Global Citizenship: Meaning and Implications for Pre-College Education

I have the privilege of writing this post from Salzburg as a participant in the Global Citizenship Program (GCP) 70 at the Salzburg Global Seminar.  Beyond the beauty of our settings, the GCP has impressed me with some early, deep thinking about the meaning – and necessity – for thinking as a global citizens as educators.  While most of the attendees are from institutions of higher educations, the work and conversations of this week have significant implications for global citizenship in primary, middle, and secondary schools.

What is global citizenship?  The pre-session readings and early plenary speakers were careful to note that while there is not a single, concise definition of global citizenship, there are some generally agreed upon themes and ideas:

  • Global citizenship requires that we work to understand the perspective of others and demonstrate empathy to different cultures, ways of thinking, and practices.
  • Global citizenship extends thinking and acting beyond traditional borders (e.g. nationality, tribe), yet does not mean relinquishing those parts of one’s identity.
  • Global citizenship requires action on issues such as social justice, environmental change, and economic and resource inequality.
  • Systems thinking is integral to understanding the issues and generating solutions.

What can educators do?  The GCP faculty made a strong and well-supported argument for the need to contextualize student learning within global issues (e.g. natural resource allocation and use, human migration, environmental changes).  The challenges confronting the global community are signficant and will require widespread collaboration.  Many of these issues require thinking and actions that favor the whole, rather than the individual (an implication of global citizenship).  In light of this context, it seems that educators might consider the following steps to promote the ideals of global citizenship:

  • Integration of systems thinking into the curricula
  • Promotion of cross-departmental conversations and curriculum development
  • Creation of opportunities for students to gain perspective on local and global issues (e.g. travel and immersion programs, service learning projects)
  • Elevation of social justice work within the academic and co-curricular programs
  • Building of cross-cultural communication skills

There are many ways to enter into this conversation and it should be noted that it is easier to generate this list than to implement each idea successfully.  Regardless of where a school is in its thinking about and understanding of global citizenship, there are many entry points into this conversation.  Helpfully, global citizenship is a useful umbrella for much of the current direction of work for many independent schools.


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