thoughts on global education

Features of an effective Global Education program

Our educational endeavours should be culturally responsive, embedded in real world events, and mobilized to enable students to act in and upon their worlds. My former boss at PANIM, a non-profit educational organization had a 5-pillar approach to getting teens involved in public issues: inform, empower, inspire, motivate, contextualize. I believe that these can be applied to an effective Global Education program for secondary schools.

First, inform students about world issues. While today’s youth have unprecedented access to information, it is the job of educators to help students see the forest for the trees. By providing them with reliable, age-appropriate information about global issues like climate change, AIDS, child labour, and foreign aid, we can help them understand the big picture and begin to break down the details and make the information relevant to their lives.

Second, empower them to act by pointing out examples of individuals who have brought about change and by giving them the tools to act. This could mean starting a service project in class, giving students access to resources outside of school, or connecting them to organizations already doing the kind of work that students want to get involved in. It also means nurturing the habits of mind that make a good global citizen, including open-mindedness, critical thinking, and inquisitiveness.

Third, inspire them by being an active global citizen and modeling the sort of attitudes and behaviours that students can incorporate into their developing sense of identity.

Fourth, motivate students by making global issues real. For adolescents seeking meaning, this means putting a human face on injustice and promoting empathy and moral outrage. I believe that the intrinsic motivation for global action can best be achieved through experiential education, for example, cleaning up a local riverbank or meeting a Sudanese former child soldier.

Finally, contextualize Global Education within not only curriculum expectations but within the students’ personal value systems, showing them that learning about the world is not about getting good marks but about making a commitment to real change.

Thinking deep global thoughts in Algonquin Park

In practice, the most effective forms of Global Education are cross-curricular and multidimensional. This entails both looking closely at possibilities for global education within curricular objectives and going beyond them to incorporate Global Education wherever possible. Global Education is multidimensional in that it both opens students’ eyes to the realities of the world and opens their minds to the potential inherent in each of us to change the world for the better. A cross-curricular approach to Global Education teaches students about the world they live in and helps them to articulate their views on world issues. It also educates them about their rights and responsibilities as citizens of our globalized world.

In terms of content areas, the goal is to teach students about the Earth and its inhabitants, including education about international development, the promotion of peace and global human rights, intercultural education, and environmental education. As a History and English teacher, it is easy for me to incorporate Global Education into my teaching, for example, through studying texts written by foreign authors or by studying non-western historical events. However, if students come to see Global Education as limited to History or English class, I have not succeeded.

In a classroom that lacks diversity, the Global Education curriculum gives students the opportunity to appreciate the diversity that they will encounter outside of the school. In a multicultural classroom like those I encountered during my practicum placements, Global Education heightens students’ appreciation and understanding of each others’ backgrounds. In Global Education builds character by teaching students that we are all connected and mutually responsible for the well-being of both planet and people. On a micro level, this can translate into greater degrees of mutual respect within the classroom – it helps students understand the ways that they can help or hinder their classmates’ learning. On a broader level, it helps students to articulate their views on their responsibilities to the world around them. Ideally Global Education takes goes this sense of responsibility beyond the “should” and makes it a “must.”

To me, the defining features of an effective Global Education program involve:

· Promotion of an awareness of world events as they unfolde.g. On a rotating basis, each student is responsible for reporting on a newspaper story of the day in every class.

· Reflexivity and situatedness e.g. Students ground their study of global issues by looking at their own origins and the role our society plays in global events.

· Use of technology to create real global connections e.g. Online collaborative learning with a class in another country

· Whole-school initiativese.g. cross curricular Earth Week projects

· Local, national, global connections made across the curriculum e.g. In a History class, studying discriminatory measures perpetrated against Japanese Canadians alongside the study of Japan’s role in WWII

· A school culture that reflects and values global perspectives – e.g. Signage in a variety of languages, celebration of different cultures and recognition of days of significance, staff made up of people from different ethnic and national origins

· An awareness of the importance of ecological sustainability embedded in school culture – e.g. Limit paper use, students work together to retrofit school or plant a community garden

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