Child with globe and pointer

Language and communication are essential skills for global citizens

Teach First participant and Primary School teacher, Phoebe Rudgard, recently spent 2 weeks working with us to share her expertise and develop content for our educator network. Passionate about incorporating global learning into the curriculum, Phoebe shares why she feels that working with children from a young age to develop their language skills is key to developing the next generation of global citizens.

How do we best ensure young people develop the traits to become active global citizens? What skills should we be prioritising? A combination of global awareness and effective communication is essential.

Here at Think Global, we often discuss the most effective ways to empower young people to be the next generation of decision makers; we need to ensure that students have the potential to become global citizens who are actively engaged in world events and who can form considered views on issues that affect them. However, many children are lacking basic language and communication skills which are essential for participating in this international dialogue.

Recent figures on children’s language attainment are concerning; according to government figures, 28% of four and five-year olds do not meet the expected levels of communication and literacy by the time they finish reception. Many key stage one pupils struggle to consistently speak in full sentences, and as struggling individuals progress up through the education system, this is likely to translate into a lack of confidence in their ability to articulate ideas and viewpoints.

The level of parent-child utterance and the amount of new vocabulary an individual is exposed to in early childhood play a crucial role in determining an individual’s levels of attainment in speech. Alongside this, of increasing concern to many teachers, is the amount of screen time children are experiencing at home, reducing the volume of face to face communication they are participating in on a daily basis.

Interestingly, many of the avenues for adding a global dimension to education are also centred around the use of technology and ‘screens’. Conversely then, technology is a source for good in the context of promoting social change and development- social media, access to news from around the globe and the ability to partner with schools on the other side of the world all help educators to deliver inspiring and engaging lessons on global education- yet unless we address the stark gap in children’s language skills, these lessons risk falling short of having long term benefits for students.

In terms of improving social mobility, language and communication are also essential. Those children who have a poor level of vocabulary at the age of five are over twice as likely to be unemployed at the age of 34 as their peers who have a secure grasp of vocabulary. Through improved language and communication, students can develop the skills they need to become young leaders, gaining confidence, interpersonal skills and higher order thinking.

These, in turn, are skills which are essential to have when engaging in global issues. Teachers must therefore strive to plan lessons which combine both important focuses; tasks with an emphasis on the global, which require students to articulate and share ideas. The schools who excel in this consistently incorporate student debates on international issues into the curriculum; they spark discussion using Philosophy for Children (P4C) enquiries with fiction, media resources and images as stimulus and they always focus on encouraging pupils to think critically. These dynamic approaches help to widen student’s horizons and make often abstract concepts far more accessible.

As educators, we don’t simply want to tell young people about what’s going on in the world, we want to equip them with the capabilities to act on what they know. Whether this is in the form of joining a movement, becoming involved in a campaign or simply speaking to others, all forms of action involve communication and the articulation of ideas. This, must therefore be at the centre of our approach.

Blog by Phoebe Rudgard.


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