In a world confronted by multi-faceted and ever-changing problems, it is no longer enough to simply be a global citizen. Anyway, aren’t we all? As residents of this planet we are entitled to say we are, and yet the term is perceived as something to aspire to; a one-size-fits-all mould for idealism. Within the context of education, what we mean to say is that the next generation need to be internationally-minded, tolerant problem solvers, who are prepared to make valuable contributions to all societies. To face the inevitable challenges of the future with confidence they will need to be true global citizens.
Global citizenship is often cited as a selling point of new education initiatives; whether as a standalone course, an acquired skill or a by-product of method. Many schools teach young people to be culturally and contextually aware when confronted with globally relevant topics or challenges. But how is this done, and could it be done better? There are limitations to teaching ‘global citizenship’ to students whose peers all live in their neighbourhood, sharing similar values and upbringings. Although there are numerous schools with outstanding cultural diversity, there are just as many with little to none. Either way, more could be done to connect students across the planet to better their understanding of what it really means to be a global citizen.
Tech-enabled opportunities of the 21st century allow us to break down geographical barriers. We can utilise technology to link students, teachers and schools across the globe. By teaching and learning in schools with young people worldwide, different cultural perspectives are not ‘taught’ in the traditional sense but are experienced through peer collaboration. Imagine a classroom where young people from a multitude of countries and cultures work together to seek genuine solutions. Learning partnerships will be formed, bias may become apparent; collaboration, intimidation – all of the positive and negative behaviour that we find centred around real life global challenges. This is the classroom in which international-mindedness takes root.
More students need the opportunity to work alongside peers from completely different walks of life in order to become more understanding, and practice tolerance. The skills to be gained from such a classroom are not limited to the above; young people learn first-hand how to contribute and collaborate whilst learning, and subsequently understanding, the different ways in which an individual’s cultural identity affects their perception. The successes and shortcomings of the next generation are the responsibility of the education we provide today, and for truly global citizens, we need truly global schools.
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