In this article, you will read about:

  • What skills and attitudes young people need to become globally minded
  • The role educators play in developing intercultural competence in youth
  • How a global mindset impacts employability and future prospects of youth

Recent research has shown that young people in Hong Kong need to develop a better understanding of global issues and more curiosity towards other cultures (see more here). These studies note that more and more of Hong Kong’s youth focus only on domestic, or so-called inward-facing issues. However, now when the world is getting more interconnected and interdependent, experts emphasize that teaching young people about intercultural understanding and empathy is crucial in creating a better future for everyone.

AFS Intercultural Exchanges Hong Kong and the Asia Society Hong Kong Center convened a panel discussion, “Developing Global Mindsets for Hong Kong’s Future” to tackle this pressing issue. A group of distinguished panelists discussed youth education and intercultural learning for the 21st century, and formulated a joint plea for more opportunities for Hong Kong’s youth to develop global competences, proposing several initiatives focusing on fostering intercultural understanding.

photo by AFS Hong Kong

There are six principles that are key to developing a global mindset, said Alejandro Reyes, professor of international relations and global studies at the University of Hong Kong and senior adviser to the US-Asia Institute, who moderated the panel. These six principles include accepting the diversity of perspectives, understanding sustainability, having a systematic approach to the modern interconnectedness, active citizenship and participation in society. Crucial for a global mindset are also an elementary understanding of technology and an awareness that learning is a constant cooperative process.

Global mindset is all about having an open attitude towards cultural diversity, and educators and families are responsible for fostering such an attitude in young people, explained Kuby Chan, principal of the Jockey Club Ti-I College and Munsang College. She emphasized that education systems should help young people become more adaptable, empathetic and respectful of diversity, according to Ms Chan. She added that this is urgent if Hong Kong wants to maintain its position as one of the most significant economic centers in the world, and its young generations to remain competitive in the fast developing global markets.

A key stumbling block to becoming interculturally competent is the declining level of English, said Ming Wai Lau, Chairman of Hong Kong’s Commission on Youth. He concluded that young people should be more curious about discovering the world, and that more intercultural exchanges are crucial in developing curiosity. The educational system should foster curiosity by reducing the fear of failure, which would in turn strengthen young people’s self-confidence.

Self-awareness and a deep understanding of one’s own identity and roots are crucial prerequisites for developing a global mindset, according to Eric Li, a successful venture capitalist. To be a globalist, a young person needs to know who they are and what they have to offer to the world, said Mr Lee and added that looking inward is necessary for the outward mindset, that understanding local community comes before understanding the world, and knowing oneself is key for appreciating others.

Daniel Obst, President and CEO of AFS Intercultural Programs

Daniel Obst, CEO and President of AFS Intercultural Programs explained why AFS’s “learning to live together” philosophy brings value to today’s youth. Studies have shown that international exposure is not enough for developing global competence, which is why AFS programs focus on experiential learning accompanied by structured support, thus providing opportunities for students, host families and volunteers to grow.

It is important to note, Obst added, that intercultural competence is much more that foreign language proficiency, and it also includes flexibility, critical thinking, adaptability. These are the skills CEOs are looking for worldwide in the  employment market, and young people are very much aware of the concrete benefits of developing such skills. Mr Obst also quoted a recent research study conducted by AFS, which found that 66% of Generation Z are looking to add a global component to their identity. Learn more about this study here.

Developing global mindsets must be inclusive and oriented towards developing productive, problem-solving ways of thinking, panelists concluded. Nonprofits, governments and businesses  all need to create more opportunities for young people in Hong Kong and the rest of the world to become globally minded.