A more worldly education

S. M. Rayhanul Islam
Thursday, March 1st, 2018


(Global Citizenship Education: Preparing learners for the challenges of the twenty-first century, Published in 2014 by UNESCO, ISBN 978-92-3-100019-5)


We are living in an increasingly globalized and first changing world of the 21st century where ensuring access to education for all is still a major challenge in many countries. Nevertheless, improving the quality and relevance of education is now receiving more attention than ever. The role of education is moving beyond the development of knowledge and cognitive skills to the building of values, soft skills and attitudes among learners. Education is expected to facilitate international cooperation and promote social transformation in an innovative way towards a more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable world. In this context, there is a growing interest in global citizenship education around the world, and in response to the increasing demand from its Member States for support in empowering learners to become responsible global citizens, UNESCO has made ‘Global Citizenship Education (GCE)’ one of its key education objectives.


What is global citizenship education? Do we learn it in school? What difference can it make? How can it be introduced and become a common feature of school curricula? The UNESCO publication “Global Citizenship Education: Preparing learners for the challenges of the twenty-first century” seeks to answer these and other questions. It represents a conceptual shift in recognizing the relevance of education in understanding and resolving global issues in their social, political, cultural, economic and environmental dimensions. It also aims to establish that Global Citizenship Education (GCE) has a critical role to play in equipping learners with competencies to deal with the dynamic and interdependent world of the twenty-first century. This publication also explores a number of enabling conditions for the promotion and implementation of GCE.


The publication is divided into 3 main chapters. The first chapter ‘Global Citizenship Education: the Basics and Debates’ discusses the parameters of Global citizenship and Global citizenship education (GCE). The starting point of GCE is to recognize that education helps people understand and resolve complex global issues. It also acknowledges that education has a role to play in moving beyond simply developing cognitive skills – i.e. reading, writing and mathematics – towards building learners’ values, social and emotional skills that can promote social transformation and build cooperation between nations. GCE is directly related to the civic, social and political socialization function of education, and ultimately to the contribution of education in preparing children and young people to deal with the challenges of today’s increasingly interconnected and interdependent world. Global citizenship education, as such, aims to: a) encourage learners to analyze real-life issues critically and to identify possible solutions creatively and innovatively; b) support learners to revisit assumptions, world views and power relations in mainstream discourses and consider people/groups that are systematically underrepresented/ marginalized; c) focus on engagement in individual and collective action to bring about desired changes; and d)  involve multiple stakeholders, including those outside the learning environment, in the community and in wider society. In conflict and in post-conflict settings, Global citizenship education can support nation-building, social cohesion and positive values in children and youth.


The second chapter ‘Global Citizenship Education in Practice’ explores some existing approaches to Global Citizenship Education (GCE) and practices in different settings as part of this effort. GCE promotes teaching and learning practices that nurture a respectful, inclusive and interactive classroom/school ethos (e.g. shared understanding of classroom norms, student voice, seating arrangements, use of wall/visual space, global citizenship imagery) and offer opportunities for students to experience learning in varied contexts including the classroom, whole school activities, and in one’s communities, from the local to the global (e.g. community participation, international exchanges, virtual communities). It is also clear that ‘sports’ can create deep and long-lasting lessons in justice, tolerance, diversity and human rights. They can promote social values and goals of collaboration, persistence and fair play. Young people can play an active role in promoting the values underlying global citizenship and driving this agenda.


The final chapter ‘Way Forward’ focuses on the significant strides made to advance the concept and the practice of global citizenship education in different regions, communities and educational arenas. Many of these advances have been made possible by a paradigm shift in education that recognizes the need for learning beyond numeracy and literacy. While GCE has been applied in different ways in different contexts, regions and communities, it has a number of common elements, which include fostering in learners: i) an attitude supported by an understanding of multiple levels of identity, and the potential for a ‘collective identity’ which transcends individual cultural, religious, ethnic or other differences; ii) a deep knowledge of global issues and universal values such as justice, equality, dignity and respect; iii) cognitive skills to think critically, systemically and creatively, including adopting a multi-perspective approach that recognizes the different dimensions, perspectives and angles of issues; iv) non-cognitive skills including social skills such as empathy and conflict resolution, communication skills and aptitudes for networking and interacting with people of different backgrounds, origins, cultures and perspectives; and v) behavioral capacities to act collaboratively and responsibly to find global solutions for global challenges, and to strive for the collective good.


It is clear that making responsible global citizens goes beyond education. Engagement across multiple sectors, actors and levels is required to have a long-lasting impact. In this regard, this first UNESCO publication on ‘Global Citizenship Education’ is a useful resource guide for education policy makers, academics, researchers, civil society organizations and young people from all regions of the world with an interest in equipping learners with the knowledge, skills and values they need to thrive as global citizens in the twenty-first century.



The writer is an independent researcher. E-mail: smrayhanulislam@hotmail.com

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