Creating Global Citizens through Bilingualism and Education. Teaching English as a lingua franca in the Middle East

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2016

6 Pages, Grade: 90.5

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Introduction: Global Citizenship, and Global Citizens

English in the Middle East and Global Citizenship

Compliments to Bi-ligualism in Cementing Global Citizenship

Introduction: Global Citizenship, and Global Citizens

Throughout the past ten years higher education’s evolving interest in internationalization has not only intensified but has begun to constitute its very foundation. Moreover, the notion of civic education and engagement has expanded from constituting more of a national focus to one which is global. This in turn, highlighted the reality that civic responsibility is a notion that extends beyond national borders, as well as beyond the scope of one state.

Global Citizenship is not new in discourse; however, both the notion as well as the term seems to be witnessing more attention lately as they are both being highlighted across discussions in higher education. Several institutions make reference to global citizenship in their mission statements, as well as make it a goal of theirs in their quest for more liberal education and internationalization efforts. A number of institutions also have centers for ‘global citizenship’ and provide programs under this umbrella.

In our day and age, there is wide debate revolving around the question of what truly constitutes a ‘global citizen’, just as there is an evolving debate in the areas of the concept of globalization as a whole. International organizations such as Oxfam among others currently offer a number of definitions which intersect in their approach. The definitions provide that a Global Citizen is an individual who ‘is aware of the wider world and has a sense of their own role as a world citizen.’ [1] The definitions also attribute respecting and valuing diversity and having an understanding of ‘how the world works’ as major characteristics of a Global Citizen. Discourse further provides that a Global Citizen is at a constant clash with any social injustice and that this individual is active within his/her community in many of its aspects and in many of its diverse areas, whether this is on the local or global level. This type of citizen is willing and aiming to actively ‘make the world a more equitable and sustainable place’, and that he/she takes full responsibility for his/her actions in that regard, and is aware of his/her role in the overall process.[2]

Effective Global Citizens are usually flexible, creative and pro-active. They are able to solve predicaments, make pragmatic decisions, think in a critical manner, communicate ideas efficiently and effectively and also adapt and maneuver well within a team or group dynamic. This set of attributes is recognized in this day and age more than ever, as being the foundation for success in the 21st century in absolutely every aspect of life, and increasingly in the workplace. Moreover, the acquisition of such attributes and skills is not developed independent from active learning methods – where people are exposed to collaborating with others, and to communication on all levels.[3] Furthermore, a look at the many ways academic institutions, colleges and universities discuss global citizenship is a major indicator of how wide of a concept it is, and how different the concentration may be based upon who uses the term.

English in the Middle East and Global Citizenship

National citizenship is inherent, and is rooted in the individual as of his/her birth. Global citizenship is a completely different phenomenon. Global citizenship is a voluntary association with a notion/idea/concept which according to Schattle, signifies “ways of thinking and living within multiple cross-cutting communities—cities, regions, states, nations, and international collectives…”[4]

Moreover, individuals label themselves a ‘global citizen’ based upon diverse life experiences and trajectories. They each possess unique understandings of what being a global citizen means to them. Therefore, when it comes to the ‘practice of global citizenship’ many believe it is exercised at the level of one’s home – this being through awareness and engagement about global issues, or through exposure to different cultures and different languages within a local setting.

The term global citizenship is very closely connected to notions of globalization and cosmopolitanism. Today, globalization and internalization processes have led to a remarkable expansion of the English language inherently. As a lingua franca,[5] English is “chosen as the means of communication among people from different first language backgrounds, across linguacultural boundaries.”[6] As the Middle East strives to become more integrated into the international community, and eliminate stereotypes and stigmatizations associated with Western hegemonic views, the notion of global citizenship continues to be understood as the possession of strong interests in global affairs, cultivating and appreciating of diverse values, and enhancing the region’s competitiveness on the global scene. All of this however must be grasped through communication. For this reason, being able to communicate in English, the world’s current dominant language is a prerequisite. Staying monolingual is no longer a viable option, with bilingualism becoming the sine qua[7] of global citizenship.[8]

This is witnessed in the Middle East to a large extent, whereby education in Arabic speaking countries is conducted in a complex multilingual environment. The complexity in the Arab region derives from very nature of the Arabic language itself. This is due to the fact that distinct national dialects are used for informal purposes alongside Modern Standard Arabic, the Pan-Arab language of literacy.[9] Moreover, the international character of the region is cemented through the widespread use of international languages such as English and French –a clear reflection of the region’s colonial history.[10] Not only has this led to the growing dominance of such languages, especially English, but it has also made the region aware of the need to further educate its populations in these foreign languages in order for them to gain their international, and global characters.

