Saturday, June 30, 2007

Educating the Global Citizen

George Walker is a former director general of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Organization and the author of a book Educating the Global Citizen. Walker argues that ‘international’ is not the same as ‘global’ and education should reflect the increasing influence of globalization.

How can we educate a global citizen?
Walker describes three stages in international education:
1. International awareness. Students are introduced to many different countries, their history and geography. They study foreign languages, learn about culture and customs of these countries. They travel to different countries, try their food, and visit local museums.

2. Global awareness. All countries around the world are inextricably bound together in the process known as globalization. We all profit from the low-cost manufacturing in China, and we are all in danger because of global warming. Walker quotes IB’s mission statement: "other people, with their differences, may also be right."

3. Global citizenship. A global citizen should have a “mental flexibility and a basic respect for perspectives other than their own… Engagement – in thought, in discussion,
in active learning – is the basis for global citizenship.

What is a globalized society?
Walker quotes definition of globalization: “The widening, deepening and speeding up of worldwide interconnectedness in all aspects of contemporary social life.” (Held, 1999)

NECC 2007 conference was a great example of our globalized society. Even without attending this conference, I was fully aware what is going on there through blogs, video, podcasts, excellent NECC website with handouts and research papers.

Walker states 5 different features of globalization.

The first feature: historical context
According to Walker, the first period of globalization started in 1492 in Portugal and changed population of the whole continent of Americas. Shipping slaves to America marked the second period. The third period happened with mass migration from Europe to North America in 19th century. Recent period “started with the liberalization of international trade after the Second World War and has been greatly accelerated in recent years by new techniques of information and communication technology.”

The second feature: complexity
We live in a complex world. A perfect example of complexity of globalization is how the war in Iraq is presented to public by media and political parties. It was shocking to see a recorded by a cell phone and streamed via YouTube video with a horrible scene of the hanging of Saddam Hussein.

Walker quotes: “Global citizens…examine ideas that challenge their own and then enjoy the complexity” (from the Washington International School statement).

I try to adapt to the constantly changing complex world, but I am far from enjoying it. Recently, I’ve stopped watching news in a feeble attempt to protect myself from information full of negativity, crime, and hatred. Let’s hope that our students will learn to “enjoy the complexity” of this world.

How should our educational system reflect complexity?
1. Broadened curriculum. The students should learn about Iraq conflict from the historical, cultural and political point of view.
2. Awareness of the status of different forms of knowledge and development of a sense of intellectual honesty.
3. Interdisciplinary study of globalization.

The third feature: ethical values
Interest in ethical issues should be revived in our society and developed amongst students.

The fourth feature: connecting to other people
Globalization helps connect students around the world. The conferences bring together educators from around the world, and teachers in their classrooms connect students with their peers in different countries and continents by videoconferencing, blogging, using wikis, emailing, instant messaging, skyping, and twittering.

The fifth feature: winners and losers
According to Walker: “It has been assumed in the West that a good education will be the passport to a materially comfortable life. In future a good education, one that connects the intellect to human compassion, must be perceived as the means of providing, as much as receiving, material wealth.”

George Walker, “Educating the global citizen,” speech made at The British Schools of the Middle East conference, 31 January 2007.

George Walker, Educating the Global Citizen.

Armillary sphere by William Cunningham, The Cosmographicall Glasse, London 1559.

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