Global education is a term used a lot these days. You may have heard it on the news or read about it in newspapers or magazines. Global education is often used in connection with early childhood curriculum programs. Let’s take a look at what global education means and why it is important for young children.
Before discussing what global education is, it may be helpful to know what global education is not. Global education is not a collection of one-time activities that promote a “tourist approach” to learning about different communities of the world. Nor is it taught in connection with seasons and holidays as a means of comparing and contrasting cultures. Global education is, however, about promoting a perception of the world in terms of “unity within diversity,” helping children to recognize what is similar and unique among cultures. For example, children learn that although individuals and groups of people may have different views of life, they also have common needs and wants. Additionally, global education seeks to instill in children a sense of belonging to a larger world community, which fosters the idea that world systems are interconnected and interdependent. Finally, global education gives children glimpses of the world through the eyes of others, thereby promoting acceptance and tolerance.
We live in a world that grows smaller every day. Advances in technology have shortened the distance between countries and continents. It is easier than ever before to travel to faraway places. The ability to communicate with people on the other side of the globe requires little more than a few clicks on a keyboard, and news that occurs thousands of miles away is received within minutes after it occurs. As we continue to connect with people around the world in these and other ways, we come to see how much our future depends on our ability to cultivate global relationships.
Of course, children’s lives are also affected by new technology and the shrinking global landscape. For example, most school-age children are very comfortable communicating with family and friends through e-mails and text messaging. Children see and hear local, national, and international news on the TV or Internet every day. At school, children interact and play with peers who may speak other languages, celebrate different traditions, and live different lifestyles. It is important that we also help children navigate this exciting and ever-changing landscape.
Teaching Global Education to Children
Among the principles of global education is the notion that global education is basic education, and that it can be interwoven among other disciplines, such as reading and writing, math, and music. For this and other reasons, global education can be seen as lifelong learning—that is, it is not something that can be adequately addressed in a short amount of time. Thus, it is never too early to begin teaching global education to children. As a parent, there are many ways to incorporate global education into your child’s learning. Here are a few.
• Talk with your child about how different people live, eat, play, and work around the world. Seek out high-quality books from your local library or bookstore, such as Children Just Like Me by Unicef. Ask your child questions about the books you read together, encouraging him or her to find the similarities and differences among people around the world.
• Use technology appropriately. The Internet can be a great source of child-appropriate websites about different cultures and places of the world. Be sure to research all websites beforehand to ensure they are appropriate for your child.
• Play games with and expose your child to toys, puzzles, and games from other countries. Since all children play with games and toys, they are a wonderful and fun way for children to learn more about other cultures.
• Attend cultural events in your area to show your child that there are many ways of living, eating, and celebrating. Visit local cultural centers to explore how different people and cultures are the same and different.
• Listen to music CDs from other countries with your child. Combining music with learning is one of the best ways for young children to learn. Try to find translations of the lyrics to help your child learn new words too.
• Encourage your child to learn a new language. Better yet, learn a new language together!
• Finally, always talk respectfully and openly about similarities and differences among people. For example, try to discover the names of some of the unique clothing people in other countries wear, rather than call them “special outfits” or “costumes.”
By engaging in these and other activities regularly, your child will be well on his or her way to becoming a global citizen.