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Spending a lot of time with students both in and outside the classroom has afforded me with many glimpses to the changing ways of young people over the years. When I started teaching, it was not too difficult to get students’ attention as long as I knew what I was talking about, could answer their questions, be ready with a few new strategies to help them understand and be engaged in the lesson. Perhaps, students then were not as distracted to the world of media as the young are today. They communicated in pretty much the same manner I expressed my views. Students then, though not all, were relatively aware and took an interest in what was happening in the world. A number even cared enough to take action in the hope that their small but significant projects would somehow impact a portion of the population that was affected by the issues they confronted.
Today, a decade later, students are more globally connected and media savvy. This puts them in a better position than the young before to possess a greater competency and stronger influence on the issues we face today. Yet, I find some of our youth with a seemingly jaded and detached attitude towards issues occurring in their own country in particular, and in global society at large.
It would not therefore be presumptuous to say that perhaps, young people today need to be more prepared for the vastly interconnected and highly competitive global village we live in. I am not saying that the young are not globally aware. They are, in fact very much so. But global awareness calls for more than posting tweets on the internet and responding to status changes every so often. The idea behind global awareness is the promotion of international understanding. Then again, to understand is not simply to mouth off empty platitudes on peace and good will. Understanding, especially when people around the world have different beliefs, cultures, traditions and practices that do not always coincide with ours, is not only difficult but almost impossible.
What then does global competency entail and demand from our young? According to Anthony Rebora, Managing Editor of Education Week Teacher, global competency can be defined through the following basic principles.
1. Investigating the World
To be aware of the world outside is basic. More important than this, Rebora claims that it is important to develop in our students a healthy curiosity and take an active interest in both local and international experiences. An investigative mind, he says, should explore and answer significant questions that address foreign peoples and cultures.
2. Recognizing and Weighing Perspectives
Students understand that not everyone is the same, therefore, not everyone will agree to the same thing. Yet, Rebora argues that they need to realize the need to identify the factors that influenced the development of such perspectives. As a Chinese saying teaches, we first need to wear the shoes of another to see how it fits. Not until then can we fully understand the other’s situation. Failing this, we may lose the chance for communication.
3. Communicating Ideas
Young people are not at a loss for words. In fact, they usually have something to say. But, according to Rebora, they need to know how to communicate verbally and non-verbally with people of different culture, race, region, faith, socio-economic status, and the like. And while communication means knowing at least more than one language, I dare say that it also means knowing how to speak with the tongue, the mind and the heart.
4. Taking Action
Perhaps due to the Facebook craze and the wide influence of social media, young people today are empowered. They know what they can do and are not timid to do what they can. It is important however that they channel these energies to engaging themselves in service projects that would have a significant impact on people’s lives.
5. Acquiring and Applying Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Knowledge
Knowledge is not fragmented. All knowledge are interconnected and students ought to use the knowledge they acquire in the different disciplines to better understand the world. Better yet, they should be able to use these to inquire into international events and cultural issues that impact the world today.
So how do we develop global competence in our young? We find the answer by practicing those same principles mentioned above. As always, we cannot teach what we don’t know. We cannot influence when we don’t practice what we teach.
The young will know if we tell them. But they will do if we show them.