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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Why is Global Awareness so important to be taught in schools? How can intercultural understanding be leant?

The earlier the better! We are living in a multi-cultural environment. Students may sit with children from other countries in the same class. Do they discriminate against them because they are different?

Almost all children nowadays cruise through the internet like astronauts. They encounter students in Facebook, etc. from many different countries.

Pupils go on internship placements encountering people from all kinds of different backgrounds, either as colleagues or superiors. They travel with their parents and go on exchange visits.

How much more interactive and rich could their experience be, if, for example, they would understand that the Spaniards are not rude not queuing or running into them, but just do things different.

Students with global awareness are more proactive and open to learn from the other, experiencing all the differences and sharing their own culture as something curious instead of holding back and reacting to an unknown behaviour which would make them feel awkward.

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What does GLOBALEDUK solve?

Recruiters and employers are looking more and more for student graduates with “softer skills” a primary one being intercultural competence. Newspapers are filled with headlines that the UK is lagging behind on its internationalisation due to lack of so called “global awareness skills” or intercultural understanding in British youth.

The last Ofsted report also refers to this need: ‘From 2012 we propose that school inspections will take account of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils and the extent to which the education provided enables every pupil to achieve her or his potential

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Bring Global Awareness Education into the Classroom

The Global Citizen Project has been formed to bring Global Awareness Education into the Classroom.

Why?

Living in a globalised world requires understanding and communicating harmoniously with people from other cultures and backgrounds either virtually or physically. Intercultural understanding is a critical skill both for life and the workplace, improving communication within and beyond the classroom and enabling students to integrate effectively in diverse workplaces in the UK and overseas. British businesses are convinced that we need to make an effort to learn about other cultures and business practice. Companies are desperate for young adults with “softer skills” such as team working, cultural awareness, leadership and communication skills.

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What does it mean to be a Global Citizen? Why Global Awareness?

A student from Y12 almost lost her summer job in Vodafone because she walked over her  Muslim colleague’s prayer mat in the staff room.

The Global Citizen concept isn’t new, however, it is still not fully understood or taught enough.

A global citizen ideally has respect for any other human being from any background or nation.

What? Nothing else?  So, why does it seem so difficult? Why would we have to learn it?

Citizenship is an important subject in the school curriculum nowadays. Global Awareness is missing.

Both are essential to be learnt.

Business schools, recruiters and employers looking for more and more student absolvents with so called softer skills. Among them intercultural competence. Quote: “Increasingly, many of our member companies recruit globally and are looking for people who have a global perspective” said Keith Hermann, deputy chief executive of the Council for Industry and Higher Education. (www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article7140878.ece)

The earlier one person can learn about it, the smoother and better his/her personal and professional life will develop. Companies pay high amount of money to coach their CEOs or managers to gain more intercultural understanding and to be internationally more successful.

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