Nominated MP and outgoing KNUT Secretary-General William Sossion penned a brief but eye-opening and thought-provoking op-ed on June 21.
The piece, titled Time to introduce global citizenship education in schools succinctly captured recommendations – and the reasoning behind them – by Unesco, in partnership with Educational International to the Kenyan government to embrace Global Citizenship Education (GCED). Which is essential “a form of civil learning that involves student participation in projects that address global issues of social, political, economic or environmental nature”.
Needless to say, this is an idea whose time has come, if not overdue. The latest trends of global interconnectedness, global culturalism and blended identities all point to the fact that the modern day learner must be well equipped not to merely survive this labyrinth, but thrive in these modern times. And a country’s global positioning and prosperity will be directly determined by how well and effectively her populace is equipped with these skills.
At the heart of GCED is the concept of international mindedness, a philosophy tacitly captured in the International Baccalaureate mission statement and deeply embedded in its curriculum.
Governments and top educational institutions the world over are adopting this concept. So, what exactly is it?
For the uninitiated, international mindedness is a concept used within the International Baccalaureate (IB) programming model. What it essentially means is understanding, respecting and valuing different cultures. It helps students embrace diversity and realise that different perspectives have a great deal to offer. International mindedness helps promote respect and encourages effective collaboration. Students develop high levels of empathy and compassion.
Globalisation has led to increased population mobility and cultural overlap. Today, countries across the world are melting pots of numerous diverse cultures and sub-cultures.
Since children are growing up in an interconnected world, they need to be able to communicate and collaborate effectively and sensitively with people from different regions and religions. International mindedness, to this end, enables students explore new countries and cultures from within their classrooms.
It enables them to work in harmony with colleagues from around the world, to benefit from a wide range of knowledge and experience. With this knowledge and in their possession, students are able to “think globally and act locally”.
So, why is it so important for the future?
International mindedness inspires students to be inquisitive and think before they act. Students who are trained in international mindedness are encouraged to ask lots of questions. To question even their own set of beliefs and world views and be more tolerant to other people and their beliefs and world views. And they do, by the way.
They are required to make responsible choices and help others whenever they can so as to understand other perspectives. It teaches students to be clear and confident communicators. To be effectively articulate. Life throws several curve balls, some of which can be easily dodged through effective communication.
Students under this learning module can effectively communicate in more than one language. They are taught to be active listeners and respectful towards others.
International mindedness edifies students to be independent and capable. They are shown the importance of making honest and fair choices, which would often call for courage and boldness. These students respect and care about other people as well as the environment. Learners are encouraged to know their identities and feel proud of who they are.
Exposure to new cultures and experiences is a key aspect. One of the main objectives of this learning module is to train students to be open minded. They are taught to be aware of their similarities and differences with others and to respect both. Learning different things in multiple ways broadens their perspective further. International mindedness encourages students to try new things with a positive attitude and take the odds to be wrong sometimes.
Under this learning module, students assess their work and analyse where their strengths and weaknesses lie. They understand the importance of a work-life balance and are taught early on how to achieve this increasingly elusive skill in their later life.
Today, the economical, ecological and political global situation is such that we can no longer continue to think just for ourselves, our family or our country.
As a learning module, international mindedness understands this and therefore encourages students to take steps that will make this world a better place to live for themselves, others elsewhere in the world, and for the generations to come!
The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development in collaboration with all education stakeholders — teachers, Ministry of Education, TSC, universities and teacher training colleges, parents’ associations, education policymakers and experts — can address this by first doing an assessment on the education policy with a view to tweak it accordingly. As Sossion avers, an education review policy is a prerequisite for this endeavour, with strategic emphasis on embracing GCED.
Global citizenship education encourages intercultural discourse and cultivates regard for culture, religion and phonetic differing qualities which are crucial for accomplishing social cohesion and equity.
GCED is fundamental to young individuals who will now be able to solve issues, make decisions, think critically, communicate effectively, and collaborate successfully. This is a vital aspect, not just personally and academically, but also professionally. GCED is also a key tool in the process of educating children from a young age to become smart, enlightened citizens who participate actively in issues that concern their societies.
The development and demonstration of international-mindedness is complex and nuanced. While there is no single formula for supporting internationally minded development, a 2017 IB-commissioned research project done by education experts Elisabeth Barratt Hacking, Chloe Blackmore, Kate Bullock and Sue Martin in the department of Education, University of Bath, examined how IB World Schools conceptualise and implement international-mindedness, and the result identified promising practices.
The study found that IB schools demonstrate international-mindedness based on two interrelated concepts: “Reaching out”, to consider how students interact with others and “reaching in”, to understand themselves in relation to others.
More importantly, schools in the study considered international-mindedness as a journey rather than an end point. This journey is a constant process of defining, learning, unlearning, acting, reflecting and redefining. The process of developing international-mindedness is seen as being more important than the product.
Education for international mindedness begins by creating a culture in the school that values and appreciates the world as the broadest context for learning.
To build an internationally minded school culture, schools may consider focusing student inquiries on global human commonalities; creating opportunities for meaningful cultural exchange and action in the local and global communities; and most importantly, embracing multilingualism to enhance intercultural dialogue and global engagement.
Expanding intercultural understanding to extra-curricular activities is one facile/undemanding approach in implementing this dynamic policy.
Events and learning experiences, such as the arts (for example, music) and sport, can provide meaningful ways to develop friendships and make connections between students from different cultures, nationalities and social backgrounds, and with different learning styles and perspectives.
Subjects such as global politics, world literature, sociology, social anthropology, and entrepreneurship can also go a long way in not only propagating, but also augmenting this concept and enriching learners’ experiences and consequently, their world views.
Schools often take trips and excursions to provide students with the opportunities to learn about themselves and others. Sharing and contributing in reciprocal ways in different settings/cultures enhances intercultural understanding. First-hand experience through language and culture exchanges are also an invaluable and effective means to learn about cultural similarities and differences.
Inviting speakers and visitors to share with the learning community can be equally beneficial and can have a powerful impact on learners. With the advent of technology, students can invite guest speakers, locally and globally, to participate in part of the inquiry process or social activity to provide alternative perspectives.
The long and short of it is that to effectively and successfully embrace and meet the demands of Global Citizenship Education, international mindedness ought to be at the core of it.
Learners should be taught these nuanced qualities: A good grasp of local and global issues with localised solutions; a rich and well informed world view that reminds them that their path is not the only path; and a high degree of tolerance to things they do not agree with, or people who do not ascribe to their beliefs and practices.
That as the IB mission statement partly stipulates “other people with their differences can also be right”. This is the first and most critical step towards having a cohesive and truly connected world.