Post Trump and Post Brexit: The role of schools amid a new anti-globalisation sentiment

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Across the world, there is a growing resistance to the current spread of globalisation and a return to separatism and protectionism. In politics, we see this trend through Brexit, a rise in nationalism in many countries in Europe, and the momentum that has propelled Donald Trump to become the new populist president of the US.

Many people’s conception of nationalism is changing to once again become an important factor in a globalised world, together with the belief that populism offers superficial and simple answers to complex questions. Existing "authorities" and "elites" experience an increasing rejection and the rhetoric of the political debate has become vicious.

While there is no denying that uninterrupted globalisation appears to be facing resistance across the world, it shows little chance of slowing down or reversing. By fostering self-reliance, independence, curiosity and being considerate of others, schools play an important part in removing the many fears that give raise to anti-globalisation sentiments and in changing the tides of animosity and intolerance. Schools must prepare students to be strong, mature, and develop critical political thinking that will guard against manipulation. The mission of schools is to develop responsible global citizens, prepared to fight the darker aspects of globalisation, such as injustice, racism and poverty.


It is becoming apparent that the skills required to improve our world call for a shift in focus in the way we deliver education. As fear of the unknown breeds ignorance and prejudice, we have a duty to give students authentic opportunities to collaborate with diverse populations, especially those that are most likely to be targeted as "the other". We have to instil the value of communication, collaboration, building cultural awareness and adaptable thinking, which are essential qualities to bridging gaps in a fast-paced and fragmented world. Teaching resilience, communication and critical thinking must be key objectives for students to effectively meet the challenges that globalisation brings. This will inspire students to reach out to their online peers around the globe to discuss real-world problems and to help in person through community service, their involvement mirroring the working world they will ultimately enter with cross-border collaboration as a facet of their everyday life.

Having said this, schools must not neglect classical academic education, which plays an equally important part in tackling the challenges of globalisation. It teaches students to evaluate and appraise information and its associated sources. Reinforced by social media and their underlying structures and algorithms, young people are increasingly fed with superficial, biased or fake information, often reflecting their own preconceived opinions. They tend to live very comfortably in their own information bubble. The benefit of knowing and understanding history, another area of classical education, allows students to interpret and classify political events, undergirded by further mathematical and scientific training to adopt an abstract view and come to logical, value free conclusions.

Role of schools

Building on Nelson Mandela’s legacy that education is the most powerful weapon to change the world, schools can be proud to be at the forefront of this battle against authoritarian tendencies, antidemocratic movements, and the cruel aspects of globalisation. In accepting the challenge, we render an important service to the world.

Thomas Schädler, Director General / Collège du LémanGeneva Switzerland 

Thomas Schädler

Reprinted with permission of Collège du Léman.

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