Global Citizenship Education

It’s often said that we are all connected and “it’s a small world”.


Unfortunately we are very much disconnected, the world is huge and there is plenty of evidence showing us that children construct discriminatory and prejudiced world-views from a very young age.

This is why primary schools are at the forefront, or at least should be, of Global Citizenship Education (GCE) to address and build upon diversity in the classroom and society.

But this is a huge ask of primary teachers and an unfair one. GCE is wide open to interpretation and there isn’t a single tried and trusted curriculum that teachers can tap into.

How many teachers are indeed qualified to even teach GCE? This is a specialist subject in its own right.

For example, Oxley and Morris (2013) distinguish between cosmopolitan and advocacy approaches types of global citizenship, both comprised of four categories.

Cosmopolitan types encompass:

  • political GC, which focuses on the changing relations between individuals, states and other polities;

  • moral GC, which focuses on ideas of human rights and empathy;

  • economic GC, which focuses on international development and related power relations;

  • cultural GC, which focuses on symbols and cultural structures that divide or unite members of different societies.

Advocacy types are:

  • social GC, which focuses on ideas such as global civil society, interconnections between people and their advocacy of the ‘people’s voice’;

  • critical GC, which focuses on inequality and oppression, with a critique of social norms, through a post-colonial agenda;

  • environmental GC, which focuses on changing the negative impacts of humanity on the environment for sustainable development;

  • spiritual GC, which focuses on caring, loving, spiritual and emotional connections between humans (Oxley and Morris 2013, p. 306).

Who knew?

These distinctions in themselves are complex and probably an eye-opener for many teachers. The point is, there are various GCE models with a plethora of definitions and approaches each with several strengths and weaknesses.

Iris M. van Werven et al (2021) recognise this in their excellent piece of research and encourage us to think about three main questions:

  1. What defines global citizenship education for experienced primary school teachers and teacher educators?

  2. What should a primary school teacher do to support the learning of children who are linguistically, culturally, socially or in other ways different from the teacher or each other; and engage children effectively in global citizenship education?

  3. Are there differences between the groups of experienced teachers and teacher educators in their descriptions of and level of consensus on global citizenship education and related teacher competencies? If this is the case, how can this be explained?

Unless schools can answer these questions and address them comprehensively then GCE is likely to be in need of considerable development.

To find out what global teaching competencies look like in the primary classroom then a great starting point is to access their research findings and use it as the basis for your own discussions. Can you reach an agreement and consensus on the 24 competencies highlighted?

As Iris M. van Werven et al (2021) say,

In sum, the outcomes of this Delphi study could be used as a tool for reflection and guidance for teachers and teacher educators alike to be able to intend for student and in-service teachers to develop their global teaching competencies.

Do you have a teacher that is responsible for Global Citizenship Education in your school? Is this a subject specialist or someone that has been lumbered with the role?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: