Global Citizenship should be at the heart of Education!


Last week an extremely important Conference on Education was held in Paris and yet very little coverage was granted in the media. Unesco gathered over 250 delegates to ask the question and develop an understanding of how to place Global Citizenship at the heart of the education debate across the world.

© UNESCO/ Kate Holt

The great question of global citizenship education is how to build solidarity with people you don’t know, not those you do.

I am writing this blog because I firmly believe that we all have a role to play in this debate. In the 21st Century, whether by being naïve or wishing on a star, I thought that we would live in a more tolerant and understanding age.

Within the Media at present, on a daily basis, hate crimes seem to becoming more prevalent. Whether the hate is directed against the colour of your skin, your religious beliefs or your love life, it seems to be never ending. I was shocked and horrified to see anti holocaust graffiti written across museum advertising posts. The denial of the most horrific event in human history continues like a plague that does not want to accept historical fact.

The Islamic faith is under attack from within its own groups through the radicalisation of a few followers that have moulded the headlines and dictated the way in which the Islamic faith is portrayed in the media.

In America, racial tension has again come to the fore through the perceived nature of the Police to be less tolerant towards black people. At a time that the USA is led by Barack Obama, a black American, you would have thought that these events would be a feature of the past. In Britain, a lack of tolerance to others is becoming a common theme within the media. The rise of far right groups, tend to control the media mindset. The acts of hatred seem to be advertised through constant media attention. Bad news does sell papers but isn’t it also important to show stories that influence readers to be tolerant, caring, loving and supportive.

For all the above reasons, I feel that the Global Citizenship should be at the heart of Education. We need to be able to teach pupils the importance of tolerance towards each other. We need to teach pupils how important it is that different beliefs does not have to lead to hatred.

“There are many reasons to be optimistic but this is not the moment to be satisfied,” said Soo-hyang Choi, Director of UNESCO’s Division for Teaching, Learning and Content. “Global citizenship must be viewed as a life experience and not just a forum for intellectual debates. There must be occasions for learners of all ages to feel that they belong to a common humanity, to understand that they need to take care of others, both those they know and those who, as has been said, they don’t.” 

Nations have proven time and again how they can come together to overcome adversity. The Ebola crisis is an example of how we are able to work together for the sake of humanity.

Within schools, events such as Comic Relief, Children in Need etc allow us to actively support the needs of others in a fun and exciting manner yet the curriculum requires teachers to think outside the box on how they çan introduce themes linked to Global Citizenship. In Wales we can turn to the needs of others within the Personal and Social Well being framework. I’m sure that across the Globe, similar tools and frameworks are available. It is interesting therefore to consider the following comments,

It is also necessary to consider the role of both teachers and learners in GCED. “Teachers need support in terms of continuous professional development, continuous resources, trust from authority and parents to be fully professionally accountable,” said Susan Hopgood, President of Education International. “Education has the ability to empower communities and a broad and flexible curriculum is crucial to GCED.” Similarly, the needs of learners of all ages should be considered with GCED embodying both lifelong learning and intergenerational learning.

The need for teaching Global Citizenship is becoming ever greater. When watching Star Trek, it is clear that the World has become a united force and as a child and adult viewer, I always believed that one day nations might not become united but would work openly together for the greater good of humanity, that this was the key to the words often used by Mr Spock, ‘Live long and Prosper’.

We feel it is of the upmost importance to regard youth as major stakeholders in the formal education debate since we are in fact the recipients of said education,” the Conference Youth Delegates said in a statement presented today. “We encourage UNESCO to stimulate non-formal and informal education methods in GCED as a way of reaching the children and youth still out of school for varying reasons.” 

There is no doubt that an understanding of each other will lead to greater tolerance. I do not believe that you have to relinquish National identity to achieve this but rather gain greater respect for the needs and wishes of others. This is not an easy task when you consider that war exists in almost every continent at present. In Europe, Africa and Asia, disputes over borders, national identity continue. In the Middle East a battle for the hearts and minds of the Islamic Faith is taking place. With an international background such as this, why should we promote Global Citizenship? Well from a very naïve perspective, I hope that our children can live in a better and more peaceful World. I wish that all nations can be tolerant of each other, all religions and all humans. The doctrine of hate is far too easy to follow and economic jealousy can be at the heart of this hatred. Good news does not always sell newspapers, working effectively together does not create a powerful headline for television yet without these stories having equal attention, it is down to education and the curriculum to support pupils on the road to adulthood and to help them understand that ultimately we are all members of the human race.

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