Global education on First-Third World divide

Last week when I was tidying up our computer room, I noticed that our son’s Year 7 (5ème in France) History and Geography textbook was opened on pages with articles on health and education in Mali and Finland. There were statistics on income, life expectancy and literacy rate (i.e. 15-24 years old in Mali it’s 36% for men and 23% for women whereas in Finland it’s 100% for both groups).

I thought it was an opportunity to expand the subject, but why question on the reasons for such differences was met with resistance expressed in these phrases: "We’ve not learnt that yet," "It’s not included in our lesson" and "Our test won’t be on that."

Formal education (school) should not only be about learning by heart facts and figures and passing exams, but applications and making connections. Three billion people, which is almost half of the world’s population of 7 billion, live on less than 2 Euros (US $2.55)/day and many of them don’t have adequate education, shelter, safe water for drinking, and access to health and social services. Since most of us in developed (First World) countries don’t belong to this group, why should we bother, especially that we also have our own problems? It’s because we live in a globalised Earth and are both part of the problems and solutions.

In one of my previous articles, I discussed poverty in developing and Third World nations and their high birth rate due to the necessity to have children who can help provide and care for families (children are social and welfare insurances, especially during old age); historical and political experiences (e.g. colonisation, wars and conflicts, natural disasters, poor governance and corruption); and global realities (e.g. unfair trading, policies and practices in rich First World countries. Thus, there’s no need to repeat it here.

How can we make children interested in our world and apply what they learn at school? One way is by making connections through examples, role plays, exchanges and critical thinking. To do this, we need teachers - who in addition to other desired characteristics in their profession - are able to inspire and motivate inter-national understanding in their pupils and show them how physical, social and natural environments bind us together. Teachers can only do this effectively if they had competence acquired through their education (again!) and training as teachers.

We should educate our children on HOW knowledge of maps, facts and figures (that they are obliged to memorise in order to pass exams) can make them better world citizens. What they learn at school should be reinforced at home. Even how busy we are as parents and how preoccupied our children are with electronic gadgets, we should find moments to share ideas and experiences.

Going back to my son’s History and Geography lesson: The class size in Mali is about 50 pupils whereas in Finland it’s15-16. This does not tell us only about overcrowded classrooms in the former and First-Third World divide; but that we in rich countries have responsibility, through education, to make our world more just and peaceful. As well, we should not take for granted our privileged situation always respecting our teachers, resources, etc.

If children were taught at school and encouraged at home about our inter-connectedness, they would be better consumers (e.g. socially and environmentally responsible), decision makers, neighbours, tourists, employees, bosses, etc … contributing to a safer, more secure, fairer, happier society: less crime, suicide, family breakdown, etc. Remember the adage “We’re all in the same boat;” if it sinks, we all have to swim or get into lifeboats. It’s not certain you’ll survive, so it’s better to prevent the possible sinking by building a strong, fully-equipped, accident-resistant boat.

Selected paragraphs from BRolade Societal Blog - roladesocietalblog.com

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