. The global community is here in the Irmo area, and, in turn, we are also the global community.