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Global Education, Teaching Resources

Fostering Global Citizenship in the Classroom

“No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline.” —Kofi Annan

What Is Global Citizenship?

Global citizenship is the idea that people have rights and responsibilities that come with being a citizen of the entire world, rather than a particular nation or place.

As a culture, we tend to organize ourselves into groups and communities that share common values, ideas, and identity. While this makes for easy, comfortable connections, it also tends to narrow one’s vision of the world, presupposing what is right and fair, and how things should be.

We All Live on the Same Earth

The internet has made our world seem much smaller. We are increasingly aware that we live in an interconnected web, made more real by the narrowing of the world lens through news, social media, and ease of travel. If you are interested in learning more about Tanzania, for example, you only have to Google it. Want to book a trip? With a few clicks of a mouse, you have multiple options for flights and lodging. The world is at your fingertips, quite literally.

As our world shrinks, our ability to understand and accept other cultures, races, religions, and values grows exponentially. The opportunity to develop the skills and empathy required to be a global citizen expands as we begin to more clearly see ourselves as citizens of the entire world, rather than a member of a nation or community.

As we recognize our world as the sum of its parts, we begin to understand that issues surrounding the environment, human rights, religion, and social justice directly affect all of us.

Common Competencies of a Global Citizen

The common principle of “think globally, act locally” urges people of all ages and backgrounds to consider the greater impact of their actions. It applies to individuals, businesses, governments, students, citizens, and officials and truly embodies the global citizenship movement.

As students engage in global learning, they develop a combination of attitudes, skills, and knowledge that demonstrate 10 core competencies that enable them to creatively problem-solve issues that impact not just themselves but also those around them. These competencies empower learners to think globally, act locally, and ultimately change the world.

Some of these competencies include looking at the world critically and analytically, respecting and valuing diversity, recognizing that people are shaped by different circumstances and cultures, and reflecting on their actions and attitudes and taking responsibility for them.

Incorporating Global Thinking into Your Classroom

Too often, exposure to global citizenship in a classroom or school means having a multicultural night, celebrating a specific heritage month, or hosting a festival. While any attempt to squeeze cultural awareness into curriculum is admirable, dedicating just one night or even one month to global citizenship is a grave disservice to students and cultures. School leaders cannot simply check these boxes and move on.

This begs the question, what should we be doing instead?

  • Exposure and cultural exchange: Provide opportunities for students to engage with students and peers from other cultures. Pen-pal programs, email exchanges, and FaceTime or Skype conversations give students a chance to speak to and learn from one another.
  • Ask questions: Create more opportunities for students to be curious and ask questions. Prompt them to use their critical thinking skills to go beyond the basics of the who, what, where, why, and how and dig deeper.
  • Consider impacts more broadly: If your class is discussing the importance of implementing a recycling program in their cafeteria, think about how their ideas can be grown and implemented worldwide so the global community might also reap those benefits.
  • Guide, rather than tell: As educators, we assume an expert role in all things far too often. Instead of telling students the answer you think is correct, help guide them to come to their own conclusions and have them tell you why their answer is best.
  • Explore other viewpoints: Facilitating debates within a classroom setting is a terrific way to teach students how to appreciate and respect opposing viewpoints. Perhaps your student thinks that they should be permitted off-campus for lunch. Have them assume the role of a school administrator or parent. Why would they argue that off-campus lunch is not a safe or good choice?
  • Recognize and discuss biases: We all have biases, and confronting them can be difficult and sharing them can be terrifying, but it isn’t until we are open and honest about our biases that we can begin to overcome them. Beginning conversations about bias at a young age provides children with more opportunities to successfully overcome, rather than perpetuate, their biases.

How Participate Learning Supports the Development of Global Citizens

At Participate Learning, our mission is to ensure equitable and inclusive access to quality education. We believe learning has no limits; all learners deserve access to an education that prepares them to succeed in an increasingly global society.

As the leader in global education, schools have used Participate Learning’s globally focused dual-language immersion programs, cultural exchange teachers, and global schools programs to create engaging learning environments that integrate technology, cultural literacy, and other 21st-century skills into classroom instruction. We strive to support teachers, school leaders, and districts in a shared mission of developing open-minded, curious citizens.

Download our global citizen infographic to start creating global citizens within your own classroom or contact us for more information.