Innovating Education: Becoming a Global Citizen – 6 Things To Do.

As a result of an increasingly technologically ‘connected’ world, we are seeing the benefit and NEED to work together to tackle important issues such as climate change, poverty, child protection, warfare, etc. 

As a result of an increasingly technological world, we are seeing the benefits of digital connectedness. Now more than ever, we NEED to work together and harness this privilege to tackle important, global issues such as climate change, poverty, child protection, warfare, etc. 

Coming from a multi-ethnic background myself, like many of us, I have an appreciation for the concept of global citizenship – but what is a global citizen? 

A global citizen is someone who:

  • 5-steps-to-global-citizenship-GCAFeels they have a role to play as a citizen of the world, not just a singular nation – a responsibility and awareness of the wider work being done globally. 
  • respects and values diversity in everything; including people, arts, opinions, and traditions. 
  • Is outraged by social injustice and willing to take action to make the world a better place. 
  • And finally, participates and contributes to the community in the ways they can, rather in a small or large way
  • Is outraged by social injustice and willing to take action to make the world a better place by participating and contributing to the community any way they can, rather small or large.

Although you may think these are nice attributes to have in ourselves, I argue. they are not just nice, but necessary for the safety and survival of our next generation. In this article, I will show you how we can make minor tweaks in our daily lives to help our children become global citizens. 

Let’s get started…. 

Children learn about their ‘citizenship’ and ‘privileges’ in their classrooms and in their homes at a very young age, explicitly and through simple, implicit observation. 

Personally, I have lived in several countries specifically in the Middle East region and in the United States, in which my 4 children attended private and public schools in the Middle East and in the United States. When my oldest daughter, (now 16) was 3 years old, she was asked to take an entry-level assessment in preschool in order to get into a large prestigious private school. Like many young children, she was shy, sweet, and reserved. The assessment was held in a large sports stadium with hundreds of children. During the hour that we waited, she watched as these little children disappeared behind closed doors alone without their parents. Unfortunately for her, she was the last little girl to be called, and the moment she realized what was happening she started crying loudly, and not surprisingly failed her assessment. A few days later we received a letter saying that my daughter was not a good reader and did not know her shapes and colors and could not attend that school. I was devastated, as a new young mother, I took things like that so seriously. As a new mother, I was devastated- I thought it was the end of the world. I took things like that so seriously, as I am sure most new mothers can relate to. I tried to negotiate with the school to give her a second chance. After doing some digging, I found out that if my daughter re-applied using her other nationality, she could get in without the assessment. 

Foolishly, I did exactly that. My daughter got in and spent several years at that school. Using her other passport got her certain privileges and less academic expectation. She was perceived differently by her classmates and teachers. I was part of giving my three-year-old this early bad lesson on ‘ global citizenship’. I have learned a lot since that day. Early experiences such as these affect our children’s brain architecture. Children remember these experiences, either consciously or unconsciously. Interestingly, in the same school, my daughter spent years learning about values, civic engagement, social responsibility, and other important topics that were discussed in the classroom. However, research tells us that it is about the child’s lived experience that dictates these social mindsets  – not what they are taught in the classroom, especially when it comes to nationality and global outlooks. Everything children experience in their early years is either building the characteristics of a global child or breaking it down.

Next, we will discuss 5 themes that are the building blocks for growing global citizens. In each theme, I will list some very simple, practical examples that we can do with our kids. 

social-experiencesTheme 1: Children’s social experiences are important and memorable. 

First, if we want to grow global citizens, then we need to remember that children’s social experiences matter. 

  • Making sure that children are nice to everyone in their preschool or kindergarten, equally. 
  • Making sure that every child helps to clean up after choice time. 
  • All children must listen equally to each other
  • Practice respecting and listening to the adults around them – (this needs to be balanced with respecting themselves, knowing their own rights as children as well). 
  • Everyone is involved in helping one another. Just as the teacher is tasked to help children. Children also have equal responsibility in helping each other.

Small and simple, these actions are foundational in developing their willingness to Act. In order to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place, these social experiences must be gained from the very start of their engagement with society. 

Theme 2: Children are cognizant of differences and similarities between people living in various countries around the world.

