Global citizenship education

Global citizenship education (GCE) is a form of civic learning that involves students' active participation in projects that address global issues of a social, political, economic, or environmental nature. The two main elements of GCE are 'global consciousness'; the moral or ethical aspect of global issues, and 'global competencies', or skills meant to enable learners to compete in the global jobs market. The promotion of GCE was a response by governments and NGOs to the emergence of supranational institutions, regional economic blocs, and the development of information and communications technologies. These have all resulted in the emergence of a more globally oriented and collaborative approach to education.

Definition and origins

Global citizenship consists of voluntary practices oriented to human rights, social justice, and environmentalism at the local, regional, and global level.[1] Unlike national citizenship, global citizenship does not denote any legal status [2] or allegiance to an actual form of government.[3] The emergence of regional economic blocs, supra-national political institutions such as the European Union,[4] and the advancement of ICTs, has caused governments to try to prepare national populations to be competitive in the global jobs market.[5] This has led to the introduction of global citizenship education (GCE) programs at primary, secondary, and tertiary level, but also at independent NGOs, grass roots organizations, and other large scale educational organizations, such as the International Baccalaureate Organization and UNESCO.[6]

The most important features of global citizenship education (GCE) are voluntary action that can extend from local to international collectives; the practice of cultural empathy; and a focus on active participation in social and political life at the local and global level.[7] In the late 1990s, OXFAM UK designed a curriculum for global citizenship education (GCE) which stressed "the 'active' role of global citizens".[8] In this approach, individuals and groups both inside and outside the educational sector might take action that addresses human rights, trade, poverty, health, and environmental issues, for example.[9] This is sometimes called the 'global consciousness' aspect of GCE.[10] However, organizations such as UNESCO have also begun to emphasize 'global competencies', including science and technology into their GCE curricula, to "strengthen linkages between education and economic development".[11]

Emergence and development

In the present era of globalization, the recognition of global interdependence on the part of the general public has led to a higher degree of interest in global citizenship in education.[12] Though modern schooling may have been oriented to education suitable for the nation-state throughout the 19th and 20th centuries,[13] in the 21st century, citizenship is understood in global terms, so that schooling might improve individual nations' global competitiveness. Many universities worldwide have responded to the need for a globally oriented education by sending their students to study abroad in increasing numbers,[14] and some have announced that this will soon become a mandatory degree requirement.[15]

Many governments also now promote GCE for the cohesion of society.[16] The large numbers of people migrating across national borders means that the diversity of ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups, "has raised [...] complex and difficult questions about citizenship, human rights, democracy, and education".[17] In addition, global issues related to sustainability, such as the world's future energy arrangements,[18] have also been incorporated into the domain of global citizenship education.[19]

Noteworthy, Global Education Magazine is a digital journal supported by UNESCO and UNHCR, inspired in the universal values of the Declaration of Emerging Human Rights that aims to contribute to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by GCE consciousness.[20] An initiative launched by the teaching team that formulated the proposal most voted in the group “Sustainable Development for the Eradication of Poverty in Rio+20”.[21]


Most educators agree that "global citizenship is a learned and nurtured behavior",[22] and the most widely used classroom strategy for developing global skills is project-based learning. This pedagogical technique can be utilized in the case of almost any school subject, "[and] is the primary pedagogical strategy in the discourse of global competencies. Educators see it as an important method for developing the tools- technical and emotional- for success in the global society".[23] With the aim of nurturing students' potential to be both learners and citizens, the project-based approach has been used successfully in community-based learning, for example.[24]

Another important pedagogical feature of GCE is learning through communicative practices outside the classroom that "harness […] the educational force of the wider culture".[25] If students are encouraged "to see themselves as political agents",[26] educators assume they are more likely to acquire the knowledge, skills and abilities that enable them to become agents of change.[27] Another important element of the student-centered participatory nature of GCE, is that students, through their engagement with others via Social Network Services, create their own forms of global citizenship through dialogue, learning, and action.[28] This is an important element, for example, in the activities of grassroots organizations like 'GIN' (Global Issues Network), which involves students and teachers in projects that address global issues such as human rights, trade rules, and deforestation.[29] Such student-driven, student-led projects combine both the 'global consciousness' and 'global competence' aspects of GCE.

'Global consciousness' and 'global competence'

Organizations implementing GCE programs, such as UNESCO, now emphasize the importance of expanding both students' 'global consciousness' and 'global competence'.[30] 'Global consciousness' represents the ethical or moral dimension of global citizenship, whereas 'global competence' "features a blend of the technical-rational and the dispositional or attitudinal".[31]

However, some view global consciousness and global competence as being closely related.[32] The OECD, for instance, focuses on global competencies called 'psychosocial resources', of which there are three main types: "using tools interactively (technology and language skills), interacting in heterogeneous groups (cooperation, empathy), and acting autonomously (realizing one's identity, conducting life plans, defending and asserting rights".[33]


Some critics believe GCE might undermine religious education and promote secular values.[34] Others are concerned that the pedagogical approach of most global citizenship education curricula are too often produced in particular Northern, Western contexts.[35] Some critics claim that GCE curricula promote values that are too individualistic.[36] Dill,[37] for example, claims that "the majority of the world experiences social and communal life not in terms of isolated individuals, but as collective identities and traditions. For many of these groups, the dominant forms of global citizenship education and its moral order will be experienced as coercive and unjust',[38] so 'global' citizenship curriculum should be seen as a local practice, "which diverse cultures will conceptualize and construct differently".[39]


  1. Myers, 2006
  2. Schattle, 2008
  3. Rapoport, 2009
  4. Keating & Ortloff et al, 2009
  5. Dill, 2013
  6. Dill, 2013
  7. Green, 2012
  8. Davies, 2008
  9. Green, 2012
  10. Dill, 2013
  11. UNESCO-IBE, 2008, cited in Dill, 2013
  12. Schattle, 2008: 74
  13. Dill, 2013
  14. Tarrant, 2010; Asaoka & Yano, 2009
  15. Tarrant, 2010
  16. Banks, 2008
  17. Banks, 2008:132
  18. Starik & Kanashiro, 2013
  19. Caruana & Spurling, 2007
  20. Global Education Magazine (2012). The Humanist Quantum Interference: Towards the “Homo Conscienciatus". Javier Collado Ruano, October 17th: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. ISSN 2255-033X
  21. NGO Educar para Vivir (2012)
  22. Tarrant, 2010:442
  23. Dill, 2013:14
  24. Melaville & Berg et al, 2006
  25. Catalano, 2013:3
  26. Catalano, 2013:3
  27. Catalano, 2013
  28. Bourn, 2009
  29. Dill, 2013
  30. Dill, 2013
  31. Dill, 2013:11
  32. Grudinski Hall, 2007
  33. Dill, 2013: 1213
  34. Schattle, 2008
  35. Andreotti and de Souza, 2012:18
  36. Dill, 2013
  37. 2013
  38. Dill, 2013:33
  39. Myers, 2006:13


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