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Growing a Global Mindset
By Tiffani Razavi, TIE Staff Writer 03-Feb-16
The IB’s mandate to teach international perspectives and intercultural competence to the first generation of world citizens,/b> Last weekend, my husband and I wanted to take the kids out for the day, get out of town, go somewhere different. We rattled through a list of some well-loved nature reserves. All too close to dodgy border areas, outposts of extremist groups or military activity. Historic sightseeing, perhaps? No, tensions running too high in ancient cities. We ended up eating pancakes at a mini-mall just slightly out of a town that is not our own. Not too bad. One way or another, our children are growing up globally conscious. To experience the consequences of shabby international relations in the mere curtailment of leisure activity is, of course, insignificant, but it is real; it is felt and it reminds us that we are small pieces of a great big picture. In some places, perhaps, it is less common for children to feel personally any direct impact of global trends. But, sadly, growing numbers live out the harsh realities of a world that has yet to come to terms with its global identity; these children experience the effects of migration, radicalism, prejudice, and oppression on a daily basis. Alongside political responses to these crises, and the ambitious but necessary goals set out in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, there is an undeniable educational imperative to foster a mindset among the children and youth of the world that will lay the foundation for a harmonious global society. C.M. Rubin of CMRubin World, an online forum for global discourse, describes a “scramble” among education systems “to find better ways to teach international perspectives and intercultural competence to the first generation of world citizens.” The notion that today’s is the first generation of world citizens is open to debate, as TIE readers, many long-time educators of ever-increasing cohorts of third-culture kids, and often third-culture adults themselves, will no doubt note. International schools are already in the business of asking questions about global-mindedness, and International Baccalaureate (IB) schools in particular have some fifty years of experience. The IB organization already “has developed deep fluency in the practice of these concepts” says its Director General, Dr. Siva Kumari in a recent interview with Rubin. Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the OECD Secretary General concurs, “Many schools ask themselves these days how they can develop not just sound disciplinary competency, but also character qualities such as courage, integrity, curiosity, leadership, resilience and empathy. The IB schools have a long track record with this.” That track record, and the philosophy on which it is based, offer the contours of a global mindset in principle, and a glimpse of how it can be shaped in practice. As articulated in the opening of its mission statement, “The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.” That is not to say that such understanding and respect are an alternative to a sense of cultural and national identity, but rather an essential part of the reality of the world today. IB programs “encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate, and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.” Says Kumari, “We work with our teachers, students and schools all around the world, we practice both deep local pride in an individual’s culture and a connection to global issues.” That the IB began to take shape as a constructive response to the atrocities of the Holocaust by survivor John Goormaghtigh is a testament to the elevated, other-centered mindset it seeks to cultivate in young people. At the core of the approach is a crucial fundamental assumption about human nature—that the human being has the capacity “to use knowledge and empathy” to make the world a better place—and that education is essential to unleashing that capacity. Flagship components of the IB’s Diploma Programme “Theory of Knowledge” (TOK) and “Creativity, Action, and Service” (CAS) enable students to see knowledge holistically and recognize important connections across disciplines, as well as to appreciate their own role and responsibility as protagonists of social change in the interest of collective well-being. Kumari describes these as “mind-expanding activities, unique in secondary education, which link ideas to actions and consequences.” She adds that one of the subject groups in both the Diploma and the Middle Years Programs, “Individuals and Societies,” requires students to explore the specific issues raised in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: ecological consciousness, equality, and the barriers to worldwide prosperity. “So the IB has concerns for humanity hardwired into it, in its philosophical heritage, its mission, and today’s curricula,” she notes. The hope is that IB students become “ambassadors for mindful leadership.” Having been taught to address complex problems through participation in these programs and assessed according to internationally competitive standards, their minds are developed to deal with serious questions, and to use that preparation to address global issues carefully, as leaders of thought, discourse, and action. Equipping young people to successfully navigate the global reality of this period in humanity’s collective life often generates discussion about topics such as soft skills, the digital revolution, the environment, and the challenge of preparing children for jobs that don’t yet exist, but the IB emphasizes the broader context of the educational process. “In its essence, education is about teaching students to think, to stretch and to develop themselves, on the basis of rational thought, self-discipline, research and inquiry—and, not least, the deep instincts for justice and equality which are natural to 99 percent of the world’s citizens,” Kumari asserts. “It is about living life consciously and reflectively,” she says, “This requires habits to be honed throughout their school years.” Education is, finally, about creating better lives, inspiring students to give their best and make the most of their abilities no matter the focus of their interest. Just as the phrase implies, a global mindset requires a conception of the world as a single entity, without relinquishing the importance of its component parts, much in the way we view a human body in its wholeness and value each sense and organ for its unique function. These are not themes confined to the IB, and while its philosophy and practice provide experience from which to learn, the growth of a global mindset must be surely the concern of all educators today, in any setting.
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