Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Globalization, Global Citizenship, and International Schools

Globalization is not new – though the current form is probably the most well-documented and researched. Tilly (2004) talks about the three forms of globalization – migration of population; spread of ideas, techniques and forms of organization; and increased coordination of activities at a world scale. Throughout history, people have always felt the “grass was greener” somewhere else, from the first humans who left Africa to find more verdant lands to the post-WWII flight from Eastern Europe to escape crushing memories and destruction. Each time, the immigrants brought with them their traditions, culture and way of life and, even when pressured to conform, the two (or more) cultures melded – or as Bhabha (1994) would say, created hybridization. Throughout the middle ages, kingdoms and fiefdoms fought each other and gained power through mutual alliances. In Cleopatra's time, she formed an alliance with Julius Caesar in order to promote Egypt's place in the Roman Empire. Within the last 60 years, the United States has become a world power - meaning that the ideas, fads, fashions, commerce and businesses of the US were replicated, extended, and adopted by other people and countries.

As a backlash to the “Americanization” of the world, new forms of organization are becoming the ruling class of the world – World Bank, European Union, and the World Trade Organization,and the International Monetary Fund. The increased coordination of activities at a world scale is what is new with this current incarnation of globalization. In the past, the conqueror would determine how activities were organized with in the empire – and generally the conquered would be forced to adopt most of the conqueror's ways. The Roman Empire built extensive roads in order to better administrate their lands. The Islamic Empire was united through religion. The British Empire dominated through colonization and conversion. However, today, the coordination is through economic means, and is not confined to a single country or government. Multi-national companies and international cooperatives are determining the day-to-day activities of a major chunk of the world. According to Newsweek, the top ten global companies are Wal-Mart Stores,Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Toyota Motor, Chevron, ING Group, Total, General Motors, and ConocoPhillips. The world power is whoever controls “power” - most of the top 10 companies control gas and oil. Although OPEC still controls the land where most oil is found, these international companies are improving technologies to get more oil from other fields and produce alternative forms of energy. On a more personal level, Appiah (2008) believes that globalization is not only having access to knowledge of the lives and ways of other people, but also, having the power to affect other people.

McKenzie (2004) gives a checklist for a global citizen, which includes: global appreciation, supports sustainable living and development, being epistemologically nomadic, multilingual, multicultural, being prepared to stand up for others who are very different or far away, be empathetic, and radically challenge those ideas that seem unquestionable or inevitable.

Globalization and Education

World culture theory, as developed by John Meyer, Francisco Ramirez, John Boli and colleagues, argues that the culture of schooling is converging toward a single global model, based on evidence of broad similarities among schooling systems across nations, including common ideals, institutional forms and practices, organizational features, curricula and instructional methods. For many American international schools, much of the unwritten curriculum is an enculturation of American values and educational priorities. The school has to educate both parents and students how to “do school” the American way, which includes projects, group work, disagreeing with the teacher and others and supporting opinion. Often schools give workshops and handouts about homework, reading practices and bullying. By doing this, the school feels it is preparing students to fit into American universities and international universities. But, is that creating global citizens? In actuality, like the Romans did as they conquered other peoples, the schools are creating citizens that could fit into American society. And yet, the local community and culture, along with the tertiary school culture (made up of locals, third country nationals, and Americans), had a strong influence on how American education is interpreted in that context. As Lee and LiPuma (2002) said, “these interpretive communities determine lines of interpretation, found institutions, and set boundaries based principally on their own internal dynamic.”

Bauman (1998) cites Dunlap's principle of the company belonging to the shareholders, not the workers or locality. This is true in a lot of schools, yet more evident in American international schools – especially in the schools where the student population is overwhelmingly foreign as opposed to local. Generally, the school board is elected of and by the parents. This board sets policy, approves hiring, budget etc. Often, the parents will only be in-country for 2-5 years, so their agendas are short term - “what's best for my kid.” It is difficult to get long-term programs and ideas to move forward, because the student body and faculty turn over every 2-5 years. There can be a sense of “freedom from the duty to contribute to daily life and the perpetuation of the community”(p. 9) along with “no need to engage, if avoidance will do.” (p.11) Often American or third country national students will not become involved in local sports or hang out with neighborhood kids because the students knew they would move away eventually. With a high turnover rate for foreign hire teachers, many outreach programs that are started, such as visits to a local orphanage and offering professional development to local teachers, ended as soon as sponsoring teacher leaves.

Within a country, an international school often has unique ties to the local government. Often, the government has to sanction the formation of an international school, which for developing countries, means creating and passing new laws. Implicitly, this means the ruling body agrees with the fundamentals of having foreigners educating the youth in the country. Which, conversely, indicates that the local educational system could not handle the demands of the foreigners in the local schools. By creating separate schools, the nomadic foreigners are insulated from the context of local society, which does, (in many cases) create resentment. In some schools, students are bussed directly to the school, with only a few students, who speak the local language, taking public buses. However, these students may cover up or take off their uniforms because they would be harassed by local students about being “Preppies” or the rich kids who go to the school that anyone can buy their way into. The American international schools are generally better funded, are able to import supplies and materials easily, sometimes get special treatment from the government (taxes, educational requirements etc), can hire more educated faculty and the students come from a higher socioeconomic class than the local population.

