Global perspectives in education have remained in the restricted sphere of high-end teaching institutions. Yet as our world becomes increasingly interconnected and schools become increasingly diverse, it also becomes increasingly important to help students understand their role in the larger context of a global society. As educators, we need to help students become global minded; to express curiosity, compassion and empathy towards others.
Understanding different perspectives is imperative to promoting equality, since it helps students comprehend our interdependence and, for example, the need for the appropriate distribution of resources. In classrooms with a global learning focus, students utilise critical thinking and communication skills in order to develop responsible attitudes and values. While each of us pursues our own path, we need exposure to the multitude of paths available to us, in order to make an objectively informed decision.
Inside the realm of education, statistics on the achievement gap are unsettling. While a variety of initiatives have attempted to close this gap, the most impactful ones are those that happen at classroom level. So how do we gear learning in the classroom toward a global mindset? What are the realistic ways in which we can impact students and help them develop a global perspective? Building on Oxfam’s steps toward global citizenship, Learn-Think-Act, we’ve outlined some of the things educators can do to help students become global learners.
It goes without saying that technology is the most convenient way to bridge gaps between populations. Fortunately, there are a variety of tools available.
- eTwinning: This online service allows staff in different schools to collaborate and communicate, designing and implementing projects together. Available throughout Europe, it helps foster learning opportunities across linguistic and cultural barriers, bringing some fresh air into the classroom.
- Twitter: The SAP Twitter template on PowerPoint can be used to search find tweets from around the world. Discuss issues that are pertinent to real people. Promote interesting discussion by using the varied tweets posted online.
- ePals: With participants in over 200 countries, this service allows educators throughout the world to connect with one another in meaningful ways. Projects and challenges are available to reinforce the connections made.
- Google field trips: Send students on an adventure using this innovative program. Explore corners of the world that are inaccessible in practice.
- Miniature Earth: In a useful statistical exercise, challenging students’ perceptions of the world, this program shows proportions of the Earth’s population narrowed down to 100 people.
- A teacher should ask open-ended questions. Rather than asking what a certain US president did, one can ask about the global impact of his presidency and what made it politically important.
- Participate in weekly roundtable discussions about global issues prevalent in the news for that week.
- Encourage students to participate in worldwide organisations, especially those geared toward young people. Students for Great Ape Wildlife Conservations promotes global conservation efforts for different species of animals throughout the world. GlobeMed is a student-run organisation that helps provide lifesaving medical and social care for people to promote health equality.
At face value, education is about teaching the curriculum to ensure students utilise their potential to perform in exams. However, the teacher also has a responsibility to get students thinking. This is not a matter of the teacher imposing his or her beliefs on the students. Instead, the teacher should make use of today’s ample access to information, forcing students to leave their comfort zone, allowing them to question beliefs they might take for granted. It is arguably this, not exam preparation, that will help them to think critically and develop as individuals. While this role of the teacher is often obscured, especially in the curriculum and in marking criteria, it is nonetheless vital in the quest of preparing the next generation. After all, it won’t be too long before society is in their hands.