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Educating for Global Citizenship

Educating for Global Citizenship By Ann Straub, Council of International Schools (CIS) International Advisor, IDI Qualified Administrator

The “international” Landscape Using whatever means it requires, schools throughout the world have a moral imperative to prepare their students to be interculturally competent global citizens. As the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated in their Proposal for Global Competence, “Our young people must be able to co-exist and interact with people who are different from ourselves, have open and flexible attitudes, as well as the values that unite us around our common humanity.”

The Council of International Schools (CIS) based in Leiden, The Netherlands, has as its tagline, “Shaping the Future of International Education.” The label “International” which at one time denoted expat schools located outside of one’s home country is no longer exclusive to this population. One could argue that today there are very few schools in the world that lack cultural diversity. If the definition of cultural diversity refers to “difference” as in socio-economic, ability, gender, life style and age as well as nationality, ethnicity and race then the need for intercultural competence and global citizenship is vital to creating and maintaining social sustainability in the world. According to Eeqbal Hassim of the Asia Education Foundation, “Social sustainability of the world is perhaps the big-picture, overarching and aspirational goal of global citizenship. It provides the foundation for all other forms of sustainability…cultural, environmental, economic, and political.” The convergence of many factors as addressed in this article, has led the CIS to develop International Certification: Educating for Global Citizenship, a developmental service open to schools around the world who are committed to developing global citizens prepared in spirit, mind, and body to create global social sustainability. Addition of Global Competency to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) Recently, it was announced by the OECD that the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) administered to fifteen-year old students in 80 member countries will in 2018 add an assessment of global competence. Global competence includes the acquisition of in-depth knowledge and understanding of global and intercultural issues; the ability to learn from and live with people from diverse backgrounds; and the attitudes and values necessary to interact respectfully with others. At the same time, the UN Global Compact involving 8,000 world business leaders is collaborating to use positive business development to eradicate grinding poverty, to create innovative ecological solutions and work towards peace. Global competence is necessary for movements such has the UN Global Compact to move ahead. As Nelson Mandela stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” So, what does this mean for the future of our schools? It can become confusing when referring to the terms global competence, intercultural competence, and global citizenship along with many others used interchangeably throughout the literature and research. The good news is that they are synchronistic. The terms intercultural competence and global citizenship will be used in this article knowing that global competence is incorporated within both of these terms.

Global Education Exploration Study Findings In 2012, a nation-wide Global Education Exploration Study published by Project of more than 1,200 teachers, parents and stakeholders in United States schools was conducted with the goal of better understanding the global education landscape. It was reported that 80% of teachers agree that it’s more important today than ever before for students to learn about other countries and cultures, yet only 30% say they often incorporate material about other countries and cultures into their lesson plans. Six in ten students surveyed reported they find understanding different countries, cultures, and customs extremely important — more so than writing, math, or technical skills. Additionally, nearly all (98%) of the students surveyed agree that a strong understanding of world history and events is critical to developing solutions to global problems. Nine in ten students recognize that jobs are becoming increasingly international in nature and believe they will be stronger employees with a better understanding of different cultures. Students feel under-equipped to compete for professional opportunities on the basis of global awareness and understanding. They believe their appetite and enthusiasm for global education has not been met with an adequate level of instruction in global studies.

Role of Social /Emotional Intelligence in Global Citizenship

Another compounding factor is the decline of emotional/social intelligence vital for the development of global citizenship, which is all too quickly becoming a reality among today’s students. The countless hours spent interacting with others through technological devices replacing face to face interactions has with no doubt interfered with the development of the skills, attitudes and values necessary to develop global citizenship. Resilience, empathy, flexibility, open-mindedness, respect, risk-taking, adaptability, and self-awareness are a few of the necessary attributes developed through direct interaction with human beings different from one’s self. Part of the definition of global competence as developed by the OECD is the ability to learn from and live with people from diverse backgrounds; and the attitudes and values necessary to interact respectfully with others. How can it be possible to accomplish this without making a concerted effort in schools to develop these attributes in our students?

Global Citizenship Becoming a Reality

Global citizenship is often incorporated into schools’ mission statements. However, how often do schools that promise an international education in the hope of developing global citizens define what this really means?  How does intercultural competence fit within the scope of global citizenship? What does this imply for the school’s leadership, curriculum, co-curricular activities, service learning, professional development and environmental sustainability? How can a school community develop a shared understanding of what this means and what it looks like in action? Many schools share this goal of developing global citizenship in their students, but experience suggests such goals are sometimes daunting in their ambition and all too often frustratingly vague in their structure.

If global citizenship understandings, skills and attitudes and values are required for our students to face unprecedented challenges and opportunities in the world today, then how are schools identifying, teaching and assessing them? How are school leaders and teachers being trained to address global citizenship throughout a school?  How are school leaders, teachers and students being made aware of their own intercultural competence and how to improve upon it?

