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Importance of Global Perspective

By Meghan Edwards
How can you ensure that your child has the tools to become an empathetic and informed global citizen who can think critically?

As parents and educators, we are invested in ensuring that our students are poised for success in a VUCA world—one that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. While we cannot predict the specific challenges our children will face or the professions that will await them, we can say with certainty that Generation Z is inheriting local and global problems of an unprecedented scale. And while they did not create the issues, they will be tasked with solving or, at the very least, mitigating them. What is global competence, why is it relevant, and how can you ensure that your child has the tools to become an empathetic and informed global citizen who can think critically? 

What is global competence?
According to Asia Society, an industry leader in global education worldwide, globally competent students can “investigate the world, recognize perspectives, communicate ideas and take action” to make a difference. Global competence consists of more than content knowledge. It is a set of skills, attitudes and values that shape decision-making and inform problem-solving strategies. 

Development of global competence is a lifelong process bolstered by opportunities to engage in face-to-face, virtual or mediated encounters with people belonging to different cultures around the world. The so-called “soft skills” of flexibility, resilience, creativity, collaboration and communication are routinely developed and assessed when effectively educating for global competence. 

Why does it matter?
Technology continues to collapse geographic boundaries by facilitating instantaneous communication. As our world continues to become smaller, we must be cognizant of the risk of both generalizing and minimizing cultural differences. Intercultural relationships will define the lives of today’s students. Whether professional or personal, these relationships will each come with benefits, challenges and responsibilities. If we want tomorrow’s leaders to be empathetic and open to new ways of solving complex problems, we must educate them to be mindful of how they present themselves as well as how they interact with and respond to the actions and behaviors of others. This is imperative in educating for equity and a sustainable future. 

How can we educate for global competence?
While there is no one way to “correctly” educate for global competence, there are best practices that LJCDS considers in its program: 
  • Perspective-taking: Any globally-oriented curriculum must encourage introspection and critical analysis of both faculty and student lenses and personal biases. To understand and empathize with someone of a different culture, we must be able to assess how our personal history, background and values shape our reactions and responses.

  • Contextualized experiences: Whether in-person or virtual, students must have opportunities to participate in both local and global experiences. They should be primed with background knowledge but also be prepared to question and adjust initial assumptions and expectations. Each experience should be bracketed with preparatory curriculum and opportunities for reflection on the learning that has taken place.

  • “Classrooms without walls: Parents and educators should seek out experiences that bring the outside world in, and to the extent possible, bring students outside of the walls of the classroom. When thoughtfully designed and managed, experiences rather than people can be our best teachers.  

  • Person-to-person teaching and learning: We must arm our students with the skills to cultivate relationships that will allow them to learn firsthand from reliable sources. Students should learn through exposure to voices representing many perspectives in place of relying on a singular dominant narrative.

  • Shift from “doing good” to “doing no harm”: As students engage with communities outside of their own, it is imperative that we move from an antiquated model of providing aid. Rather, we should actively seek to provide support to communities in a way that leaves no disruptive trace of our presence. While student growth is certainly a primary objective, it should never be the sole factor, nor should it ever supersede the needs of the host community. Our focus should always be on what we can learn from a host community.

Meghan Edwards is a Middle School Spanish educator who is on sabbatical for the 2019-2020 academic year. While on sabbatical, she is completing teaching practicums at La Paz Community School in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica (fall) and at Gimnasio Los Caobos outside of Bogotá, Colombia (winter). Both institutions are leaders in place-based, project-based and experiential learning in a global context. She is also completing research on best practices in teaching for global competence.

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