Editorial: The missing global link

Last Updated on Friday, 19 November, 2021 at 12:02 pm by Andre Camilleri

It’s clear from Liz Barbaro Sant’s interview this week, many entities such as TradeMalta promote local companies to go global, and think global. But before any business leader “goes global” we must back track a little to comprehend what skills can lead to a more “global” Malta.

Primarily, our educational system needs to prepare and lend itself to developing a stellar workforce of tomorrow. We must support those coming up through the ranks with opportunities to learn and develop overseas and “think outside of the box”, or in this case, the Maltese islands. We need more partnerships with entities abroad to send our students on learning experiences, not just Erasmus at the university level. We need global learning from the get-go.

At its core, global learning facilitates educational experiences that allow students to appreciate diverse perspectives and fully comprehend their connections to the wider world. It’s about effectively communicating and collaborating across cultures and countries and using disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge to investigate and take action on issues that matter to them and the wider world. Global learning should not be an “extra” add on or a “nice-to-have” course that only a handful of students can take, nor should it be relegated to a fun project the last few weeks of school or just for those families with a lot of euros in the bank to snap up opportunities abroad. Why? Global issues and perspectives can easily be integrated as a lens for teaching core areas. Furthermore, global learning can lead to holistic student outcomes that lead to academic success and overall well-being and ultimately create well-rounded leaders of tomorrow.

Research has identified that when students learn through authentic tasks and real-world experiences, they are more likely to engage, leading to higher attendance and achievement. Global education directly engages students with real-world issues and activities. What better way to entice students to practice Italian than have them Zoom with peers in Sicily or teach the skills of writing an argumentative essay by having them debate current global events pulled straight from the headlines?

Then there comes career readiness. Our economy is global, with millions of jobs linked to international trade and plenty here in Malta. As a result, employers today are desperate to recruit graduates with cross-cultural skills that allow them to work in diverse teams and comfortably with clients worldwide. By providing students with opportunities to understand the wider world and the diversity of people, cultures, and perspectives, schools also give students a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Plenty of top professors and psychologists such as Dr Ariel Wagner have identified, learning from and with the world doesn’t only benefit students’ academic development but contributes to their social-emotional development as well. Global education helps develop self-awareness of one’s own identity, culture, beliefs and how those connect with the wider world, social awareness including empathy and perspective-taking. The list is endless, they learn the value of appreciating diversity, respecting others, and relationship-building skills with diverse individuals and groups through effective communication and collaboration. Yes, dare I say it- we can also help cultivate a positive culture towards those in Malta who aren’t from here. Government, teachers, leaders and the wider community all have a role in promoting global initiatives that turn our classrooms and schools into windows to the world, and it needs to start now.

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