Global competency: How are we preparing our children to inherit the world?

February 4, 2021

Our world today looks very similar to a game of dominoes - where tiles are stacked upright and close to one another, and when one tile topples, the rest follow suit. Like the school climate strikes started by Greta Thunberg which became a larger, global movement demanding world leaders to pay attention to the effects of climate change. Or the current pandemic and how its effects have been felt by everyone around the world.

We live in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world where chain reactions of events are seen, felt and amplified beyond borders and geographical boundaries. Advancements in technology have made it possible for us to access news from around the world or to connect with people around the globe almost instantaneously. Geographical limitations have collapsed as our worldview expands and this presents with it new opportunities and challenges in our quest to prepare young people for today’s world.

Image taken from OECD

There is now a growing need to prepare the future generation for this new landscape by equipping them with global competence which the OECD defines as “the capacity to examine local, global, and intercultural issues, to understand and appreciate the perspectives and worldviews of others, to engage in open, appropriate and effective interactions with people from different cultures, and to act for collective well-being and sustainable development.”

To simply put it, we need to prepare young people to not only be responsible citizens but responsible ‘global citizens’ who are aware of their role and place in the world. As to quote Martin Luther King, Jr.,  “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Hence, teachers need to be willing to invite the world into their classroom and to challenge their students to think about how their decisions and actions would have wider consequences for the world at large.

Here are some great examples of teachers in different countries trying to equip their students with global competency:

Adopting a Borderless Classroom for Global Citizenship

Coming from a remote area in Vietnam where poverty rates are high and farming is the main occupation, Anh Phuong Ha was inspired from a young age to become a teacher after watching a film, featuring a teacher working in a mountainous area trying to convince parents to allow their children to attend school. Realising that teachers had the ability to improve the lives of others, she pursued her childhood dream to become an English teacher. After graduating with a master’s degree in English, she returned to her home region to become a teacher to the students in the remote and mountainous area just like the teacher she saw in the film as a child.

Image taken from Vietnam Times

Due to geographical and economic reasons, she soon realised that students in her school had little chance to practice English with foreigners which dampened their ability to gain competency in the language. This posed challenges in boosting their confidence in using the language and to increase their intercultural awareness and interest of the world. Thus, she employed a borderless-classroom model by integrating technology in the classroom to connect her students with classrooms around the world through Skype. This highly innovative approach helped her to connect the remote, mountainous classroom of her students to places around the world, from Vietnam all the way to the United States and India.

In one memorable borderless classroom session, her students got to present in English about the environmental concerns involved with using plastic straws to an international audience from seven different countries. Her innovative method of using a borderless classroom has not only helped her students gain proficiency in English but also helped them to gain newfound confidence in their ability to communicate with others and to share their ideas for change with people around the world.

Preparing Students for Global Leadership

Noah Zeichner teaches social studies in an international high school in Seattle where he has made it his primary mission to promote global citizenship in the classroom. He conceived a highly-innovative, Global Leadership class that encourages his students to learn about contemporary issues such as the political effects of climate change and food scarcity on a global level. One of the main aspects of the class is the Adopt-A-Class model where he encourages students to take the lessons that they have learned to teach these topics to younger, fourth grade students.

Image taken from West Seattle Blog

Inspired by an experience he had in Guatemala where he saw how water-related issues continue to affect the lives of others, he decided to work with a former student to also start an annual student-led festival called World Water Week to increase student awareness on the complex problem of water-related issues at his school. Through the initiative, students were encouraged to go on field trips to learn about local and global issues involving water. Some students then chose to use their newfound awareness and knowledge of the issue to educate others through school campaigns while others have chosen to raise funds for water projects around the world.

Through a partnership with a non-profit organisation that connects students in Kenya with students in Seattle, they were also able to participate in a global exchange of ideas on the water crisis where students in both countries could conduct water quality tests in their own communities and then share their findings with each other. The success of the first World Water Week also encouraged Noah to work with other teachers at the school to integrate the themes of the World Water Week into the school’s main curriculum through an interdisciplinary lens so that together, they can continue to educate students about the world water crisis and sustainability.

These extraordinary stories of teachers committed to preparing the next generation for global citizenship are only some examples of teachers promoting global competency in the classroom daily. All around the world, teachers are exchanging ideas and sharing best practices on how to equip young people with global competency as they groom the next generation of leaders ready to lead on a local and global scale.

Find out more about how we can continue to promote global competency in children, to help them engage and thrive in today’s interconnected world. Sign up for The HEART Course!

To support educators in starting meaningful discussions with each other, we launched The HEART Course - a free online course which creates a space where educators are excited to connect over ideas in education and start conversations that bring change to their classroom, school, and community.

In five sessions you can WATCH discussions and best practices from global thought-leaders following five themes in education. There also conversation prompts to help your group of educators DISCUSS ideas after each video, and toolkits to APPLY what you have learned. Each session also has a growing curation of resources from over 30 education partners in Malaysia and beyond. Educators like yourself can CONNECT with these partners to bring students’ learning beyond the classroom!

Get started with The HEART Course here.

Registration is ALWAYS open!

Leaps of Knowledge: The HEART Series