21st-century skills: Global citizenship
As part of our ongoing series on the importance of 21st-century skills for today’s working learners, we’re exploring the concept of global citizenship and how it impacts the 21st-century workplace.
“The main reason we thought global citizenship is important to University of Phoenix students and working learners in general is, we are no longer just interacting with people in the cubicle next to us,” says Natasha Dalzell-Martinez of Apollo Group, the parent company of University of Phoenix. “In our world, barriers and borders are diminished. Therefore it’s important to be able to work with people from many different backgrounds.”
Just as the Internet, social media like Facebook® and Twitter®, and multiple options for instant communication across borders and time zones have contributed to sweeping political (e.g., the current “Arab Spring” in the Middle East) and economic changes worldwide, so too have both workplaces and higher education. “University of Phoenix has a global footprint,” says Dalzell-Martinez. “Our diverse student body and online class environment where people collaborate across time zones, countries, and continents reflect what you’re seeing out in the business world.”
To illustrate exactly what Dalzell-Martinez is talking about, consider this: University of Phoenix currently has students and faculty on six continents and in more than 100 countries worldwide, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Japan, Azerbaijan and Burkina Faso. “Our online curriculum and worldwide student community results in a lot of relationship-building and across countries and cultures,” she says. “And our technology platform really gives our students the opportunity to interact in much the same way as they will once they’re out in the working world.”
Dalzell-Martinez goes on to say that as both the political and economic worlds go global via the Internet and social media, the traditional classroom environment reflects the actual working world less and less. “The ‘square classroom’ mentality of education, with a closed room, blackboard and desks really doesn’t reflect how the world operates anymore,” she says. “Companies are global, with employees scattered across time zones, continents and countries all working together on the same projects. University of Phoenix students use the same tools that people use in their everyday lives as part of our educational platform. We’re reflecting the real world.”
Dalzell-Martinez explains how she and her colleagues did a lot of research on how people interact and communicate in business, government and daily life today versus 30 years ago, and found that while the business world and daily life have both changed across the board, education largely has not. “We read a lot of contemporary scholarship in the area of 21st-century skills,” she says. “In the book '21st-Century Skills: Learning in our Life and Times' by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel (Jossey-Bass, 2009), the authors talk about the importance of social and cross-cultural communication, which they call both a career and life skill.”
In addition to the practical skills associated with social and cross-cultural communication across borders, being a global citizen also requires respect and mutual understanding. “In his book '5 Minds for the Future' (Harvard Business School Press, 2009), author Howard Gardner talks about the concept of Respectful Mind, which he defines as awareness and appreciations for differences among human beings and human groups,” Dalzell-Martinez explains. According to Gardner, success in the 21st-century business world not only requires cultural sensitivity and respect, but also self-discipline, creativity, ethics and the ability to synthesize new ideas that seamlessly incorporate all of these skills.
Being a global citizen doesn’t just incorporate cross-cultural sensitivity and communication, however. According to Dalzell-Martinez, it also means being ‘green’ and having a respect and appreciation for how life and work impact the global environment. “University of Phoenix and its parent company Apollo Group are committed to being good global corporate citizens, and that includes being a steward of the environment,” she says. “We also are committed to being a steward of improving education across the board, from the elementary level on up, as well as offering higher education to those who wouldn’t have access to it otherwise.”
University of Phoenix is also committed to cultural diversity in both higher education and the workplace, and its student population reflects that commitment. “Close to one-half of our student enrollment is made up of ethnic minorities,” says Dalzell-Martinez. “Two-thirds of our student population is female, and the ethnic diversity of our faculty is also much higher than that of traditional higher-education institutions. More than one-half of our faculty is female, and that’s also a much higher ratio than in traditional higher education.”
All in all, University of Phoenix works hard to make its educational platform reflects how the real world is changing. “What happens in class should reflect what happens outside of class,” Dalzell-Martinez says. “Education and the real world are interrelated; you can’t have one without the other.”
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