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What is global citizenship and what is its place in education?

What is global citizenship and what is its place in education?

Global citizenship is loosely defined as “recognising the interconnectedness of life, respecting cultural diversity and human rights, advocating global social justice, empathising with suffering people around the world, seeing the world as others see it and feeling a sense of moral responsibility for planet Earth.” In effect, rather than seeing oneself as a citizen of a single country or place, a global citizen sees their identity as transcending borders of politics and geography, operating as a member of humanity and not just a single nationality.

While global citizenship is not limited to those studying a university degree, there is no doubting its prevalence in the higher education sector. Universities including Deakin, Bond and La Trobe all have programs and initiatives promoting global citizenship. These programs vary in scope but can feature overseas study and volunteering to give the concept real-world context. As technology continues to break down geographical barriers, graduates must be increasingly prepared to engage with people from different cultures and adapt to global environments in the workforce.

Soft skills have always been important, and they will continue to increase in demand over the next decade. The Foundation for Young Australians’ The New Work Smarts report found that the demand for enterprise skills would rise dramatically by 2030, including problem solving (100 per cent), critical thinking (41 per cent) and communication (17 per cent). However, are the definitions of strong problem solving or critical thinking skills the same around the world? Global citizens will be equipped with these skills and understand how they differ from country to country, culture to culture.

Author and educator Margaret Hepworth is one Australian leading the charge in the global citizen sphere. After penning The Gandhi Experiment in 2016, which addresses global citizenship, conflict resolution and non-violence, she has continued to spread the message of peacebuilding through learning, running workshops and presentations across India, Pakistan and Indonesia. While Margaret’s core message is directed at informing teenagers, it is applicable to people of all ages and encourages the kind of rigorous debate that universities are renowned for fostering.

Being a global citizen might mean different things to different people, but the overarching principles of tolerance, respect and responsibility should be furthered and prospered at every opportunity, inside of the classroom and out. 

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