Educating Globally Supplementary Essay Example

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Task 1: ‘Ecological Literacy: “Basic” for a Sustainable Future’, Wooltorton (2006)

Key Arguments

In her article, “Ecological Literacy: ‘Basic’ for a Sustainable Future”, Wooltorton (2006) asserts that ecological literacy is the cornerstone for a sustainable future. Alluding to the sentiments of Orr (2005) Wooltorton considers ecological literacy to be a basic understanding of concepts such as ecology, human ecology and sustainability and how these concepts apply in day to day problem solving. She argues that ecological literacy is key in addressing the challenges associated with abstraction and deplacement of thought which condition society to become unsustainable and detached from real issues. Thus according to these sentiments ecological literacy is essential in attaining a sustainable future.

Wooltorton (2006) further argues that ecological literacy develops through connections with place. This argument is based on the notion that a strong sense of place enhances engagement that fosters a sense of community and interconnectedness with culture, history, the environment and the full the cycle of life. As a result, she strongly supports a place-based education as an approach of remedial learning that can help to bring about cultural transformation. Wooltorton asserts that there are six key connected elements of ecological literacy namely; the ecological self (ecological identity and spirituality), sense of place and active citizenship, Education for Sustainability (EfS) pedagogy, systems thinking and relationship, reading the world of nature and culture and ecological paradigm. Although these six elements of ecological literacy are manifested differently, the overarching outcomes that they bestow include; a relational self that fosters a sense of community and interconnectedness with culture, history, the environment and the full the cycle of life.

Wooltorton (2006) further observes that if a place-based ecological literacy approach is embraced and nurtured within the school context it could reorient the schooling system and bring about positive outcomes. She argues that the concepts, values and practices of a place-based ecological literacy would promote collaboration between community members and school communities in enhancing environmental responsibility and sustainability. Moreover, the adoption of an place ecological literacy approach in school would enhance curriculum outcomes and school performance by fostering caring, critical and creative thinking, enthusiasm and willingness to learn among learners.

However, Wooltorton (2006) acknowledges that there are certain limitations associated with approach especially within the school context. For instance, although this concept encompasses a broad interdisciplinary domain of views, many consider it to be extremely oriented towards science education. Its definition of sustainability has also been termed as narrow. Thus its applicability in other fields has been put to question.

Individual View

Wooltorton’s (2006) sentiments on ecological literacy as the cornerstone for a sustainable future and how it can be developed through connections with place are profoundly plausible. Personally, I believe that effective education or schooling goes beyond standardised testing, mere memorization of information and facts. The sole use of these approaches within school systems is likely to produce learners who may pass tests but are not able to think critically, connect to issues in the real world or find sustainable solutions to challenges. As demonstrated in Wooltorton’s article a place-based ecological literacy approach is a broad and multidimensional concept that incorporates elements that are action-oriented and fosters a relational self, a sense of community, empathy and interconnectedness with culture, history, the environment and the full the cycle of life. Similar, to Wooltorton’s (2006) arguments, I believe it is through these elements that a sustainable future can be realised. For example, the ecological paradigm as an integral element of ecological literacy provides a foundation for society to learn sustainably. It is holistic in nature, focuses on networks, relationships, processes and contextual knowledge. These facets weave in ecological aspects into the curriculum in a coherent manner thus building students’ knowledge over time. This in turn enhances their ability to relate to real-life issues in their immediate environment. Additionally, this approach deviates from the passive approach of learning by incorporating action-oriented , experiential and participatory learning process.

Although Wooltorton (2006) has raised plausible arguments regarding the development of ecological literacy through connections with place, I believe that to a certain extent this approach has been over-estimated. For example, she asserts that a place-based ecological literacy approach in school would enhance curriculum outcomes and school performance by fostering caring, critical and creative thinking, enthusiasm and willingness to learn among learners. In retrospect, I believe that the use of this approach single-handedly may not be sufficient in enhancing curriculum outcomes or improving school performance. Instead, this approach should be integrated with other relevant approaches so as to realise better outcomes.

Application place-based ecological literacy program in UAE

In many school in UAE conventional methods of learning such as direct instructions are often used. This approaches often condition students to learn through rote memorization. As a result, may students miss out on quality learning. Personally, I believe that an interactive approach to learning is more effective than the conventional approaches such as direct instruction. This belief is founded on Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development which suggests that students learn best through active engagement, exploration, interaction and participation (Smidt 2007).

Drawing on Wooltorton’s (2006) sentiments, the implementation of a place-based ecological literacy program within the school context in UAE can be embedded on the education for sustainability (EfS) pedagogy which accentuates on the use of experiential, participatory and multidisciplinary approaches to learning. Firstly, the place-based ecological literacy program in UAE will provide learners with a certain level of control over direction and content of their own learning. This will enable learners to fully participate in the learning process. Secondly, the program will involve interactive discussions among learners thus enabling them to improve their interactions, communication skills and relations with others. Moreover, it will involve experimentation and exploration. In this case, learners will go to several learning excursions or fields and interacts with the environment, surrounding communities and subsequently participate in a communal activity that helps to improve their environment. This approach will provide learners with hands-on experience that enable them to gain in-depth understanding on themselves, others and their environment (Wooltorton 2006).


