Why we need to prepare students for global citizenship

In our fast-changing world, colleges must equip students to face global issues and thrive in a transforming jobs market

Angela Cox

Why FE colleges must prepare students to be global citizens

I believe that the role of colleges in preparing our students to be global citizens has never been more critical. Why? We live in a world where we still need to declare that "black lives matter". The recent online abuse of the English footballers at Euro 2020 demonstrated that we still have a long way to go. We are emerging, hopefully, from the worst global pandemic since Spanish Flu and the socioeconomic impact of this is being realised. These experiences and happenings are having a significant influence on individual beliefs, values and behaviours that will define how young people engage as global citizens in the future.   

We know that the rate of technological change means that core and meta skills will be more important than having a technical skill in being able to evolve and progress in your future career. As we all adapt to a new normal of upskilling and reskilling in line with technological advances, what are the skills and attributes someone will need to navigate their career through this increasingly complex global environment

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Advances in technology mean that we live in an interconnected global world. Generation Z are the most connected generation to date. As digital natives, they naturally access information from the internet and digitally converse with people across the world. This has many opportunities – not least because we will be able to be more productive and responsive – but also many disadvantages.

FE colleges nurturing tomorrow's global citizens

Too many people now view life through distorted social media posts that contribute negatively to their self-confidence and give them a feeling of not fitting in with societal norms. There is an overdependence on clickbait news that doesn’t present a balanced or often evidence-based position, which leaves people ill-informed and unable to engage in a reasoned debate.

Disposable consumerism that satisfies the immediate want or need also has a direct negative impact on our planet by hindering a circular economy, and yet Generation Z are more aware of their role in the world as part of a larger ecosystem, and their responsibility to support a green economy.

We have the opportunity to build upon the global awareness and social consciousness of Generation Z by providing them with the knowledge, confidence and philanthropic behaviours to develop a set of values that enhance a skills-focused, green economic recovery.  

More than skills development

Colleges, as community anchors, have a long history in providing much more than skills development and we have the opportunity, at this critical time, to take the leading role in securing a more inclusive, tolerant and sustainable world.

Our primary focus will continue to support our local and national socioeconomic priorities. However, my view is that in the future, individual success will become more reliant on being able to appreciate individual, societal and international cultural differences, being able to communicate your views and ideas with knowledge and confidence, and working effectively with a diverse range of partners and individuals whilst feeling confident about your contribution.

Over the years, as colleges have been increasingly measured on and funded by qualification success, we have stopped shouting about the powerful catalysts that colleges are in changing mindsets and lives. Whilst successful student outcomes are important to us all, so must be alumni who act as global citizens: individuals who are able to take an active role in their local and global community, and work with others to make our planet more equal, fair and sustainable.

In the end, that is why the new strategic ambition for Borders College is about preparing our students for global citizenship. We will continue to be regionally focused, but will be more globally engaged in order to ensure that our alumni have the values, skills, knowledge and confidence to change our world for the better.

Angela Cox is principal of Borders College


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