Educating Students to be Global-minded People in Today’s Globalized World

Indonesia is a country that has been shaped by international political currents for centuries and has emerged in the post-colonial era as a global player. Jakarta reflects those international ambitions and astute Indonesians are keen to ensure that the new generation is equipped to engage with the globalized world that they have been born into.

Educating a student to be globally minded is not a simple formula.  Globalization is complex and teaching the next generation to engage in this brave new world requires educators to challenge existing paradigms.  In the past decade, western countries have sought to adjust the industrialized model with a pedagogy that revolves around science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; STEM, or STEAM if you include the arts.  This suits a modern global focus.  The integration of previously distinct disciplines into a single course that asks students to engage with problems and design innovative solutions reflects the complexities of an interconnected world. At this point, traditional models of knowledge are no longer adequate for complex student needs. Nevertheless, the massive emphasis on technology reveals a technocratic bias that overlooks a simple key to being a truly global-minded person: the humanities.

Global mindedness is not the same as being globally astute.  Being globally minded is an ethical value, not simply a technical proposition.  A globally astute businessman can make money investing in an overseas business because he understands the complexities of interdependent economies; a globally-minded businessman will act in such a way as to ensure the flourishing of his own people and those overseas because he has grasped the importance of the fact that they are interdependent. These nuances are not taught in coding classes, they are taught in history, geography, philosophy, and religion.  They require a considered set of values and a capacity for imagination.  UNESCO recognizes this:  “Global education”, they say, “enables people to understand the links between their own lives and those of people throughout the world [and] works towards achieving a more just and sustainable world”.[1]  Global-mindedness is a social justice project that elevates the social sciences at a time when many educators are pushing for greater specialization in technical courses.  If we are going to educate students to be globally-minded people then we need to help students imagine possibilities based on interdependence.

Interdependence and complexity go hand in hand.  Thus, training students to be globally-minded also requires greater complexity and problem-solving.  “How do I solve the World’s issues?” becomes a genuinely frustrating question for a globally-minded student. Global trends initiated in foreign countries have a direct impact on the daily life of Indonesians.  To be globally-minded is to not only understand this fact but to be able to chart a course through these rocky waters. Globally-minded students need to be able to grapple with complex problems that have no fixed solution.  It is not enough to be able to solve maths equations or write a scientific report, students need to be able to apply knowledge across disciplines to suggest solutions to problems that have never been encountered before.  This pursuit can be scientific, sociological, philosophical, mathematical and spiritual all at once!

This massive insoluble question above is best followed by a smarter goal, “How can I make a difference on a personal level?”  Educators teach global-minded students that while the world’s problems may seem intractable, responsibility at an individual level is the first step to addressing those issues.  All global-minded curriculums have inquiry and action as key features of their pedagogy.

Not surprisingly, the most globalized companies in the world have demanded a new currency in the international job market that reflects this focus on inquiry and action.  Behemoths such as Google look for candidates with demonstrated learning ability, problem-solving capacity, and high curiosity, rather than deep specialization. In today’s world, a programming degree is not as important as broad learning skills, personal grit, and the ability to communicate interpersonally.[2]

As educators, we are training young men and women with an ethical foundation and the technical skills to navigate unseen problems in an interdependent world, so that they can take action that contributes to the flourishing of societies across the globe. This is what it looks like to educate students to be globally-minded people.

This article is written by Mr. Douglas Zylstra, SPH Lippo Village Senior School Principal


[1]Hicks, D. (2009). A Rationale for Global Education. [online] UNESCO Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future. Available at: http://www.unesco.org/education/tlsf/mods/theme_c/popups/mod18t05s02.html [Accessed 22 Oct. 2018].

[2] Strauss, V. (2017). The surprising thing Google learned about its employees — and what it means for today’s students. The Washington Post. [online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/12/20/the-surprising-thing-google-learned-about-its-employees-and-what-it-means-for-todays-students/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.64a7a54bc23f [Accessed 22 Oct. 2018].