Orr, D. (2005). ‘Foreward’ & ‘Place and pedagogy’. In Stone, K. and Barlow, Z.Ecological Literacy: Educating our children for a sustainable world. San Francisco: Sierra ClubBooks.

Smidt, S. (2007). A Guide to Early Years Practice. New York.: Taylor & Francis,

Wooltorton, S. (2006). Ecological Literacy: ‘Basic’ for a Sustainable Future. (Abridged Version). Retrieved July 4 2014 <>

Task 2: Developing intercultural understandings and skills: Models and approaches —
Perry & Southwell (2011)

The models of developing intercultural competencies reviewed by Perry and Southwell (2011) are based on their conceptual models of intercultural competence. One of models used by Perry and Southwell to conceptualize intercultural competence is intercultural understanding. The premise of the model is that intercultural competence essentially entails a cognitive aspect as well as an affective aspect. This model encompasses the knowledge or understanding of one’s own as well as other cultures and intercultural sensitivity. According to the model, intercultural competence results from knowledge about the similarities and differences between cultures as well as positive attitudes towards these cultures. For a person to attain intercultural competence, they must possess knowledge about their own culture and other cultures as well as be aware of or appreciate the similarities and differences between cultures. This must then be supplemented by the embodiment of positive attitudes towards other cultures. Several indicators can be used to measure a person’s intercultural competence using measures such as the Intercultural Sensitivity Scale. Intercultural sensitivity is measured by the extent to which a person enjoys cultural interactions, embodies respect for cultural differences, in confident in their interactions and the attention paid to interactions. Proponents of this model argue that a person’s potential for intercultural competence increases with their understanding of cultural differences (Perry & Southwell 2011).

Another model of conceptualizing intercultural competencies reviewed by Perry and Southwell is intercultural communication. This model is based on the communication aspect of intercultural competence and defines intercultural competence as the ability of communicate effectively and appropriately with people from different cultures. The model subsumes culture into communication theory. The premise is that for a person to be able to communicate with effectively and appropriately with people from other cultures or to acquire communication competence, they must have acquired a prerequisite understanding of the similarities and differences between the two cultures. Therefore, communication competence is viewed not as an isolated attribute but the result of interactions which allows a person to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes to be able to communicate effectively and appropriately in a cross-cultural context (Perry & Southwell 2011).

From these models, Perry and Southwell (2011) identify intercultural training as integral to the development of intercultural competency. Intercultural training as an approach to developing intercultural competency is multidisciplinary in nature, drawing from a wide variety of fields in social science from anthropology, psychology, linguistics, communication to business management. Intercultural training is mainly deployed by institutions and organizations whose members work in a multicultural or multilingual environment and are required to interact with people from other cultures. However, it must be emphasized that the utility of intercultural training in these situations lies in its ability to effect behaviour change as opposed to simply the acquisition of knowledge about cultures or cultural sensitivity (Perry & Southwell 2011).

One of the methods identified of developing intercultural competencies is based on the education system where the various aspects of intercultural competencies are either embedded into academic subjects such as foreign language or integrated into educational instruction. Some of the interactions involved in learning subjects such as foreign languages, including the interaction between native speakers and learners, are instrumental in enhancing learning and cultural understanding simultaneously. In addition, schools can endeavor to actively develop intercultural competency by integrating intercultural training as part of the pedagogy across all subjects. The utility of this model to intercultural training is demonstrated by research which shows that learners in multicultural or culturally diverse school environments tend to display comparably higher levels of intercultural understanding. In this regard, the education system provides opportunities for the development of intercultural competency. However, Perry and Southwell (2011) illustrate that the extent to which the educational system facilitates the development of intercultural competency is dependent on the curriculum context. In some countries such as Australia, intercultural understanding is increasingly embedded in the curriculum. In other countries such as the UAE, there are comparatively fewer opportunities for development of intercultural competencies.

Perry and Southwell (2011) also identify visits abroad as another effective model of developing intercultural competencies. The premise of the model is that the more time a person spends in a target culture either working or studying, the more adept they are likely to become in understanding the culture and in honing intercultural sensitivity as well as communication competence. Evidence has shown that by immersing themselves in foreign cultures, people have been able to significantly develop intercultural competencies.

From the models reviewed by Perry and Southwell (2011), the most appropriate model for developing intercultural competencies in the UAE education system is the use of visits abroad. This opinion is based on the evidence provided by Perry and Southwell (2011) which indicates significantly higher levels of intercultural competency and sensitivity among students or persons who work or study abroad. As more students and workers undertake visits abroad and become culturally immersed, they in turn become agents of developing intercultural competencies in their schools and effectively amplify the role of intercultural trainers such as teachers in schools or human resource practitioners in the workplace. An additional consideration is the fact that public education is free in the UAE which makes visits abroad practical as they would not impose excessive financial burdens on the students (Perry & Southwell 2011).

In the UAE educational context, short visits abroad can be integrated into secondary and higher education. Students would be offered an option to take up a semester of their studies abroad either as part of a student exchange program or as part of study trips aimed at increasing their intercultural competence in lieu of classroom hours. This would provide learners with both an incentive and opportunity to improve their intercultural awareness and develop intercultural competencies. These programs would ideally focus on providing an immersive experience which has been proven to significantly increase intercultural sensitivity.


Perry, L.B. & Southwell, L. (2011). Developing intercultural understanding and skills: models and approaches. Intercultural Education, 22(6): 453-466