A question I always brace myself for is “Where do you come from?” – the answer is so long-winded. I am British and grew up in Brussels where I went to a European School. My friends were Italian, French, Dutch, Portuguese… I went to the UK to study where I met a Frenchman, we married in Belgium before coming to live in Chile. My children are trilingual and attend an online international high school (can you guess which one?).

I consider myself to be a global citizen and while I am fiercely protective of my British English language heritage (No, they are not PANTS, they are TROUSERS!!! Pants are something else entirely!), I do not have the same sense of patriotism I might have had, had I lived in the same country my whole life.

This sense of global citizenship is reflected in my work. While running the Yo Invento program a few years ago (a STEAM-based invention education project-based program leading learners through the Engineering Design Process), I jumped at the opportunity afforded by the global pandemic and the new reality of online learning. Where previously this program had been limited to a few select schools in the region where I live, suddenly geographical boundaries were no longer an issue. I reached out to similar STEAM-oriented organizations in other LATAM countries and before I knew it, we were running Yo Invento LATAM with learners from 7 different countries. Young people who had never before had the chance to interact with peers from other countries, could now collaborate together in groups, brainstorm, share ideas, and crucially, share culturally related information. Often these young people do not have the means to travel beyond their community or their own country, and so have very little opportunity to learn first-hand about the world and interact with other young people from different countries. Imagine the beauty of finding out that a learner in Chile had identified the exact same problem to solve as a learner in Guatemala – chickens eating the vegetables in the vegetable patch!

What these learners were developing was their Global Competence:

Global Competence is a multi-dimensional construct that requires a combination of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values successfully applied to global issues or intercultural situations. Global issues refer to those that affect all people, and have deep implications for current and future generations.’

Source: OECD PISA 2018 – Global Competence

As a global citizen, I find myself to be an advocate for global competence. In a world strife with conflict and global crises, it is essential to instil in young people a sense of global citizenship, where they develop an understanding and appreciation of differences and learn to communicate and collaborate across boundaries, be they geographical, linguistic, cultural or other. Working at School of Humanity has had a profound impact on me, giving me and the team the privilege of interacting, mentoring and guiding young people from countries all around the world. To date, we have had learners joining us from 53 countries across 5 continents through our Summer School, After School and High School programs.

A map of learners at School of Humanity, consisting of 53 countries.

Learners from 53 countries joining School of Humanity


Our learners are encouraged to collaborate with their cohort peers, working on projects that generate common interests. They have core workshops led by their learning facilitator where they interact with a bigger group, and mentorship sessions where they work in smaller groups with our mentors, who themselves represent over 12 countries. Such collaborations lead to long-lasting friendships, with learners from opposite ends of the world, maintaining communication with and even collaborating with each other, long after their time at School of Humanity is over. Take Sofia from Peru and Rumaisa from Pakistan, who after working on a project together on their Future of Education challenge, went on to participate in the Invent Future Global’s (IFG) Global Innovation Challenge and were selected as a winning innovation. With our Ambassador Program, our alumni have the opportunity to continue playing an important role within our community, developing key skills and promoting the School around the world.

The skills which these young people are developing are invaluable. Seeing themselves as citizens of the world is an important step for them to become stewards of the planet and work together to solve global issues. Global competence is so important to us at School of Humanity, that we have integrated it into our curriculum and learning methodology. See below the 7 key global competencies which we hold to be essential:


Focussing now on our high school, our community of learners is represented by 15 countries of residence and 17 nationalities. Throughout their learning journeys, the learners collaborate both during the synchronous workshops and during asynchronous project work, meaning that they need to learn how to manage cultural differences and practicalities, such as taking into consideration time zones when scheduling meetings and recognizing different conditions which may be affecting individual learners, be they environmental or political. For example, a learner who experienced difficulty with her sound while her region was experiencing heavy rains. By being faced with these challenges collectively, the learners improve their cultural competencies.

As an online, global school, School of Humanity is well-positioned to promote mutual respect and acceptance of cultural differences. During the orientation week, we run a session focussing on our mission and values. This includes an overview and discussion of our values and learners are introduced to the concept of the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ by Carl Sagen. The “Pale Blue Dot” monologue was delivered by Carl Sagan in 1994, inspired by a photograph of Earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers (3. kilometers miles) away. The Earth appeared as a tiny point of light, a pale blue dot, in the vastness of space. The learners are asked to consider their place on the planet and what responsibilities they have as stewards of the planet.

This concept is reflected in the work of space philosopher and author Frank White, who coined the term ‘The Overview Effect’ in 1987. Frank White first came up with the idea of the Overview Effect whilst flying over America – the concept that an individual can have an inner cognitive shift in awareness when they view the planet as a whole. He subsequently interviewed astronauts to gain a better understanding of what they had experienced seeing the planet from outer space.

‘Earthrise’ photo taken by Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders who famously said “Here we came all this way to the Moon, and yet the most significant thing we’re seeing is our own home planet, the Earth.”

As expounded by Dr. Annahita Nezami in her TED talk ‘The Therapeutic Effect of the Overview Effect and Virtual Reality’, the overview effect is ‘an awe-inspiring experience which many space travelers report that national boundaries vanish and conflicts that divide us become much less important. They experience an almost immediate realisation that we live on this fragile oasis called Planet Earth and that we are all part of this much larger interconnected system. Many of them come back from this experience with a renewed sense of purpose to protect this pale blue dot that we live on’. Dr. Nezami works closely with Frank White to further explore the impact of The Overview Effect. They have even written a children’s book together called ‘Star Sailor: The Overview Effect Chronicles’. Dr. Nezami has gone on to found Earthscape VR, an organization which explores the possibilities of recreating The Overview Effect through virtual reality, to make this experience accessible to more people as she has observed that, in addition to the cognitive shift it provides, it also has a powerful healing effect. It is important to note here, that both Frank White and Dr. Annahita Nezami have become part of School of Humanity’s community, with Frank giving talks and running micro-internship programs for our learners exploring the Designing Space Habitats challenge, and Dr. Annahita Nezami also giving talks and joining us as a mentor on our Understanding Minds challenge.

To further provide opportunities for our cohorts of learners to come together to connect, share, build community and develop cultural competence, we have included a Community Time session in our weekly schedule. Activities include learners sharing local specialties or music, for example, as a way for them to learn from and appreciate each other and sharing their location on a map of the world, adding photos, or interesting facts about their home town to show the global nature of the cohort.

Community Time Session on Global Competence

Referencing the OECD PISA report on global competence once more: ‘Developing global competence is a life-long process, but it is one that education can shape’. With the rise of online schooling, geographical barriers are being overcome and learners who previously might never have interacted with peers from other countries now can learn to collaborate with and become firm friends with each other across the globe. While being a global citizen also has its downfalls, such as never knowing where ‘home’ actually is, cultural identity confusion, and always missing something from another country – ahh, if only they sold marmite in Chile – in the end, it is important to remember that we are all global citizens, and we share the responsibility to educate young people to accept each other and learn how to work together to make the world a better place for all of humanity.

Claire Evans

Passionate about helping young people discover their strengths and talents and providing them with opportunities to shine.