CIS International Certification: Educating for Global Citizenship

In response to this ever-growing and urgent need we heard from our members, CIS developed a service, International Certification: Educating for Global Citizenship, an innovative process to help schools better understand, advance and measure the development of global citizens. Our CIS member schools expressed the need to take an in-depth look at global citizenship within their community, but were not sure how to focus their time and best help their staff/students. They wanted a framework that would benefit the school and further their strategic objectives. International Certification addresses the key questions of how do we know we are taking the right steps to provide students with an education that keeps pace with globalization and provides the learning needed to face the ensuing challenges, and how do we enable students’ development as interculturally competent global citizens?

International Certification provides a whole school framework and a flexible structure within which schools may tailor the process of defining and developing global citizens. It is a developmental, growth minded, and consultative process in which CIS International Educational Specialists, all of whom have a background in developing global citizenship in schools across the world as teachers, leaders and facilitators, offer resources, professional development and support throughout the Certification process. Schools who wish to develop strategic impact and authentically live their mission statement of global citizenship would greatly benefit from International Certification. It is an opportunity to explore, identify and evaluate a school community’s fundamental values and beliefs about international education and their impact on the resulting outcomes each school plans for its students.

Schools throughout the world including Canada, the United States, Australia, Argentina, India, China, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Spain, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Zambia have been involved in International Certification. After achieving International Certification in 2015, Turning Point School, Los Angeles, CA reflected: “The process of working toward International Certification has brought opportunities for significant and valuable internal and collective reflection. We were able to take a more objective look at where the school stands, what we have accomplished already, and where we should aim to grow in the future.”

The project-based learning approach used by CIS measures growth using a developmental continuum. The starting point is the creation of a shared definition of global citizenship followed by an Intercultural Assessment that includes an individual online survey followed by a professional development activity to understand intercultural competence and discuss the collective results. Thereafter, the school completes six school-wide projects. Another school involved in the pilot phase, Methodist Ladies’ College in Melbourne, Australia, stated: “The shared definition of global citizenship was powerful in the creation which involved lots of discussion. We next defined what it looks like in practice.” Turning Point School continued: “A steady focus on global perspectives has focused faculty professional development and has led to significant progress in teaching pedagogy and practice. Additionally, this process informed bridging across grade levels and highlighted cross-curricular integration opportunities. You only have to walk into classrooms and down the hallways of Turning Point to see the impact International Certification has had on student learning.”

CIS developed International Certification as a distinct model, specifically for schools that wish to take a deep dive to examine the enablers of intercultural competency and ultimately – global citizenship, which is very different than a broad accreditation model that evaluates all aspects of the institutional life of a school. With a truly global perspective of education borne of first-hand experience working with a myriad of schools across the globe, the Council of International Schools understands that the notion of intercultural competency is both challenging to understand and to embrace. The intercultural development exercise that is integral to International Certification serves as a stimulus for conversations among the faculty focusing on the typically hidden aspects of intercultural competency dealing with cultural norms, values, perceptions and assumptions, and placing less emphasis on some of the more visible aspects typified by food, festivals, fashion and flags. This important shift within the six International Certification projects elevates the focus from merely “doing” to strategically taking an in-depth look at which actions and outcomes will truly develop global citizens in the school. Deborah Richman, Turning Point Head of School, said: “I did not expect the International Certification Projects to take us into so much depth.” This service provides a focused roadmap for schools to better understand and develop global citizens. The magnitude of the investigative process sustained a focus that encouraged the entire school community to take a stake in Turning Point’s process towards achieving CIS International Certification. Richman explained: “The faculty and staff and community at large took it very seriously because of how in-depth it was.” As result of International Certification, St. Timothy’s School, Baltimore, MD noted: “The most immediate change was the ‘Culture Shock’ sessions changing from just including the international students, to including all the girls at St. Timothy’s School. The International Club that used to be a separate club, now hosts multicultural events for the whole school during the school year. The International students talk about their roots, celebrations, family traditions and beliefs. This used to be an isolated event, but now includes everyone in the community. We have had lots of discussion about a common language policy with sensitivity to cultures being able to express themselves in their mother tongue, yet not isolating themselves or inhibiting learning and communication with the school community. Unit planning has focused on global contexts and threading this through our units. This has really helped our cross-curricular connections and paying attention to using culturally sensitive and accurate materials.”

As the OECD Proposal states, “It is time to rethink the role of education as a vehicle towards social cohesion and intercultural dialogue.”  This requires a strategic plan for curricular and pedagogical change, staff professional development, and a critical look at service learning and co-curricular programs. The development of global citizenship and intercultural competence in schools is ambitious and long-term, but necessary for social sustainability in the world, perhaps needed now more than ever before. _________

This article was first published in the Spring 2017 edition of the InterEd Journal (AAIE).


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