CREATING GLOBAL CITIZENS
What does it mean to be a global citizen and why is it increasingly becoming a buzzword in secondary education?
Secondary schools place an emphasis on global citizenship. Rohan
Yung unpacks what the term really means in order to help you make better decisions about which schools and which curricula are
appropriate for your children
Parents who diligently read through school prospectuses will often bump up against mentions of ‘global citizenship’.This phrase encapsulates a very important group of educational concepts. However, the central ideas need to be picked apart and larified so they do not ade into meaninglessness under the weight of a repeated catchphrase. Making sense of the term will help parents understand why schools place such an emphasis on global citizenship. And this understanding will in turn help parents make better decisions about which schools and which curricula are most appropriate for their children.
One basic tenet to global citizenship education is that international-mindedness should be woven into the DNA of any modern schooling. After all, globalisation is hurtling inevitably onward. Social and cultural links continue to tighten due to the internet and to travel and migration; economic interconnectedness gathers pace; and environmental problems affect ever larger swathes of people across borders. So many pressures make it necessary for people to engage more closely with other cultures and nationalities. As a consequence, the current generation of school-goers will need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to navigate this shrinking world.
It is at the secondary level that glo al iti enshi ed ation ta e ight. Primary students can learn some of the basic facts about the world and can practice values of inclusivity and apply some foundational skills of persuasion. However, secondary students will have more of the requisite maturity to bring all the many relevant aspects of the topic together. Global problems demand a holistic approach: there has to be an element of interdisciplinary enquiry.
There must also be a willingness to question underlying assumptions. The teenage years are exactly the right time for this sort of intellectual exercise since this period is when young adults become more critical about received wisdom, become more self aware, and are naturally driven to seek out wider communities.
Teaching global citizenship is all about framing a particular ethos. It is helpful to identify important information areas and relevant skills; but the crucial goal still has to be that of forming a well-rounded human being. It is all about the big picture. As Ban Ki-Moon, SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations, puts it:“We must foster global citizenship. Education is about more than literacy and numeracy. It is also about citizenry. Education must fully assume its essential role in helping people to forge more just, peaceful and tolerant societies.”
Schools committed to nurturing global citizens have to be purposeful in marshaling their resources.This educational project star ts with a clear definition o hat glo al iti enshi means to a particular school.
Pauline Gradden, Deputy
Head of Secondary at the British International School of Kuala Lumpur (BSKL), says that at her s hool e define glo al iti enshi as a way of living that recognises our world is an increasingly complex web of connections and interdependencies, one in which our choices and actions may have repercussions for people and communities locally, nationally or internationally.” She goes on to explain the urgency of imparting ideas about global citizenship to BSKL students: “We believe that they are global leaders of the future and it is our duty to ensure that they take on the responsibility of making the world a more equitable and sustainable place.”
We must foster global citizenship. Education is about more than literacy and numeracy. It is also about
citizenry. Education must fully assume its essential role in helping people to forge more just, peaceful and tolerant
Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the
The next step is to make global citizenship a shared mission across the whole school, both in the classroom and beyond.
At Mont’Kiara International School, Kelly Gilmore (International Baccalaureate Coordinator and
Diploma Programme Consultant) notes that the Involved Citizen is one of the fi e e e ted s hool ide learning results (ESLR). An Involved Citizen is characterised, among other things, by ‘interacting respectfully with people of diverse cultures’ and ‘demonstrating awareness and respect for the rights of others’. The power of elevating the Involved Citizen to an ESLR is that lesson-planning and school culture can all be angled towards this goal; it can serve as a guiding light.As Ms Gilmore explains, global citizenship thus becomes “embedded in the written and taught curriculum” and becomes “visible in every classroom”.
When schools have settled on lear definitions and riorities they an then take the next step, which is to work on transmitting their principles. In other words, schools have to move
Students will learn how to be accepting of difference, to be committed to equality, to value communication and collaboration, and to be flexible with and critical of their own assumptions”
from ideals to actual teaching practice.
One essential aspect that has to be considered is that of imparting values. Students will have to learn how to be accepting of difference, to be committed to equality, to value communication and collaboration, and to e e i le ith and riti al o their own assumptions. Within the classroom, these values can best be explored by vigorous debates and discussions. Testing their ideas in such a forum will help students to develop the habit of introspection; they will become more aware of their own cultural prejudices and biases.
Beyond the curriculum, the sheer fact of interacting with a range of different cultures will also lead to an understanding of key values. International Schools are particularly well-suited to this sort of cultural exchange. Ms Gilmore from M’KIS notes:“Our community has a very rich cultural diversity - composed of over 60 different nationalities. Simply being part of the M’KIS community induces a process of acquiring and developing international-mindedness.”
Another value that schools promote is a willingness to take action. This readiness should be tied with a belief in the power of the individual to make a global difference through local action.The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program actually makes it essential for students to take socially-responsible action because of the CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) component, where students might take part in charity projects.
As far as the content of a global citizenship education is concerned, the main challenge is to make the forbidding diversity of material more approachable.The last thing teachers want to do is to overwhelm students with an avalanche of details about far ng areas. lasses ha e to e lanned so that topics maintain their relevance to the students’ own worlds. Links have to be drawn between subject matter and personal experiences.
At BSKL, the GCSE curriculum is considered in the light of the Malaysian context. Ms Gradden of BSKL shares: “World War 2 features heavily in the British history curriculum and there are many opportunities to incorporate both the involvement of Malaysia and the impact war had on Malaysia into our students’ learning. Malaysia is also a great place to study geography and BSKL students are fortunate to enjoy field tri s to ri h en ironments li e FRIM, Langkawi and Tioman.”
The skills that can potentially be acquired from a global citizenship education are considerable. For one thing, there is no avoiding the centrality of language learning. International schools in Malaysia are well equipped to teach not just local languages, but also a raft of other wellestablished world languages.The broader concern, of course, is that students learn to communicate more effectively. Some extracurricular activities are particularly suited to cultivating communication skills; chief among them is Model United Nations, where students practice how to negotiate thro gh on i ts.
In the end, students who have learnt how to think and act on a global scale are those ho are most li ely to o rish in the connected future. Parents would th s e ell la ed to a ly a fine grained understanding of the buzzword phrase of ‘global citizenship’ in selecting the right school for their children.There is an excitingly diverse world out there for those who are ready for it.