Can global citizenship be taught?

I recently attended a curriculum design hackathon at Columbia University where the challenge was to design a three-day curriculum to teach high school students about the essentials of global citizenship. After an intensive afternoon of brainstorming and discussing, a question dawned upon me later that night.

Can global citizenship or a global mindset be taught? 

In my humble opinion, the straightforward answer is no. Global citizenship is a mindset. It is a lifestyle. It is an attitude. It is an identity. 

I believe that a global mindset is first sparked from within, which then leads to an outward change in a person’s actions and attitudes. 

To me, global citizenship is above all a sense of responsibility towards the global community. We all belong to a world village. But how do we get more students, and people, to care?

Emotions and bonds with others create the most impactful, lasting memories that can change a person forever. So we must aim to create genuine multicultural friendships that can motivate meaningful cross-cultural exchange and connections. These relationships will in turn shape the future of the global sphere and diplomatic dialogues.

Here is where Student Language Exchange comes in. SLE works towards “making the world a more accepting, understanding, collaborative place” through language and cultural exchange.

As a teaching fellow and campus director at Brandeis, I was able to make many like-minded new friends. We discussed similarities and differences between Hong Kong and the rest of China in my Cantonese course. As a participant in the Vietnamese course, I discovered and admired the culture’s emphasis on respect for elders. I learned that in Vietnam, you must greet people who are older than you in a certain way, to show your respect for them. Small differences in language are indicative of greater cultural implications.

Sometimes, being motivated to learn a new language is hard. It involves getting out of one’s comfort zone and taking a risk. But after a semester of an SLE course, you realize that you see the world a little differently; you’ve been introduced to new ways of thinking about things with a fresh perspective. You care about this culture, this place, and its people. You might even want to travel and explore further, putting the vocabulary and phrases you’ve learned to good use.

Ultimately, no one can be taught a global mindset. It is a lifelong process of risk-taking and learning, of interpersonal interactions and introspective reflection.

The world is becoming increasingly connected. As a result, our actions may have direct consequences on people on the other side of the globe. We must be aware and be smart decision-makers in our society today, to create a better and more peaceful world for future generations to come.

Miriam Wong

Miriam Wong

Miriam is a master's student at Teachers College of Columbia University studying Elementary Education. During undergrad at Brandeis University, she served as a Cantonese fellow and campus director with SLE.

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