Within this framework, proficiency in English is regarded as one of the individual’s fundamental skills appealing to employers, and academic opportunities from all walks of life. It is seen as their ‘ticket’ to the international community. In response to this reality, several types of standardized English tests emerged in the Middle East. Certificates to indicate English proficiency at different stages cater to the increasing demand of the bilingualism in both national and international contexts in the areas of access to higher education and subsequently, the job market. Apart from the significant importance given to the teaching of English as a compulsory foreign language in both schools and universities, a variety of learning opportunities also take place in less formal settings, in which learners are able to practice and improve their English at local language centers, with private tutoring agencies, or with evening classes at universities and colleges.

Compliments to Bi-ligualism in Cementing Global Citizenship

Coupled with bi-ligualism and multi-ligualism even, global citizenship means on-the-ground experiences with diverse countries, peoples, and cultures on a more direct level. The fact is that, language allows and facilitates this. Scholars believe that in the areas of global citizenship there exists an indispensable connection between the global and the local. No matter what an individual’s particular understanding of this notion is, individuals around the world make a conscious decision and choice in whether or how to practice in this process actively.

In the words of an international scholar, it is highly a complicated task to educate students about inter-cultural understanding if they are not aware of the fact that they, too, live in a culture that taints their understandings and perceptions. Awareness of the world is rooted in self-awareness. Self-awareness enables students to recognize the world within the context of the universality of the human experience. This not only assists in increasing their identification with fellow human beings from all over the world, but also assists in the culmination of their sense of responsibility toward humankind as a whole, and as an entity that they are a part of.

Language must be accompanied with cultural empathy, which is frequently uttered as a major aim of global education. Moreover, intercultural competence is seen as a core value in higher education’s conceptualization about global citizenship and is also seen as an indispensable skill that needs to be acquired in order to facilitate the integration into any type of workplace. Cultural empathy assists individuals in analyzing queries from multiple approaches and in navigating skillfully across cultures – at times even navigating their own multiple cultural identities, while at others moving towards experiencing cultures which are otherwise unfamiliar to them.[11]

Global citizenship involves a mindfulness of the inter-dependence and inter-connectedness of individuals and systems. It also encompasses a sense of responsibility which comes along with this mindfulness. Altinay states that traversing “the treacherous waters of our epic interdependence” requires a group of guiding principles which will shape “ethical and fair responses.”[12] He further elaborates that despite the fact that the aim of undergraduate education must not be to impose a “correct” set of answers, that “critical thinking, cultural empathy, and ethical systems and choices” are the foundation of ethical judgement and decision-making consequently.

Conclusion: Setting the Tone for Global Citizenship

Within the context of education, and with the inter-connected as well as the inter-dependent nature of the world we live in today, the global is not something which is distant or unattainable, but rather a major aspect of our daily lives. We are tied to the people around us on each and every continent: socially and culturally through the media and tele-communications, travel and migration; economically through international and bilateral trade agreements and the provision of goods and services across borders; environmentally through the consumption and the sharing of one planet; and indeed, politically through international relations and the international systems of regulation in the areas of laws, customs and international standards.

Youth is entitled to an education that equips them with the knowledge, language skills and values they need in order to embrace their global community, as well as their role as global citizens. Everything taught in schools relays messages. It is for this reason that we need to exemplify and embody the values we wish to see in our future. If we wish to promote a belief system with the equality of all human beings and the importance of treating everyone fairly and with respect at its core, we need to ensure that learning processes, reflect and reinforce these values evidently, clearly and attractively. We need to ensure that these educational processes equip students with the tools, languages, and values they need in order to make their natural evolution towards Global Citizenship smooth and cemented.


[1] Oxfam GB (2006), Education for Global Citizenship: A Guide for Schools, Retrieve at:

[2] Israel, Ronald (2012), What Does it Mean to be a Global Citizen? Kosmos Journal for Global Transformation,, Spring|Summer, Retrieve at:

[3] Lagos, Taso G. (n.d.), Global Citizenship – Towards a Definition, University of Washington Press, Retrieve at:

[4] Schattle, Hans (2007), The Practices of Global Citizenship, Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

[5] Definition: a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different.

[6] Seidhofer, Barbara (2005), English as a lingua franca, Oxford Journals, Retrieve at:

[7] Definition: something absolutely indispensable or essential.

[8] Amin, Tamer G. (2014), LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION AND SCIENCE EDUCATION IN THE ARAB REGION: TOWARD A SITUATED RESEARCH AGENDA, The World of Science Education: Arab States, Chapter: 4, Publisher: Sense Publishers, Editors: S. Bou Jaoude, Z. Dagher.

[9] Ibid


[11] Reysen, Stephen & Katzarska-Miller, Iva (2013), Intentional Worlds and Global Citizenship, Journal of Global Citizenship & Equity in Education, Vol. 3 No. 1, Retrieve at:

[12] Altinay, Hakan (2010), The Case for Global Civics, Global Economy and Development Working Paper 35, The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC.

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Creating Global Citizens through Bilingualism and Education. Teaching English as a lingua franca in the Middle East
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Global Citizenship, Education, Engagement
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Jasmin Lilian Diab (Author), 2016, Creating Global Citizens through Bilingualism and Education. Teaching English as a lingua franca in the Middle East, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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