How do we raise globally savvy children who are endowed with good communication skills, the ability to capture, intrigue and maintain a two-way conversation and a curious mind to learn more and accept, capture and share new knowledge about the world?
Here are some interesting ways of getting them exposed to the world around them while they are in their own country.
Open gateways to new friendships:
The best way to train a child to be globally savvy and flexible is to give him opportunities to mingle with friends from all over the world. Your children can go to many parts of the world – without leaving the country if you live fairly close to the Zoo and Night Safari or to any place of interest that your children love to visit and which visitors from all over the world throng daily and nightly respectively. Show your children in subtle ways how to start a conversation with a total stranger without being invasive. Teach your children to size a stranger up in a few moments and impose general rules of safety such as having your child approach and converse with a stranger only in your presence and with your approval.
Visitors are naturally drawn to local children of a country that they are touring. Children are least inhibited when making friends and easily become free volunteer guides to the less adventurous children and at times, adults.
Learn the correct language:
From young, children can be fed videos produced by good native English speakers. Even though they may pick up their local jargon, they can naturally revert to Standard English when speaking to native English speakers. Parents can learn to speak the languages of the various friends of different races with their children. Expose children to words for greetings and farewells, commonly used words such as hot, cold, toilet, food and animals. These words are functional and easier to pick up because they are frequently used.
Learn about different cultures and ways of life:
Expose your children to the various cultures of the peoples around them by indulging in their foods, festivals and customs during public holidays to celebrate different festivities. Discuss the various costumes – their unique colours such as the outer garbs of the Arab males and Arab females, common features of the Malay’s sarong kebaya and the Nepalese’ khotar. Watch movies from different countries with or without translations – point out the various features, clothes, languages of the actors and actresses.
Encourage your children to participate in school activities which promote racial and cultural activities of various races. Teach them to keep comments to themselves at the events but discuss seemingly prejudiced pointers in the privacy of your homes to reach understanding and acceptance of the differences.
Question the world out there:
Watch documentaries and travel shows which highlight various countries and cultures around the world. Train your children to be curious about the world through thought-provoking questions and discussions about the animals in the zoo and night safari, their origin and their countries of origin, and try to locate them in countries you visit on holidays. When your children are with strangers and the animals, such questions will dribble into the conversations. The conversation will often flow naturally from the topic on animals to others that interest both parties.
Let us face up to facts: Other than the architectural treasures of each country, are the gigantic concrete structures along the river coast of Shanghai any different from those along Shenton Way in Singapore or those along the Corniche in Dubai or Abu Dhabi?
What makes a global citizen? It is not ions of knowledge stashed in the recesses of the hidden brain. It is the ability to adapt to and to mingle well with others with different ideas, ideologies, languages and lifestyles.
Train a child to be at ease with any stranger and you grow a globally savvy citizen in the long run. Globally savvy children grow up to be adults who are well-informed and hopefully when they are more accepting of differences, they will become more peace-loving and view wars as an unnecessary evil.