Global Awareness is a conceptual understanding based upon an applicable knowledge of global and cultural perspectives. The understanding of concepts that impact the world encompasses, but is not limited to, environmental, social, cultural, political, and economic relations.
Diversity is the recognition of differences and commonalities among people from which they can begin to understand each other. These differences and commonalities include, but are not limited to, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, culture, cognitive ability, life experiences, family situations, and sexual orientation.
Kirkwood (2001) describes globally educated people as “those who possess high-tech skills, broad interdisciplinary knowledge about the contemporary world, and adaptability, flexibility, and world mindedness to participate effectively in the globalized world”.
Hanvey (1976), one of the first scholarly experts to give a comprehensive definition of the concept “global awareness”, proposes five dimensions that prepare students to achieve global awareness. These include perspective consciousness, state-of-the-planet awareness, cross-cultural awareness, knowledge of global dynamics, and awareness of human choices.
Perspective consciousness refers to an awareness of and appreciation for other images of the world and that a person’s worldview is neither universally shared, nor necessarily right, yet may be profoundly different. It is the realization that an individual’s worldview is both a matter of conscious opinions and ideas and more importantly to subconscious evaluations, conceptions and unexamined assumptions. Perspectives are shaped by ethnic, religious, differences in age, sex, and social status, among many other factors. These differences, as stated by Haavenson et al. (1998/99), “have been one of the main causes of conflict and confrontation in the history of mankind” (p.38).
The authors go on to say that, “It is important to teach students to look upon a certain phenomenon or event from different perspectives so as to encourage respect and appreciation for beliefs, customs, and values different from their own” It is not only about racial and cultural differences, instead, a pluralistic view needs to be taken when looking at global perspectives.
State-of-the-planet awareness requires comprehension of prevailing world conditions, developments, trends, and problems that are confronting the world community. It includes an in-depth understanding of global issues such as population growth, migrations, economic disparities, depletion of resources, and international conflicts, that require global learners to be aware of the world around them. Children need to be made aware that what affects the world affects them as well.
This dimension includes the diversity of ideas and practices in human societies and how these ideas and practices are found in human societies around the world, including concepts of how others might view one’s own society as perceived from other vantage points.
Knowledge of global dynamics
Knowledge of global dynamics refers to an understanding of the world as an interconnected system of complex traits and mechanisms and unanticipated consequences. A high level of sophistication on the part of the student is required because understanding these processes is difficult to achieve due to the unanticipated effects on the human condition. It includes a consciousness of global change and cannot be acquired through mass media. Haavenson et al. (1998/99) explain that “[s]tudents learn to identify subtle cause-effect relationships, anticipate side effects, model processes and make decisions about eliminating or altering undesirable consequences” . Students may be asked to create webs of the factors influencing the issue, to suggest feasible solutions, and to foresee possible side effects of such actions.
Awareness of human choices
Hanvey (1976) challenges global thinkers to realize the problems of choice confronting individuals and nations as consciousness and knowledge of global systems expand. It is related to global dynamics in such a way that it focuses on making choices and develops a sense of responsibility for making decisions made which affect future generations. It also includes an awareness of the interconnectedness of individual, national, and international settings. It fosters a sense of responsible citizenship on the local and global levels. Students may be introduced to alternatives on thought and behaviour by looking at relationships and interactions between man and the world. Students are asked to account for their choices and are taught to be tolerant toward the view of others.
The traditional approach of filling the minds with facts and information that students are simply asked to memorize and reproduce does nothing to promote global awareness and teachers must keep this in mind when working to plan curriculum. Instead, students need experience in critical thinking, in taking part in cross-cultural experiences, and to make decisions and substantiate them.