Diversity and Global Awareness in (Higher) Education Institutions

 

Every child instinctively knows what many adults have long since forgotten: our differences are not something to be tolerated, they are something to be celebrated.”

The 2000 Policy Statement of the International Association of Universities presented at Unesco World Conference in Higher Education recommends, “all internationalization programs promote intercultural competence and a culture of peace among global citizens”.

Most universities or HE institutions state broadly that the institution’s goal is to graduate “multi-culturally competent students” or “global citizens” without actually going into any details about it.

Most institutions would actually confuse the term “international” with just having some international students or staff. Others may teach subjects containing the word “international” such as “International Negotiation” or “International Business Management, International Marketing” or similar.

In most of these classes, teachings from Geert Hofstede, Richard Lewis, F.Trompenaars and other inspirational authors and pioneers of cultural theories would be taught.

However, I wonder what students really learn from these classes and how much they are truly valued in their life, rather than being considered just another exam to be passed. I suspect very little, judging by the large number of students that hang out at universities and colleges in their national clusters and enter work-life with very little knowledge of intercultural team working and respect.

After being a part-time lecturer in some conventional classes at several prestigious universities in England and at the same time a lead consultant for CultureSmartConsulting company, facilitating a workshop in “Developing a Cross Cultural Mindset”, I noticed a huge difference in students’ awareness. Students valued the (initial one day) workshop more than a whole term in International Business.

This did not surprise me. The one-day workshop was based on behavioural psychology and was full of games and role-plays and international scenarios. Students were immersed in real life settings. It was in these moments that they acted on ‘cultural auto-pilot’, which led to great frustration. Yet only then were they able to understand, to reflect, to learn and develop new approaches.

We generally learn faster through experience and related emotions than through formal instruction. After my workshops in schools and universities results showed that students were more open and learnt –as a student quoted: ‘how to become open minded and stay flexible and tolerant’.

Birmingham Business School noticed that the students who have done the course were ‘more open, flexible and able to manage, besides having shown an excellent multi-cultural team work performance’.

The course delivered with CultureSmartConsulting at Ashcroft got the following remark:

“The 30- hour module ‘Managing Across Boarders, Maximising Cross Cultural Competitive Advantage’ has proven extremely beneficial for our students and has empowered them to achieve cross cultural management competences in a most effective way. So much so, that we have converted this module from an elective to an integral part of our post graduate degree programmes.” Professor Martin Reynolds, Dean Ashcroft, International Business School, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

Through the Global Citizen Project they learn to understand that Diversity is not a threat, but one true thing we all have in common and that we need to appreciate it every day. That’s what makes a person a Global Citizen.

Sabina Rademacher

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