Tony Macoun: An Apology on Global Citizenship

An Apology{{1}} [[1]]defense, explanation. [[1]] on Global Citizenship is offered in response to an article Does “Global Citizenship” really exist? by Mr John Godfrey (Head, Toronto French School), which was presented at the IB Heads World Conference in October 2011 in Singapore.

We are truly honoured to welcome one of the most significant educators of our time as a guest blogger on, Mr Tony Macoun (former board member of the International Baccalaureate (IB), President of IB North America, regional Director of the IB for Africa /Middle East).

I have been asked to share my perspectives on the interesting paper written by John Godfrey on the appropriateness of including “Global Citizenship” in our schools’ objectives.  Although I recognise that he makes many good points, I would like to hear what the classroom teachers, who have to deliver this program of “Global Citizenship”, have to say.  They work with our students on a daily basis to cultivate ideas and develop perspectives which later will give them the power to act and bring about change. Developing civics programs and creating a better understanding of political power could be part of this, but does such a program give a lasting sense of responsibility and duty to our young people to act?  [pullquote]Knowledge is one thing; the determination, will and duty to act is so much more powerful and needed![/pullquote]

We live in fascinating times in education (and in the world at large). More than ever, we are preparing young people for a fast-changing world and, of prime importance must be the training we give them in taking responsibility for the world they live in; be it local, national or international.  This means they must learn how to understand that world and its peoples and to accept responsibility through their lives for its future. We must make sure that they do a better job than their parents!

For me, the use of the word “Citizenship” gives a framework for acting responsibly. Conversely, I am unhappy with the lack of rigour that comes with the phrase “international mindedness”.   I was interested to learn that in the computer age some people are now talking about “Digital Citizenship” in order to encourage the development of responsible protocols for the digital world we live in.  In this digital world, a “citizen” must understand and accept the rights, privileges and duties inherent in being engaged in that world.

How we deliver the ‘Global Citizenship’ message is in the hands of our teachers and their daily interaction with our students.  It is their interpretation of the duties of ‘citizen’ and ‘the importance of citizenship’ which will be carried away by our students.  As a school administrator for more than 30 years, I suggest this debate be given as a challenge to our teachers and their students.  All of us engaged in the IB see our schools as vehicles for encouraging intercultural awareness and understanding and, hopefully, therefore creating a better and more peaceful world.  We encourage respect for others and collaboration, and all of this is embraced in the phrase ‘international mindedness’.  But this does not demand of our students that they act as citizens and engage them in identifying their obligations, duties and responsibilities. An active “citizen” will, and must, work towards the betterment of their community; local, national and international.

Tony Macoun

About the author

Tony’s career in the International Baccalaureate (IB) spanned no fewer than 37 years.  He served as teacher, IB coordinator, head of school, board member of IB North America (President for three years) and as Regional Director for Africa/Middle East.  In these capacities he has worked with world leaders who have done much to change the face of education around the world (such as Queen Noor of Jordan and Mr Nelson Mandela).
Tony is a humanitarian, inspirational leader and a principled educator.  When asked, he simply calls himself a ‘school master’ doing “what is best for students”.  He has been doing exactly that since 1970, and ongoingly  beyond his retirement in 2010. Born in Kenya, educated in Britain and having worked in numerous diverse locations around the world, Tony is a global citizen by his own definition.  Read Tony’s full biography here.

The Macouns with Queen Noor of Jordan and Queen Sonja of Norway