The Need for and Benefits of a Global Education

By Dr. Shen Goh

The 21st Century is the global age. It is an age with greater and faster integration through the Internet, social media, travelling retirees, multinational corporations, economic regions such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and trade agreements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

It is also an age with increasing conflicts arising from Internet fake news, social media bullying, cultural issues, labour disputes, and the resurgence of nationalism such as the United States’ withdrawal from the CPTPP’s predecessor.

One currently needs some global awareness to make sense of everyday life. Political decisions, social events, and economic policies from around the world will increasingly affect Malaysia, and even Miri. For example, Miri has suffered frequently from the forest fires resulting from the slash-and-burn practices of Indonesia. With such a close neighbor, it is easy to see how Indonesia’s air pollution caused low visibility, respiratory illnesses, school closures, flight cancellations, and concerns for the Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2015 and the 2015 Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

Likewise, Malaysia and the rest of the global community will also suffer if the United States abandons the Paris Agreement on climate change. Although the United States is more than 15,000 kilometers away from Malaysia, its actions as the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases will negatively impact the global environment.

How should one acquire this global awareness? Obtain a global education. A global education is a curriculum that helps students to understand the international connection between different people, issues and events around the world. Although the education sector has been slower than the business sector to “globalise”, it is now catching up in recognition of its role to prepare an international workforce for an ever-changing marketplace.

One benefit of a global education is to foster economic growth and innovation. Consider how Boeing relies on supply and distribution chains from 79 countries, McDonald’s serves over 68 million customers every day in over 100 countries, and Shell’s operations in over 70 countries makes it the 6th-largest company in the world according to 2016 revenues.

These multinational corporations need current students to become future employees who understand the political, cultural, and economical influences affecting their businesses. Malaysian students can take advantage of their multilingual background to build business networks and opportunities with China, the United States and India – countries that are predicted to become the world’s three largest economies by 2050.

Another equally important benefit of a global education is to foster an open and inclusive society. Consider the ’Report of the Study Group on Global Education’ published by Canada in 2017. The report noted that Canadian students who study overseas traditionally do so in Europe, the United States and Australia. Since such traditional destinations will not prepare students for a future that will be led by Asia, Canada is developing a national strategy on global education to capitalise on it being the most multicultural country in the world (1 out of every 5 Canadians was born outside of Canada).

To this end, the national strategy will shift from ‘inviting foreigners to Canada to teach and study’ to ‘sending Canadian professors and students abroad’ instead. One barrier to the success of this shift is the discomfort that Canadians (even those born outside of Canada) have with cultural and language differences in foreign countries. Malaysia can and should become the new destination for such cultural exchanges, as Canadians will adjust more easily to its multiethnic society and English-speaking campuses from certain foreign universities.

What will the 21st Century bring? A brighter future where we understand the international connection between our lives and those of others around the world? Or, a dark age where we are blindsided by the political decisions, social events, and economic policies of other countries? The answer will depend on how well our global education equips current students with the necessary knowledge to respond to future changes.

Dr. Shen Goh is a lecturer in business law in the Department of Accounting at Curtin Malaysia’s Faculty of Business. Prior to Curtin Malaysia, she was a lecturer in the Faculty of Law of York University, Canada. Her research interests include intellectual property, branding and international trade.