For generations, whenever a serious problem has arisen in any society, whether it has to do with personal, social, economic or international relations, someone is almost certain to insist that education is the cure. It is a universally accepted truth that quality education broadens horizons and ensures access to myriad opportunities.
On the contrary, in Mark Van Doren’s seminal book on the Liberal Arts, he famously claimed that ‘it is impossible to discover a man who believes that the right things were done to his mind’. Even though this book was written during World War II, its thesis is as relevant today as it was then - most people believe that they were taught the wrong things, or taught too little or too much or not in the correct way. Contemporary education seeks to encourage this belief - by training students to critically analyze and question what they have been taught. In other words, a good education trains the mind to think.
This article seeks to evaluate three key skills that must be mandatorily honed in middle/high school students in order to develop future ‘global citizens’ - students who are prepared for jobs of tomorrow- jobs that perhaps don’t yet exist.
The first skill is the ability to communicate. Trevor Noah makes an important point about the significance of language in his remarkable memoir - Born a Crime. While language barriers divide, a common language unites people, no matter how different they are, according to Noah. However, simply learning different languages is not enough. Our multilingual students should be able to understand and evaluate the ripple effect of their actions across national and international borders by empathizing with peers from different cultures, traditions and beliefs. Digital literacy, project-based learning, taking responsibility for one’s actions on social media, empathy for the environment, intersection/inter class activities, and workshops are some examples of practical ways in which effective communication can be honed amongst students across different age groups. Sharpening this skill is, of course, a lifelong process.
A natural offspring of the ability to communicate is the ability to collaborate- this skill has been honed and tested throughout this period of online learning- for students and teachers alike. Students must be able to collaborate with people from different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs and discuss solutions to complex, real-world problems. Intercultural communication and dialogue- a guest lecturer, an exchange program, a virtual tour, a community service project, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary projects are simple ways to hone and reinforce this skill at a high/middle school level.
The third and final skill required to become a global citizen is the ability to think.
As can be seen from the Venn diagram, the ability to think -critically and creatively emerges once a student has empathized i.e. successfully communicated and collaborated across cultures/borders with peers, superiors and juniors. It is naturally extremely difficult to judge the extent to which this has been achieved.
A ‘development rubric’ can be used to measure the extent to which students have practiced a particular skill throughout the course of a semester, module or year. Since different students will be on different levels of this rubric, an interesting teaching strategy would be to nominate students who are effective communicators and collaborators to conduct master classes and/or workshops or become student mentors for their peers or juniors. By doing this, these high achieving students will hone their skills even further and learn how to think critically and creatively.
A student might naturally hone effective critical thinking, communication or collaboration skills by watching international cinema, reading cross-cultural books or pursuing opportunities beyond the classroom or this process may be teacher -led. In either case, sharpening these skills at the school level will lead to the development of global citizens who are resilient enough to face an uncertain, post-COVID future.
By Gayatri Mehta
IBDP Teacher- Economics, Global Politics and Theory of Knowledge
Pathways School Noida