Preparing global citizens

The role of the teacher, no matter whether we are talking early childhood, primary, secondary, college or university, is to provide the framework for learners to think and learn. Within that a global perspective is essential.

The Pearson report 2014, The Learning Curve, mentions the skills students require to meet the constantly evolving needs of the global market. Global citizenship rates as a necessary skill along with problem-solving, emotional intelligence, teamwork, leadership and digital literacy. All are just as necessary for the future as reading, writing and mathematics.

I think Andreas Schleicher, deputy director for education at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, puts it well when he says, and I paraphrase – it’s no longer the case that employers will pay for what a person knows as they will for what they can do with what they know.

We know that the world we live in is globally more interdependent than ever and learners are more mobile than ever. Information and ideas transcend national boundaries. Young people have amazing access to other cultures and peoples through the technology they have access to everyday.

Through their iPod, iPad, iPhone they can read about an event almost the instant it happens or is broadcast in that part of the world. It provides amazing opportunities for teachers and learners to build on and enhance international and inter-cultural knowledge and understanding.

This change, of course, is not only being driven by enhancements in technology, but also as more and more employers become global players and open up offices in several countries.

They expect and want employees to be international in their outlook, to be able to recognise and work with diversity, to have had work and life experiences that enhance their capacity to perform internationally and (even) to have the ability to speak more than one language.

The changing shrinking world demands we have the knowledge and capacities to engage internationally. These shared global challenges require all young people to learn how to successfully work and live together. Increased mobility and global interdependence demands greater appreciation and tolerance of all sorts – cultural, social, and religious and we could do with more of that.

International perspectives

Internationalisation can mean many things. It is really about ensuring an international and intercultural dimension is part of what is included in all experiences and activities. Universities have internationalisation strategies that include establishing strategic partnerships in research with international institutions of good repute, addressing research issues of international significance and producing research outputs of international quality.

They also usually have as a goal to prepare graduates for global markets and provide overseas study and work experience opportunities that aim to equip graduates with knowledge and understandings about international perspectives and for work in an international environment.

Internationalising the learning experience doesn’t have to be a complicated endeavour. There are different ways to incorporate a global perspective in content, student learning activities and assessment tasks at the school level also.

For example, teachers can invite students or parents or local community members who come from other cultures into the learning environment to provide a different perspective to a topic being studied. Teachers might set tasks that require students to locate and discuss information from a range of international sources and perspectives.

Schools might adopt a school in another country and partner same age range classes from that overseas school with local classes to learn how things are done in a different cultural context, to exchange ideas and share experiences.

Demands on young people

The demands on young people to be globally aware, international in their outlook, able to recognise and work with diversity and to have had work and life experiences that enhance their capacity to perform internationally are only going to increase.

We also know that today’s youth are very likely to move internationally and some might even become global nomads, returning to their home country for only short periods of time before adventuring overseas again.

We are living in an increasingly symbiotic world and are progressively sharing similar global concerns. Education systems can and should be major players in strengthening young people’s preparation for living and working and positioning the course of action in a progressively more multifaceted, fast altering and globally interdependent world.

Nita Temmerman (PhD) is former pro vice-chancellor (academic) and executive dean (education) at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia; visiting professor at the Solomon Islands National University; chair of the academic board of the Leaders Institute Australia; and is a specialist with the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications.


I think the education system is already pretty great at this; society needs to adapt.

Christopher Haggarty-Weir on the University World News Facebook page