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Why the need for global education/global competency in classrooms today?

Lucy has suggested that we develop an "elevator pitch" to persuade others as to the importance of global education/global competency. I'll start the ball rolling with why I believe education for global competency is important, and others can refine it.

Today's most complex issues and realities (the globally interconnected economy and financial system; global ecological sustainability; global health; and global security) can no longer be compartmentalized or addressed in isolation. These domains are shared by all peoples of the planet, and require global approaches and solutions.Today's students must be prepared to collaborate as partners and stewards of a globally diverse, interdependent world. Promoting the skills of global competency, and and practicing global collaboration in classrooms today will enhance our collective potential for prosperity and survival in the future.

I look forward to hearing the perspectives of others.

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Replies to This Discussion

As educators we are tasked with creating global citizens. Without facilitating the connection between our students and their peers around the world to discuss and learn in an interactive manner from relevant global issues, curriculum becomes one-sided, stagnant and irrelevant. It is through these connections can the next generations break through myths and borders and build global, peaceful relationships to work together to find solutions to local and global issues--creating true global citizens. Global education is not as much about the content as it is about an expanded, diverse audience. So if you are not finding authentic, relevant and timely ways to expand your class to include diverse perspectives and voices, then I challenge you by asking how SMALL is your classroom?

Great responses! Here's the Tweet I received from George Haines a few months ago that prompted my thinking as well as my initial response:

George: Can you distill why globally connected classrooms are vital in 2010? (More than say, 30 years ago)

Me: It's because we have urgent problems that need to be addressed and in order to prepare our students to work on these problems, we must connect them globally. We must teach them how networked learning leads to networked problem solving.

Thanks for the clarification. Thirty years ago (the 1980s?) the global citizenry was not widely aware of the multitude of large-scale global problems we're faced with today. The biggest challenge in the1980s was the global economic ascendancy of Japan, and the industrial nations were having to play "defense" to meet the Japanese challenge. Today, there is much more intense and widespread global economic competition, and we have become aware of many more systemic problems that require global solutions. The most exciting difference today is that we now have the global collaboration tools to do something about  these challenges.

I would suggest that GE was as relevant 30 - 40 years ago as now. It is
sad that the issues of those days are still very much the issues of today
although it is my impression, having been a G educator back then, that we felt
that we could seriously do something about it. Now I am not so sure as we
struggle through the death throes of “voodoo economics.”

I wrote the following in a pre-ample to a policy paper on global
education in May of 1995.

            “For the first time in human history, the entire globe may be affected, almost simultaneously by changes that are political, economic, social, cultural or environmental in nature.  The pressing nature of global problems clearly demonstrates the need for a new approach to education that must be global in scope as we search for a common understanding of the concepts
of interdependence, interrelatedness, commonality, biocentrism and systems
thinking with a futures perspective. Traditionally, we have approached global
issues as one-dimensional isolated events. In reality, such events are multi-faceted and interlocking.

All this can be overpowering and can lead to feelings of helplessness and inaction.  This is not what a global perspective in education is about.  On
the contrary, EGP is built on hope and a sense of joy as to what life is all
about. There are, within institutions, individuals and groups perhaps more numerous than one realizes, who are effective agents for change.  Indeed this
is one of the many encouraging signs.  As human understanding of the forces of globalisation grows, people in local communities are working to create a new version of the global commons.  The legitimacy of tradition Institutions has
been challenged but there is still a fundamental need to challenge the
relationships of power between global, national and community structures.  Where will this challenge come from?

One need  look no further than the young people in our schools, who, despite the onslaught of the consumer based society, are constantly reminding us that we need to question the role of humanity in war, unequal development, mass starvation, human rights violations and environmental degradation. Schools provide an opportunity for students to learn to love this planet as their "home" and to learn to appreciate all life forms and their role within the planetary system.  All subject and content areas furnish opportunities for learners to consider both that which inhibits and enriches the human experience. Schools can enable learners to face the earthly condition with both joy and caution and to make the necessary decisions and wise choices to maximize the human within.

Good start, Patricia!  To this I would just add my usual speech, which is that the world you describe is coming to our students whether we teach them to handle it or not.  If we don't teach it, we're not acknowledging the world our students already live in.
George--I think this might be one of the most essential elements of any global ed elevator pitch--particularly when up against those who seek to avoid complexity by denying its existence! (This is something I've worried about a great deal.)

I love them both so far. 


We could have a general set pursposes as both of you have begun- e.g.

  • To decrease isolation and increase cultural awareness, cultural interaction, and cultural competency among students and educators from schools of various nations through collaboration.

And we could have objectives by content area- e.g. Environmental Science

  • To deliver science content within a framework of global and local health and environmental issues that will result in increased competency in the collection and measurement, and, analysis and interpretation, of scientific data within a relevant context that applies to problems shared by global stakeholders.




Although the above are all excellent responses, I had hoped that more people would weigh in (especially educators). Perhaps we're beating a dead horse.

I (for one ) see a difference in today's emphasis on global education (at least in the US) as distinct from the "Sputnik" (late 1950s) and "Peace Corps" (1960s) moments of the past. Whereas the earlier efforts were more about "getting ahead", today's challenge seems more about coping globally with the undesirable legacies of the scientific-industrial era and the need to bring maximum brainpower and perspective to the long reconciliation process that lies ahead. My own synthesis would look something like this:

Today's globally shared realities [the economy and financial system; ecological sustainability; health; and security] cannot be addressed in isolation. These complex realities require global approaches and solutions. Today's students must be prepared to collaborate as global citizens of a diverse, interdependent world. Promoting the skills of global competency today [world languages and cultures, critical thinking, systems thinking and networked learning among global classrooms] will lead to the habit of networked problem-solving that can enhance our collective potential for prosperity and survival in the future.

Patricia, we are not beating a dead horse. Let's try and get a bit more life into this all the same:

Lucy sent out a mail request and we at wrote an answer as an open letter to her, here is the link:

Global education is our lifeblood and it contains the essence of what we believe in!

I want to add this further thought: Most people are quite prepared to give others a helping hand if they feel assured that they will not be taken advantage of (here is more on Stefan Klein's thesis and on the elemental web's principles
Life as it should be is all about a fair give and take, right? So how should needs and offers be communicated well if not between the globally open and aware ? Global education to me is the synergy between knowledge and encouragement to the best way of thinking big.


Wishing all of you a good February,
the "Alpine Anglophile" Nina 


The horse is alive and kicking! Global competency - to be "globalwise" - is the aim of a project that I started recently.


Please see


You are all welcome to join!






I love the term "globalwise".  To me it expresses the idea that there exists a "globalwisdom"; and, we need to help our learners become educated participants.


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