The entire world is on edge right now. Millions are watching as Russia invades Ukraine, hastening what could be the biggest land war in Europe since 1945. The harmful impacts of climate change are already evident in record-setting heat waves and natural disasters. And, lest we forget, our planet is still in the throes of one of the deadliest pandemics in history.
If there has ever been a time for systems of education to embrace global learning as a priority, it’s surely now.
Global learning has varying definitions, but perhaps the best is “the process of diverse people collaboratively analyzing and addressing complex problems that transcend borders.” Often embedded within the umbrella term of “global learning” are the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.” Some of their aims include:
- Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
- Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
- Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
- Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
- Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
In a world that’s more connected than ever, developing the capacity of young citizens to think critically about global issues is a necessity, not a benefit. Whether or not we can achieve a more sustainable future for all may be dependent on our success.
While there finally appears to be a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, the past two years have revealed how deeply interconnected our societies, economies, and cultures are. Ending this pandemic—and working to prevent the next one—will require leaders to think systematically and contribute meaningfully to global networks. Likewise, issues such as climate change, poverty, and biodiversity loss also present consequences that respect no borders. Combatting these challenges will require a global approach as well.
Developing the global citizens needed for a more prosperous and just 21st Century begins with education. Teachers across all content areas and grade levels can embed global perspectives into their instruction. The NEA Foundation, which sponsors a year-long Global Learning Fellowship for educators, maintains a library of digital global learning lesson plans for teachers to implement in their classrooms. For educators interested in incorporating the 17 SDGs into their classroom, The Global Goals website offers resources, graphics, and campaign toolkits. And for those wanting to dive right in, an open access version of Empowering Students to Improve the World in Sixty Lessons by Dr. Fernando Reimers, Director of the Global Education Innovation Initiative, is available online.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best: “If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” When it comes to going global, there’s never been a better time—or a more imperative one—than now.