Volunteering is best way to make pupils think globally

Volunteering and learning about different cultural perspectives were rated by teachers and students as the top techniques for boosting a global mindset in young people

Claudia Civinini


Engaging in volunteering activities and learning about different cultural perspective are the best ways to foster a global mindset in students, a study has revealed.

Nine in ten teachers (90 per cent) and three-quarters of students (76 per cent) said that volunteering encourages a more "globally competent" attitude.

Volunteering at soup kitchens, refugee centres and care centres made students more interested in communities with different backgrounds, but long-term partnerships were most effective.

School exchanges, penpal programmes and debates and school clubs celebrating cultural diversity came second – mentioned by four in five teachers and students as one of the best ways to teach global competence.

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Dr Christina Hinton, who led the research, said: “Students will need global competence to engage in international collaborations in fields such as science, health, and technology, navigate an internationally interdependent economic and political landscape, and tackle global issues like climate change.

“This study is exciting because it is the first of its scope to identify which education practices effectively support Pisa global competencies.”

Global competence is the topic of the 2018 optional test in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), with results due to be published on 3 December, although in the UK, only Scotland took part.

Respondents to the study, conducted by Harvard Graduate School of Education and Research Schools International, placed ‘celebrating cultural diversity’ in third place, followed by discussing world events and learning how to solve conflict.

Based on the responses of 11,000 students and 1,900 teachers in 34 countries, the study, commissioned by educational charity Round Square, revealed that these five approaches were rated ‘effective’ or ‘very effective’ ways of teaching global competence by the majority of teachers and students.

Participating in events that celebrate cultural diversity was popular with four in five teachers, slightly less so with students – only 68% rated it as effective, the lowest-scoring of the top-five practices identified.

Students were more receptive to classroom discussions instead – with three in four saying that talking about world events in class made them more globally competent.

Activities such as class discussions on how to tackle global issues and engaging with non-profit organisations dedicated to solving international and domestic problems were used as examples of useful endeavours by the researchers compiling the study.

But leadership development needed to be incorporated, they added, as it helped to develop a sense of accountability and teamwork.  



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Claudia Civinini

Claudia Civinini

Find me on Twitter @claudiacivinini

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