To combat this resentment and to create “globally aware citizens,” many American international school require community service projects for the students, which, in theory, gives back to the local community. However, at times, it creates a greater sense of superiority in students and faculty, rather than empathy. As Bauman (1998) says, “Globalization divides as much as it unites; it divides as it unites.” (p. 2) When shopping for gifts for the poorer local kids, some students would buy inferior gifts than if buying for their own friends, assuming that since the local kids had little, any gift would be appreciated.

But what does it mean to educate for global citizenship? Appiah (2008) states that there are three ideals for global citizenship: 1) No single world government 2) Caring for the fate of all fellow citizens 3) Engagement in real conversation between people. He looks back to the Greek sense of education which was to shape the citizen for their common, communal life. However, now, that community is not just the polis, or city/local area. It has expanded to include a global common life – the cosmos. So, schools should be educating for cosmopolitanism – “universality plus difference” (p. 92) which recognizes the fallibility of knowledge and the right for each person to live their own life, as long as that way only effects his/her own fate, even if someone else thinks that way is wrong. Which means, that as a global citizen, a person should spend more time listening and learning from other people, rather than imposing their own will or pointing out their differences. Becoming a global citizen, in Ebbeck's view (2008), should be more about gaining a future-oriented perspective, one that envisions not only a personal future, but a world future with less violence and more tolerance, which is sometimes called a “peace curriculum.” Mckenzie (2004) echoes Ebbeck's concern about the extreme violence in the world, but he believes that the primary purpose of schools should be builders of community – one that cooperates, not confronts; builds interdependence, teamwork and patience. And, through the strength of the school's community, promote community outside the school grounds.

Examples of Global Citizenship Education

Often, the job of teaching “global citizenship” is put on the social studies teachers and curriculum, rather than being infused into the core beliefs of the school. However, even within that context, there are obstacles to effective global citizenship pedagogy. First, there is no single definition of global citizenship education. It is often subsumed under other frameworks, such as multicultural education or even economic education. Even when it is placed within citizenship education, there are significant differences in the requirements of local verse global citizenship. Finally, many people fear that a focus on global citizenship undermines local citizenship (Rapaport, 2008).

Global Learning is a specific pedagogical approach in which learners of different cultures use technologies to improve their global perspective through contact and cooperation with people of other cultures (Gibson, Rimmington, & Landwehr-Brown, 2008). In this model, the instructor creates a set of necessary conditions: 1) Cultural contrasts between participants (ideally in different countries) 2) Modern communication technologies such as Internet and web-based communication applications 3) Substantive and authentic goal 4) Designed to require teamwork. Once these conditions are met, the learners must use a range of attributes/dispositions and processes/skills which may need to be explicitly taught. By engaging with others, especially with those who may be different, on a project with a mutual goal, learners come to understand how interconnected and interdependent the world is, in spite of cultural diversity. However, more influential, the authors found, was the fact that the instructor also becomes more globally conscious through the contacts made in the design of the project.

In Singapore, Lim (2008) documents a unique fusing of content area knowledge and multi-user virtual environments to create a role playing game in which the player must work together with other players, to solve social, ecological and cultural problems reminiscent of current problems. Through “quests” players must define the problem, research possible solutions using examples from other cultures, and design a policy paper describing their solution. The underlying design of the game supports student agency, tolerance and diversity, while at the same time, removing the barriers between school and non-school knowledges. In replicating the global issues currently being faced, and engaging the students as citizens, they realistically practiced the skills needed for responsible adult global citizenship.


Appiah, K. (2008, April). Education for global citizenship. Yearbook of the national society for the study of education. 107(1), pp. 83-99.
Bhabha, H. (1994). The location of culture. New York: Routledge.
Bauman, Z. (1998). Globalization: The human consequences. Cambridge, Polity.
Ebbeck, M. (2006). The challenges of global citizenship: Some issues for policy and practice in early childhood education. Childhood Education, 82(6). p. 353-357.
Gibson, K.L., Rimmington, G.M., & Landwehr-Brown, M. (2008). Developing global awareness and responsible world citizenship with global learning. Roeper Review, 30(1). p. 11-23.
Lee, B. & LiPuma, E. (2002) Cultures of circulation: The imaginations of modernity. Public Culture 14(1): 191-213.
Lim, C. P., (2007). Global citizenship education, school curriculum and games: Learning mathematics, English and science as a global citizen. Computers & Education, 51. p.1073–1093.
McKenzie, M. (2004). Sense of community and the emerging global citizen. Independent School, 63 (3), p. 10-16
Newsweek. (2008, July 21). Global 500. Fortune magazine. Retrieved December 26, 2008 from http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/global500/2008/full_list/
Rapoport, A. (2008). A forgotten concept: Global citizenship education and state social studies standards. Journal of Social Studies Research 33(1), p. 75-93.