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What is Global Education?

IN many parts of the world, particularly - but not limited to - developing areas, "receptive" education is the status quo. In a "receptive" education system, children are expected to soak up masses of knowledge transmitted to them by the expert or scholar who knows much more than they do; students concentrate on memorizing facts; and knowing is rewarded more than analyzing and applying information in a useful way. If measured by the sheer volume of children learning in this manner, it is tempting to argue that this is the preeminent approach to schooling in our world today. It is thus intriguing to posit that "receptive" education may be - and quite distressingly so - the closest thing we have to a truly global style of education.

As we prepare to celebrate tomorrow's International Children's Day, it's useful to reflect on the merits of an alternative to "receptive" education, something every child should have a right to: "productive" education. "Productive" education is the process by which students take in and interpret previously foreign content with the intention of reaching a new and better understanding. In a "productive" teaching environment, developing one's own perspectives and opinions is of the highest order. This is what proponents of "productive" education call "original thinking." In short, to the "productivist," the potential to realize is more important than the ability to memorize.

Realizing a world where "productive" education dominates remains a challenge. The reality of our current global paradigm is that one in five children still live in poverty, and thus have little access to the resources and flow of information required to obtain a high-quality "productive" education. Meanwhile, in other regions, religious and/or political limitations hinder the actualization of a truly "productive" approach. It would be easy to stop here, lower one's head, and get back to the day-to-day business of educating the privileged children in our international schools, where we often take for granted our capacity to educate in a "productive" way. Before you do, read on.

To plant "productive" seeds we might start by building sustainable links between our schools and local schools through service projects that expose our students and their approaches to learning to pupils who are educated differently. Likewise, for those of us that are lucky enough to share campuses with local schools, we need not look beyond our own fences to encourage healthy interaction between children whose educational experiences are very different. Cross-stream teacher exchanges on the same campus, or between established sister schools can also go a long way to breaking down aged ways of teaching.

We can also strive to go beyond the three Fs of fun, food and fashion when we facilitate school international festivals. Not only can we invite children from local schools to join us, share our facilities and be exposed to our learning cultures, we can add simulations (in the spirit of Model United Nations) and debates on current issues to the foray of activities on International Children's Day. Similarly, we can avoid the temptation to make our international fairs entirely feel-good occasions, which can distance them from reality. Why not also invite guests from established NGOs to lobby at your next school-wide celebration of internationalism and global diversity? This might open minds, if not shape them.

Furthermore, changing the language we use can support the transition to "productive" education. Moving from talk of teaching and learning, to talk of teaching for learning should remind us that our purpose is not to load students with facts, but rather to provide them with the thinking skills to learn effectively. Using terminology such as home learning, as opposed to homework, could send the same message.

Forging teaching for learning partnerships between newly qualified and veteran educators can similarly change perspectives. This lends itself to idea sharing that can help young professionals become more knowledgeable about their specialist content area, while supporting teachers who have established routines by introducing them to the cutting-edge "productive" learning tools disseminating from the world's best universities.

So, as we spend tomorrow celebrating the world's children, it may be useful to ponder the thoughts of the esteemed American writer, William Faulkner: "Facts and truth really don't have much to do with each other."

The truth - globally speaking - is that education may still have more to do with planting facts than harvesting knowledge.

It's time to reap change.


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