Opinion
Teaching Commentary

Turning Students Into Global Citizens

By Fernando M. Reimers — July 29, 2016 3 min read

We are living in a world that is increasingly interdependent. Local and global affairs are deeply intertwined, and technology has transformed the ways in which most people interact, access knowledge, work, and participate civically. These changes are part of our ever-increasing globalization—a process that is shrinking our planet and bringing us all into more intense contact with one another, often across lines of social, cultural, and racial differences. Preparing students to live and work in an integrated world and contribute to improving society fulfills public schools’ intended purpose.

But many schools fail to provide students with such opportunities at a moment in history when the need has never been greater. Ethnic and religious differences continue to be a source of conflict rather than the basis of productive and creative collaboration. These differences are exacerbated by politicians who capitalize on fear, creating walls that marginalize many groups and contribute to further alienation. Rhetoric in the U.S. presidential race and in the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote echo these themes of unease.

BRIC ARCHIVE

Recent tragedies in cities around the world underscore a widespread attitude of bigotry and prejudice. Recent headlines recount a succession of deaths resulting from this attitude, including in Dallas, Baton Rouge, Orlando, and St. Paul in our own country, as well as in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, Germany, Iraq, and Turkey.

This educational failure highlights the paradox that even though children across the world have greater access to education than they’ve had at any time in the past century, and globalization is bringing humanity closer together, we have also been pushed further apart. To help students respond to this crisis in a constructive way—rather than with fear—schools must take responsibility for effective and more deliberate global-citizenship education. Advancing such education requires a well-designed curriculum and built-in support for educators to develop global competency themselves. This effort should embrace professional-development opportunities, along with the guidance of strong school and district leadership.

Educators around the world, and the children they teach, must take the time to learn from one another."

There is an existing body of effective practices in global education on which educators can build. After reviewing different approaches, a group of current and former colleagues at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and I created a framework for a K-12 global competency curriculum that is project-based and interdiscipliary. The curriculum, which is highlighted in our recently published book Empowering Global Citizens: A World Course, is influenced by the United Nations’ sustainable-development goals—a vision of inclusive progress for all nations that should be required reading for any globally minded educator.

The framework takes academic subjects and emphasizes how to integrate topics with clear global dimensions, such as environmental studies, world history, and public health. In addition to helping students develop knowledge of critical global challenges, educators must also address the range of skills global competency requires, from foreign-language study and religious literacy to a curiosity about the world and an understanding of personal agency, empowerment, and leadership. Using technology, educators can encourage students’ project collaboration with peers in other countries to reinforce these learnings.

To better prepare teachers and school leaders, districts should encourage their educators to pursue opportunities to learn about global education practices in other countries, including by researching the field of comparative education to ensure their teaching methods and curricula are effective. Educators around the world, and the children they teach, must take the time to learn from one another.

If we are to help students develop the capacity to make their communities and societies more inclusive and sustainable, school and district leaders must provide the conditions, empowerment, and support for teachers to integrate global education curriculum in the classroom. In so doing, schools can help replace fear of difference with understanding. These lessons will prepare students to collaborate with others beyond the classroom as they work to appreciate a shrinking world.

A version of this article appeared in the August 03, 2016 edition of Education Week as Our World Is Shrinking; Let’s Appreciate It

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by Learning.com
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Districts Are Centering Relationships and Systemic SEL for Back to School 21-22
As educators and leaders consider how SEL fits into their reopening and back-to-school plans, it must go beyond an SEL curriculum. SEL is part of who we are as educators and students, as well as
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Opinion Does Humor Help Students Remember?
If you want kids to pay attention to the news, new research shows that comedy might help.
Emily Falk
1 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
Teaching Opinion Twenty-Eight Educators Share Their Best Teaching Advice
Twenty-eight—yup, count 'em, 28—educators offer teaching advice that has helped them and their students.
6 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Teaching Opinion Educators: Would You Like to Contribute to This Blog?
Learn how educators currently working in a K-12 school can contribute to this blog!
1 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Teaching Opinion 'Speak Up!' & Even More Teaching Advice From Teachers
Six educators continue this series of sharing the best teaching advice they've heard or given, including being willing to take risks.
11 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty