Developing skills and attitudes for global citizenship

Posted: 01 November 2021

Global citizenship

The common passion shared by Round Square schools for promoting a values-based global perspective, and building global competence in their students, has never been more relevant or more needed.

In order to actively contribute to, and thrive in, an increasingly international and intercultural society, our students must acquire and put into practice a wide range of skills including intercultural team-working, international communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving. They will need to be tenacious, courageous, compassionate, inventive, self-aware and appreciative of the strength found in diversity. These are essential qualities, attitudes and skills for a generation that is already internationally-mobile, globally-connected, and likely to be even more so in adult life.

“In terms of our role as educators in shaping Global Citizens, I think we are in particularly interesting times” says Martha Perry, Principal of St. Clement’s School in Toronto. “It has never been more important to ensure that our students feel a compulsion to be positive agents of change, and have the capacity to embrace diversity, remaining open to a variety of view-points and approaches,” she says “We can only grow when we stretch ourselves and step outside of our own comfort zone and environment. In this context it is so important that we offer our students and faculty as many opportunities as possible to connect face-to-face with people from around the world and immerse themselves in other cultures and environments. ‘Teaching’ global citizenship means compelling students into experiences that allow them, with just enough freedom and guidance, to develop skills and attitudes for learning and for life.”

This idea of direct personal experience in developing global citizens is echoed by Eric Niles, Head of School at The Athenian School in California. “We believe that fostering empathy and compassion are critical needs in shaping global citizens.” He says “As a Round Square school we arrange exchanges for our students to other Round Square schools. It is one thing to read about a country or culture in a textbook; it is quite another to live in that country and be influenced by that culture.”

“Right now, almost one-third of Athenian’s sophomores are going on exchanges. This gives each of them this deep global experience and allows students at those schools to come join our community. In essence, Round Square allows our students to go out to the world and for the world to come to us. I recall that when Nelson Mandela passed away in 2013, there were two students from South Africa here on exchange at the time and their presence so deepened the learning experience for students in their classes. There is no substitute for that.”

This sentiment is echoed in the experiences of Zoe Sun, a Chinese national and former student of Hotchkiss School who participated in a Round Square International Service Project in Ladakh in Northern India, home to a largely Tibetan Buddhist community:

”Being Chinese, it was at first difficult for me to grasp that I was in a land that was supposed to be hostile to me, because media, politicians, and a nationalist education had always reminded me, prior to this trip, of the schism between India and China and the two peoples; but throughout the trip, the locals who worked along with us were nothing but welcoming and hospitable.” She says.

“During our last day at the site, they told me ‘Chinese and Tibetans, we are brothers and sisters’. I don’t think anything has ever been so touching to me: it shows me that our respect and love for each other will always transcend the arbitrary borders that attempt to divide our common identity as human beings. Ladakh was a magical place that opened my eyes and inspired me to see the world for myself, instead of being told what the world is supposed to be like. Everywhere I went, I marvelled at how much cultures borrow from each other and how few of the world wonders would exist if not for the exchange of wisdoms and technologies. I think it is an especially important lesson given the current rise in nationalist sentiments.”

This willingness to discover through first-hand experience, rather than believe received wisdom, is a refreshing, if sometimes challenging, characteristic of students in Round Square schools. Together we expect, encourage and prepare our students to challenge, to question, to explore, take responsibility, feel compassion, be outraged by social injustice and to be moved to stand up for what they believe in. As Kurt Hahn put it; “Education must enable young people to effect what they have recognized to be right, despite hardships, despite dangers, despite inner scepticism, despite boredom, and despite mockery from the world.”

In its most dynamic form, Global Competence is about developing and exercising the necessary skills and understanding to effect positive change on a global scale. At is most passive, it is about acceptance, tolerance and compassion. It is our belief that a generation whose learning journey affords the opportunity to develop both will perhaps be better equipped to work in harmony to tackle some of the global challenges that lie ahead.

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