Educating for the 21st Century

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In the recent decades, the development of intercultural competence and global awareness has been a key learning outcome for the higher education programs. Gradually, along with the rapid change and increasing interconnectedness of the world, international-mindedness and global citizenship has gained high priority even on the elementary school teaching agenda. In an increasingly globalized world, students require solid understanding of how their daily choices and actions affect the ability of others around the world to have their rights met. The clothes we wear affect the life of families in the developing world. The food we eat impacts farmers, food producers, and the health of the planet. The products we use affect the rain-forests in various parts of the world and so on. Therefore, it is of greatest importance for school programs to become relevant to the global context by preparing young learners for their future role as responsible global citizens through the utilization of teaching approaches that employ broad and meaningful learning experiences.

If we are to bridge the East and the West in an effort to build better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect, there needs to be in place a holistic education, employing a combination of certain Eastern and Western values, aimed at nurturing students to communicate effectively with others (regardless of their differences) and act independently with confidence for the purpose of serving their community and the greater world. Only when we bring together the Eastern practices of collaboration, generosity, and humility with the Western ideals of open communication, incessant drive, and resolute commitment, can we make sure that the future generations will grow into responsible global citizens. To support the growth of global-minded students around the world, both collectivist and individualist cultures need to adapt to the values of the opposite culture and to find the way in-between the two extremes.

When it comes to the Far East, greater efforts need to be invested into developing the individual personalities of Asian kids and on building their self-esteem, as a result. Therefore, Asian curricula need to integrate the investigation and understanding of one’s personal and national identity as part of the construction and realization of the selfhood. Meanwhile, students need to be encouraged to spend more time working and learning independently. By heightening their sense of self-confidence and initiative, Asian pupils will be better prepared for facing and responding to unpredictable situations. Work towards instilling healthy self-esteem in children can also help in counter-balancing the Eastern extreme social consciousness, or the susceptibility to peer pressure. Parents and teachers collaboratively need to work towards imparting a sense of self-worth and responsibility to boost the ability of Asian students to withstand peer pressure and act from their own sense of what’s right. Compassion requires leadership and character is its prerequisite. When it comes to the West, on the other hand, the emphasis on the individual, versus the community, requires the Eastern focus on understanding and reflection. A few of the Eastern religions talk about self-control and betterment as the ultimate goal in life and humility as the greatest virtue. The Eastern values of patience and kindness not only towards oneself but towards others alike, can provide the scaffold needed to reach a sense of self-control. I’ve mentioned in my very first blog post that there is a strong need for Western societies to come closer to the East by stressing more onto the teaching of values and morals. Indeed, it’s astonishing how lessons gain meaning and relevance when they are based on and tied to values young learners are taught at school and at home. Leadership requires compassion and a spirit of humility is its prerequisite.

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