With our internationally inter-linked economies, and in an age in which problems confronting humanity are increasingly common to all, global citizenship education has never been more essential.
It was a privilege to be part of the CDEC delegation representing the UK at an international conference in Trento, Italy, 11th to 13 March, entitled “Perspectives on Global Citizenship: A Shared Commitment” (see: http://www.globalschools.education/News/Perspectives-on-GCE).
The opportunity to meet with professionals from 10 EU members states, and to discuss our successes and challenges to successfully delivering global citizenship education in each of our countries was illuminating.
At the conference we considered, and signed up to a position statement which expressed our shared aims as follows…
Our overall aim is to open up new areas of learning and encourage participation of pupils and educational communities in Global Citizenship Education.
We aim to do this by:
- facilitating the development of competences and values that ensure critical understanding of global interdependences;
- developing understanding of power relationships;
- encouraging active engagement in local and global attempts to eradicate poverty and inequality;
- promoting justice, human rights and sustainable ways of living;
- fostering the resilience, creativity and optimism to take action, individually and collectively, for a just and sustainable world.
It was interesting, though not surprising to discover that it is not only the English delegation which faces the challenge of convincing policy makers to promote such outward-looking, benevolent aims. In most countries it seems, the monetisation of pupils, treated as units of economic growth, dominates the shaping of school curricula. But, perhaps the notion of world peace would be something all would sign up to? It was enlightening to listen to Yoko Mochizuki, Head of the Rethinking Learning Programme, UNESCO – Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development, India. Yoko explained how instrumentalism can provide a motivation for peace in which it is seen as a means to a (nationalistic) end rather than as a universal aim.
The position statement we signed up to also included the following statements:
We encourage all educators to engage with and share learning from Global Citizenship Education shaped by the principles of values formation, critical thinking, dialogue and the exploration of interconnections.
We believe that school communities are spaces that can facilitate the emergence of a new generation of world citizens motivated by values of solidarity, equality, justice, inclusion, sustainability and cooperation.
This last sentence echoes the sentiments which permeated the presentations, speeches and all our conversations during the conference, in which we also watched the powerful film One Day After Peace ; a film about forgiveness and reconciliation after conflict. One particular quotation from the film summed up a lot of what we strive to convey through global citizenship education:
“When you see the humanity in the other it’s the end of conflict.”
To live in a world in which peace, shared endeavour and generosity are the dominant characteristics may seem a lofty aim, and yet so much can be achieved through an education which enables children and young people to empathise with others from widely diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures and experiences of life, and empowers them to contribute to finding solutions to conflict, the sharing of finite resources, human displacement, poverty, the environment… But whether the motivation for including global citizenship education in curricula is national interest or altruism or anything in between, it is essential that educational professionals across the world continue to make the case for an education which is holistic, outward-looking and which contributes to a sustainable future for all.