Every student around the world, at some point, will learn 2+2 = 4. Basic addition is a fundamental element of a child’s education, but what we sometimes tend to forget is that students also need the opportunity to learn about the world around them.
At what point do we ask students to learn about the junk ships in China, jeepneys in the Philippines, Matatus in Kenya and dog sleds in Alaska, USA? Why are modes of transportation different around the world, and how does transportation shape culture, or culture shape transportation? While questions like these provide cross-cultural understanding and open students’ eyes, cultural awareness and global competence are not yet fundamental elements of all students’ education. We must change this, because one of the biggest challenges students face in a global world is understanding the concept of global differences. How do students learn to communicate with peers who come from around the world, know different languages and have different cultural norms?
Students should be the generational change and solve the many crises of our world. The water shortage, child mortality rates, education disparities, climate change, and food crises are just a few challenges, of many, that our world faces. We expect students to solve problems, pave the way for change, transform ideas, create new technologies and drive innovation. We expect this, but to make our students globally aware and competently prepared for the world they will experience, we need to arm teachers with the tools needed to build students’ global knowledge.
Students need to be international citizens who pride themselves on fixing our global challenges, but education systems around the world do not expect students to understand cultural differences, gain global competence and learn about various perspectives that will, ultimately, allow them the core skills and knowledge necessary to aid others.
Primary and secondary curricula must infuse global content so every student around the world has the opportunity to understand cultures, global perspectives and the attitudes of openness, curiosity and respect. It is these skills and knowledge that provide students a basis to understand others, and ultimately, aid nations and people worldwide.
Global education is not a new concept — all around the world, higher education institutions invite international faculty, promote study abroad programs and foster classrooms with thought-provoking international dialogue. Global education for primary and secondary students, however, is absent, and we must make this a rudimentary principle so that students can make the global changes we need.
The equation for global education is straightforward — a teacher doesn’t need to know everything. Students simply need an opportunity to open their eyes to the world and investigate, together with their teachers, ways to change it for the better.
By adding global perspectives in all classrooms, we can reach more than 1.9 billion children who will begin to break down barriers, gain global competence and strive to understand their peers and international neighbors; a simple change that will continue to make a global impact in all parts of our interconnected world.
Catherine Browning works as an education analyst with the curriculum and instructional design team at VIF International Education, an organization that builds global education programs that prepare students for success in an interconnected world. Catherine holds degrees in Journalism and Mass Communication and Public Policy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Learn more about VIF on PIN here!
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