Twenty-first century schools must prepare students to be knowledgeable, compassionate citizens and effective leaders within a rapidly transforming world. This objective requires an understanding of one’s own culture while extending well beyond the boundary of the nation where instruction occurs. Such schools:
Present a view of the world that invites and rewards curiosity concerning the richness and diversity of all human societies and encourages respect for all people.
Develop a curriculum that helps students recognize how differing cultures, traditions, histories, and religions may underlie views and values that can sharply contrast with their own.
Provide resources and activities in support of instruction that can help carry learning in the direction of world understanding.
Expect teachers, administrators, and other staff members to model respect for all peoples and cultures and to address constructively instances of bias or disdain for nationalities, cultures, or religions outside of their own.
Seek beyond the institution itself partnerships and networking that may help it promote global awareness, experience, and problem-solving for its students.
Educate and encourage parents to support school initiatives that promote global understanding.
Seek a diversity of cultural, national, and ethnic backgrounds in the recruitment of teachers and administrators.
Global awareness is defined as the recognition and understanding of interrelationships among international organizations, nation-states, public and private economic entities, sociocultural groups, and individuals across the globe.
“Before you finish eating breakfast this morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured . . . We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today’s students face a very different future than that faced by the previous generation. Many global issues affect their lives – terrorism and other threats to security, immigration and refugees, global movements of jobs and labor, the worsening ecological situation, a troubled global economy, and many more. They live in a fast-changing and interdependent world. The current use of the world’s resources is inequitable and unsustainable. The gap between the rich and poor continues to widen. Many people live in poverty and are denied their basic human rights. Today’s technology allows for instant communication and the opportunity to know what’s happening around the world as it happens. We have become increasingly interconnected. This is the world that our students have inherited.
Because of this “flat world” that our students live in, it is imperative that schools prepare students to be global citizens. They must develop collaborative skills for the 21st century and become global communicators. Schools must integrate international content into their curricula, link students to the world through technology, and teach students to respect and value other cultures around the world.
Global education, as defined by Robert G. Haney, means “learning about those issues that cut across national boundaries and about the interconnectedness of systems, ecological, cultural, economic, political, and technological. Global education involves perspective taking, seeing things through the eyes, minds, and hearts of others; and it means the realization that while individuals and groups may view life differently, they also have common needs and wants.”
Technology can be used to promote global learning, provide cultural understanding and build relationships. Educators need to find ways to connect students from different parts of the world so that they can learn together, share knowledge and develop cultural understanding and relationships. Through these types of learning experiences, students will increase their global awareness and understanding of other cultures in different parts of the world.
The global marketplace and the workplace in which today’s students will be involved are rapidly changing. Most jobs they will have in the future don’t exist today. With the increased focus on outsourcing and global competition, students must be prepared to compete and succeed by using creativity and ingenuity, and they must be able to work with people from all parts of the world.
Knowledge of other cultures around the world leads students to understanding and compassion. That, in turn, creates students who take action to make a difference in resolving problems and changing the world to be a better place. If we are ever to have peace in the world, we must learn to understand each other. We must work together to save our planet; it’s the only one we have.