Can global consciousness be taught at the school level?

One of the iconic moments was surely the pictures of school students all around the world participating in the Global Climate Strike to draw attention to environmental issues.
Representational image.(HT file)
Representational image.(HT file)
Published on Dec 25, 2019 05:19 PM IST
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New Delhi | ByTom Birtwistle

December is here, so we indulge ourselves in looking back on the year that was. One of the iconic moments was surely the pictures of school students all around the world participating in the Global Climate Strike to draw attention to environmental issues. Evident in the throngs of people was the solidarity felt for an issue that hangs over us all. They were connected with people they’d never met, from places they would struggle to place on a map because they felt an urgent need to be united. It suggests that our young people see themselves as global citizens who are socially conscious and passionate about collaborating with peers from across borders. How do our schools cater to this strong identity and demand for internationalism in its offerings? As students across India and the world demand to join hands-on issues facing the world today, schools can enable them to cultivate this international outlook and global awareness through curriculum-based work. While much has been discussed about internationalisation of higher education in the country in recent years, infusing global consciousness-focused initiatives into the school curricula is harder to see. But encouraging a global outlook is as essential at the school level as it is in higher education. Why should someone wait until adulthood to engage with the world around them? With this knowledge, more schools across India are starting to adopt international boards like International Baccalaureate (IB) and Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) to bring more international collaboration and a global perspective to their curriculum. What difference can this decision making? A curriculum that promotes international education benefits schools and students by fostering a different type of learning dynamic where innovation, team management and an extended worldview are prioritised. Last year, schools from Kolkata, India and Selangor, Malaysia took on a challenge to tackle the problem of ‘energy crisis’ together. The students from both schools sourced relevant information from multiple countries - India, Pakistan, Japan, USA and Malaysia and built working models on solar energy, breathing buildings and water filtration plants as intrinsic solutions for the energy crisis. The process of joining forces for energy efficiency helped the students in grasping the importance of working together on issues which are prevalent across all these countries, helping them think beyond their own settings.

All this isn’t just a nice to have; the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals recognise the importance of global citizenship education as part of its quality education objective. Technology is making this ambition more achievable by the day. Interactive connections developed online, with schools from across the globe means sharing best practices and initiating joint work can be done with ease.

Working on subject-specific projects and including international elements to a school’s curriculum are just a part of the learning that students take away from partnering with international schools. Students also develop stronger communication and networking skills and are more receptive to diverse ideas and cultures. To understand the real impact on the young and impressionable minds of students, it is essential to delve deeper into the learnings of students and teachers of some of the schools that have taken steps to internationalise their curriculum. For example, last year, students from B.K Birla Public School in Kalyan regularly put their interpersonal skills, team spirit, cross-cultural acceptance and global citizenry to the test by partnering with schools from five different countries. While the students from classes one to 12th learned about festivals and food of various countries, students of grades 11th and 12th explored fitness trends among youth across the partnering schools. They used platforms like Padlet to connect to their peers in different countries and successfully shared their learning. Students immersed themselves in a broad array of international activities, learning about civilisations of different countries, music forms of five different countries, literary devices of poets of various countries and tactics of spreading awareness on endangered and endemic species.

So, global ambition and action in young people extends far beyond protesting on issues of climate emergency. It begins from a much more innate interest in the world beyond what they can immediately see. Schools can help them feed this curiosity in ways that are both fun and beneficial to their academic and personal development by building in opportunities for their students to connect with peers from far away places. Such commitments are necessary for a connected world built by inquisitive young minds. The higher their exposure to international events and happenings, the greater the global consciousness among young students, the more capable they will be to tackle whatever the future holds for them. Helping make this easier for them should surely be our call to action.

(The author is Director North India, British Council. Views expressed here are personal.)

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