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  • Irakli Tsereteli

Global Citizenship Education in the ELT classroom

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

By Matthew Hayes | Macmillan Education Blog | Source

Let’s begin with a question. Why does education matter to you, to your students and to the world?

‘Education does not change the world. Education changes people. People change the world.’

Paulo Freire

Your own story with education will be deeply personal. That teacher that really ‘made a difference’, or the lightbulb moment which changed the way you look at the world. For your students, I suspect you know many of their dreams and ambitions. As to why education matters to the world, again the answer will be personal. I suspect in answering this question many of us will be thinking of the challenges we see from our respective corner of the globe – rising inequality, environmental and economic challenges, or the rise of automation in the workforce.

Common to these answers is a higher level of purpose for education, one which cannot be addressed by traditional curriculum subjects, examinations or international testing standards. It is this purpose which Paulo Freire so powerfully captures in that famous quote, and for which Global Citizenship Education (GCE) can be an effective framework.

Global Citizenship Education

The core concepts underpinning GCE have been traced back to some of our earliest history and are not only to be found in Western culture and philosophy. The Ancient Chinese philosopher Mozi wrote that ‘the world is a commonwealth shared by all’; while the Hindu scriptures call for ‘concord with our own people, and concord with people who are strangers to us’.

Global citizenship’s current prominence in international education policy can be traced to more recent history. This began with the founding of the United Nations in the 1940s and the subsequent Declaration on Human Rights, which called for ‘education […] to promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations’. It was really the 2012 Global Education First Initiative launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that underscored a fundamental shift: from purely quantitative indicators of global educational progress to more qualitative ones. The development of ‘global citizens’ was set down as a key target in this initiative. It led to the publication, two years later, of UNESCO’s first framework for GCE: ‘Preparing Learners for the Challenges of the 21st Century.’

Yet despite UNESCO’s promotion of GCE, one of its virtues is that it is not owned or prescribed by any supranational organisation. There is no mandated curriculum and no accreditation body. This democratic quality to GCE enables a wide variety of policy and practice, as GCE can be adapted to local contexts and cultures, and to your classroom. I have identified three key elements in current GCE thinking and practice, but you can and should criticise and interpret these in your own context.

Three elements of Global Citizenship Education

Bloom’s Taxonomy outlines three domains in educational learning outcomes:

  • ‘cognitive’ (aka knowledge)

  • ‘psychomotor’ (aka skills)

  • ‘affective’ (aka attitudes)

GCE can be effectively grouped along the same lines, with Global Orientation representing knowledge, Global Skills representing skills, and Global Action representing attitudes. Navigating GCE through learning outcomes is the most practical way of exploring the educational ideal.

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