Nord Anglia Education
Nord Anglia
14 September, 2021

Taking On The World: Developing Global Competence in Children

Taking On The World: Developing Global Competence in Children PE Specialist and IPC Leader, Caroline Gordon shares insight on the subject of global competence and its valuable role in a child's social and emotional development. Caroline G at desk

Part of my daily routine in the morning is to sit down with breakfast and read the current news headlines. Often, these headlines can make for grim reading: war, natural disaster, COVID-19, politics, climate change, and so on, and so on. The adage, ‘no news is good news’ seems frequently true.

However, I have the benefit of age, education, and experience to help me understand and process these concepts, though even I will admit that at 6am in the morning, I am not always in in the best mindset to fully engage in current events.


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Children can have many different responses to what goes on in the world around them, and unlike us, they don’t yet have the life experience and tools to fully interpret what is happening. They may be confused, curious, apathetic, engaged, appalled, anxious, or even just oblivious. Whatever your child’s feelings, it is important they have a positive outlook on the future and feel confident that they have the tools needed to thrive. I know the temptation is to shelter children from what appears to be an increasingly harsh and tempestuous world, but it may do them a disservice in the long-term. This is where ‘global competence’ comes into play.

Global competence is becoming increasingly recognized around the world as a key component of effective curricula, and for very good reasons. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), cultivating global competence helps children: develop cultural awareness in increasingly diverse societies; work more effectively with people from different backgrounds; recognize biases and stereotypes; and engage in global issues that tackle social, political, economic, and environmental challenges (OECD, 2018). In other words, knowledgeable, engaged children feel more confident and empowered to make effective contributions to society.


Nursery Spanish Lesson

For me, as a teacher and International Primary Curriculum Leader, this means helping our children develop the knowledge, skills, understanding, and attributes that will lead them to become successful global citizens. When I and the other teachers in the school observe the children, we’re asking ourselves several questions:

  • Is the child demonstrating our school values, being respectful, thoughtful, and cooperative with others?
  • Is the child showing a curiosity and eagerness to learn about the wider world?
  • Is the child empathetic to others and eager to ‘fix’ injustices, whether or not they are personally affected?


While there are some children who, due to various influences, will develop a level of global competency without significant input, it would be naïve of us to assume that it comes naturally to everyone. So, it is our responsibility to create those learning opportunities.

As BISC, LP, we do this in a number of ways, starting with some basics. Our Values curriculum highlights the importance of engaging with others through empathy and respectful dialogue. Every classroom in the school displays Earth through a range of maps and globes, so that even in our youngest classes, the children can start to appreciate a sense of place. Our curriculum is flexible, and teachers have the freedom to adapt topics to address current events and issues. For example, in Year 5 last year, the ‘Champions For Change’ topic helped children to develop an understanding of government, politics, and civil unrest. Meanwhile, our Year 1 children explored our planet and formed a greater understanding of what makes Earth special, building the foundations needed to comprehend their place in the world.

Empowerment is a fundamental feature of any globally competent curriculum. Through social action and contributing to their various communities, children gain the knowledge, skills, and understanding to be future change-makers. At school, this has included raising money for various causes, supporting the Urban Rivers organization in replanting native species, writing to local government about the difficulties faced by those living in food deserts, debating whether single-use plastics should be banned, and much more.

There are also many things you can do to develop global competence at home, and below is a list of ideas to get you started:

  • Display a globe and/or a map of the world in a place your child will see every day and can refer to when specific places occur in conversation or in current events.
  • Use child-friendly atlases and educational apps such as Barefoot World Atlas and Google Earth to encourage exploration of the world.
  • Read stories from other cultures and share your own stories of the world. Empathize with other characters, and help children imagine walking in their shoes.
  • Discuss your child’s French and Spanish learning at school. Investigate and learn about other languages around the world, including those from your family’s heritage.
  • Allow and encourage your child to be curious about the things they read and hear. Feel confident saying, ‘I don’t know’ and then research the answers together.
  • Subscribe to a children’s newspaper/magazine such as TIME for Kids (  or The Week (
  • Encourage your child to be thoughtful towards others in the communities they are a part of, e.g. encouraging teammates in sports clubs, reaching out to extended family, giving time to charities and fundraising.
  • Talk to children about others, past and present, who have had an impact on the world such as, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, etc.


The list is almost endless, and it may seem like there is too much to do, but for me it boils down to a simple mantra… ‘Be Curious!’ Your own curiosity and wonder in the world will influence and inspire that of your children, encouraging them to be the globally competent adults our world needs.


If you would like to learn more about global competence, please see the resources below as a good starting point:

OECD PISA 2018 Global Competence – Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development paper

Global Competence – A short video by the Asia Society

Global Competence Framework – California Global Education Project


Caroline Gordon
PE Specialist & IPC Leader