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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.