Sep 18, 2017

The Need for Global Citizens

by Jaime Casap

You often hear people say, "It's a small world," when they tell a story of running into someone they know in some distant land. We like to believe it doesn't matter where we live, work, and play, somehow, we are all connected, and the challenges we face are the same, regardless of where we are. While it may be true that the common denominator we all have is being human, we must acknowledge it isn't a small world. It is a complex, multifaceted, diverse, and complicated world. Most of us hardly understand it or know what is happening in it, yet the growing availability of the Internet and low-cost devices to connect to all the world's information brings the complexity of this world to your fingertips. We need to think like global citizens.

In 1995, just 1% of the world was online. Today, it is half the world's population. In a little more than 20 years, we have connected more than 3.5 billion people to information, to products, and to each other! This monumental achievement calls for a realignment of what it means to be a global citizen. If you are a business, understanding the complexities of a global marketplace is even more important. 

Local Companies, Global Competition

One of the common mottos we have heard in the business world since the beginning of time is, "focus on your customers," or "understand your customer's problems." That axiom made sense when all your clients were local. If you had an education company in downtown Phoenix, it's most likely your customers were school districts in the Phoenix metropolitan area or even the state of Arizona. Today, with the access to the world's information and products, the world becomes your potential customers! Customers are no longer local. Also, competition can come from anywhere in the world. Gone soon are organizations that do not compete on a global scale. Even Paul Bond Boots, a small rural cowboy boot store in Nogales, Arizona, has a global customer base! Companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and others who are U.S.-based, operate 24 hours a day on a global scale.

In education, we often talk about how it's critical it is to teach our students the "Four C's": communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. While I agree these are essential competencies our students should master, what we miss in this discussion is an emphasis on another important skill, global competency. There is a good chance our students will work for a global organization at some point in their careers.

Even if a graduate never works abroad or for a global organization, we still need to expose students to learning global competency skills. Since its inception, the United States has been comprised of people from all over the world. Whether you just arrived in the U.S. or are the fifteenth generation, all of us have one common characteristic: we all have a first-generation story. And it doesn't look like this trend is slowing. The U.S. continues to become more diverse. For example, one in four students in our public-school system is Latino, and that includes states like North Dakota and Vermont! If you look at states like California, Arizona, and Florida, for example, it's already more than one in four! By the year 2045, the U.S. will be a "minority majority" country, meaning there will be more Americans who identify as minorities as a group than whites. My daughter, who is three years old, belongs to that generation. 

Organizations who will thrive in this global, diverse economy will understand how not only having a diverse workforce will be a competitive advantage but having a workforce that understands and appreciates people from other cultures and one that can identify and acknowledge different points of view will stay relevant. Companies who focus on awareness and understanding of cultural issues at home and around the world will continue to expand and remain competitive. Having this knowledge and understanding will help organizations to design products and services that appeal to a culturally diverse, global audience.

What is a Globally-Competent Student?

Globally-competent students can see and understand the interconnectivity and interdependence between what we do here in the United States and the rest of the world. It means they will know how problems facing the rest of the world impact us here at home and vice versa. Students who are globally competent have in-depth knowledge and understanding of international issues, an appreciation of people from culturally diverse backgrounds, and the knowledge, skills, and experiences to call themselves global citizens. Most American students and especially low-income minority students are behind their peers in other countries in their knowledge and understanding of world issues, world geography, and cultural understanding and experiences.

We like to ask our students, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I do not believe that is the right question. First, all the labor forecasts predict that most jobs of the future are not defined yet. Second, we already have jobs most students wouldn't recognize, like "Bio-Medical Engineer" or "Sustainable Materials Architect." Instead, we should ask them what problem they want to solve. We should ask them to think about what knowledge, skills, and abilities they need to address the problem they want to solve. We should ask them to think about where they can get the knowledge, skills, and abilities they will need. We should ask them to reflect on how the problem they want to solve fits into the context of the world.

We need to create a generation of critically-thinking, collaborative problem solvers:
  • Students who know and understand world issues.
  • Students who understand political and socioeconomic systems on a global scale.
  • Students who recognize and appreciate cultural diversity.
If we want to face and solve the problems of this complex, multifaceted, diverse, and complicated world, we need a generation of students who are strong in all the C's: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and global competency.

Education is happening everywhere and being everywhere demands flexibility.


Jaime Casap is the Education Evangelist at Google. Jaime collaborates with school systems, educational organizations, and leaders to harness the power and potential of technology and the web as enabling and supporting tools in pursuit of promoting inquiry-driven project-based learning models.. In addition to his role at Google, Jaime serves on a number of boards for organizations focused on education, innovation, and equity.  Jaime is also an adjunct professor at Arizona State University, where he teaches classes on policy, innovation, and leadership.

EDspaces Education: Jaime Casap is the plenary session speaker at EDspaces 2017. He will be speaking on “Iteration and Innovation in Education” on Wednesday, October 26 at 9:30 am in Kansas City, MO. Jaime will be speaking on the topic of preparing students for global problem solving for issues that have yet to be defined yet, using technology that hasn't been invented, in roles that do not exist. 

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