Traveling matters – children learn a lot from these experiences. If you are lucky enough to travel with your children, ask them to. If you can’t travel, conversate on these topics, but remember the things you say as these comments will stick with them 

  • Describe their experiences of interacting with people from different countries (This is a great opportunity to break down stereotypes and biases).
  • Identify simple words in different languages.
  • Even placing a global map in the home is a simple way to acknowledge other places and peoples. In fact, it could even spark their curiosity and lead to positive conversations.

Theme 3: Children make thoughtful decisions about friendship based on social behavior.

Global-Citizen-FriendshipsYoung children notice differences in the behavior of other children. 

Ask a five-year-old why they chose a specific person to be their friend, they will say that ’that person is nice and plays with me’. Some children consider all their classmates as friends, while others play with children from outside the classroom. In any case, children understand rules for behavior and misbehavior. Children do not like to play with children that misbehave. These may seem like simple situations, but in fact, are the fundamental decisions that will carry through their adulthood and come up with every future relationship they will have. 

These basic skills will later build into developing more advanced traits of a global citizen – a preschooler who refuses to play with another child that misbehaves is the foundation for the future adult who feels outraged towards social injustice.  

  • If the child comments on the foreignness of certain social and cultural behaviors, acknowledge it –  Push them to have an open mind and explore these differences,

Theme 4: Children are experienced technological users who are aware of safety rules.

All of us working parents are guilty of letting our kids use tablets, phones, play online games, etc. But do not underestimate the smaller acts of safety and sensible use that we instill and model in the early years. This affects their ability to become a global citizen. 

  • Explain how we charge devices when the battery is low. 
  • Using only one application at a time. 
  • Keeping our devices clean and away from food and drink. 
  • Not pushing buttons without adult permission. 
  • Sticking to time limits (I am guilty of not really following this one). 
  • Never using devices during playdates as a respect to guests. 
  • Be cognizant of the messages certain applications promote.

Critical thinking is one of the most important skills to develop children into global citizens. These basic skills will later help develop a more advanced Understanding of How the World Works Economically, Politically, Socially, Culturally, Technologically, and Environmentally. 

Theme 5: Children act as informed consumers who make judgments about sharing, spending, or saving resources, such as money.

Children are first-hand buyers. My preschooler watches YouTube videos and makes wish lists for toys he wants me to get on his next birthday. He has a piggy bank where he collects dollars and saves up for toys – although I still feel the urge to buy his toys with my own money.  Giving money to shopkeepers, receiving change, and accepting the receipt are all examples of sensible skills that children need to become global citizens. Daily, thoughtful decisions about social behavior, about themselves, and about the community are the fundamental skills of a global citizen. It is paramount to give them real-life experiences interacting with society, autonomously. This also helps check their social privileges too.

Theme 6: Respect and Value for Diversity 

Young children express genuine curiosity in themselves and other people. Kids want to play with everyone and learn about different people. By nature, they are accepting of others. So, we as adults need to nurture this innate goodness by: 

  • Inviting children to talk about the different languages they speak and facilitate linguistic exploration 
  • Talking about first-hand experience traveling to a foreign country 
  • Acknowledging your own appreciation for other cultures
  • Even exposing them to different cuisines at an early age can foster cultural appreciation and limit ‘othering’

According to OXFAM (1997, p.1) a global citizen: is aware of the wider world and has a sense of their own role as a world citizen; respects and values diversity; has an understanding of how the world works economically, politically, socially, culturally, technologically and environmentally; is outraged by social injustice; is willing to act to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place, and participates in and contributes to the community at a range of levels from the local to the global. – (Twigg, D., Twigg J. And Pendergast, D. 2015)

What you do today matters, the small decisions you take with your children matters, ……. the details matter!!! 

In 10 years or so (which will go by so fast), they will start thinking about, planning for their own future. Then, they will begin forming their own families and raising the next generation of children. What will their children’s childhoods be like? Where will our learning from this generation of children take us next? What will global citizenship look like in 20, 50, or 100 years? 

Dr. Samia Kazi is a social entrepreneur, an early childhood education consultant, and a specialist. She has worked with international NGO’s government bodies, investment funds, and regional advocacy centers to help improve early childhood systems, policies, and quality assurance systems. Samia founded a leading early childhood teacher training academy in the Middle East, called Arabian Child, and is a global advisor for Global Childhood Academy, the number one hub for training adults who work with and care for children. She also serves as the regional director for the Middle East at Childhood Education International. She is a proud board member of Ellis, an early childhood organization based in Boston, USA – and serves as program committee chair. 

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