An European Perspective on Global Education

An European perspective on Global Education

The great challenges that humanity is currently facing require that individuals own global competences, and that they contribute with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to fostering a more sustainable and inclusive world. As a consequence, education systems are increasingly asked to prepare children and students to understand global issues, as well as to be aware of the impact individual and collective choices have at global level. It is following this logic that Global Citizenship Education became recently prominent in Europe and Americas government, civil society and educational discourses. With the UN establishing the global relevance and function of education and the new global scenarios reinforcing the urgency of this shift, many other international educational agencies have further promoted and developed the semantically and epistemologically weak concept of Global Education. Among them important initiatives were taken by UNESCO in defying Global Citizenship education, but also from the Agenda 2030 goal 4.7 and by the Council of Europe in Europe. This article aims to briefly analyze Global education and its implementation from an European perspective, looking at declarations, policy tools and concrete projects.

A milestone in the process of the integration of Global Education in Europe is considered to be the Maastricht Global Education Declaration of 2002. The document states the importance of Global Education to promote global development and sustainability issues. It also encourages the creation of national and European strategies on Global Education and the establishment of a European peer review system for Global Education. There are other recommendatory documents that have promoted Global Education at the EU level, such as Foreign language education in primary school (1997), dealing with the implementation of plurilingualism in the curricula of basic education. In 2010 the Council of Europe committee on education adopted a charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education while the same year the EU parliament adopted a resolution named Key competences in a changing world: implementation of the education and training 2010 work program, dealing with an education that should foster the integration of young people in the job market, in which training is seen as a key. Another initiative taken by the Council of Europe is the White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue, that refers to principles as universal values, it is a political document that see education not only as a mean of preparing for the labor market but also for the preparation of young people for life as active citizens. One last initiative to be quoted to compete the European declarations framework is the “Compasito Manual on Human Rights”, published in the framework of the Council of Europe’s Youth program on human rights education and intercultural dialogue, that aims to involve young people in human rights issues by promoting the implementation of the Convention on the rights of the child with through systematic human rights education.

Taking a look at the political actors at the European level, it is possible to notice that the most important and involved is the Council of Europe, both as Education Committee and foreign affairs, while another crucial actor is the North-South Centre. In addition, the European Parliament, the European Commission Directorate-general for education and culture and Eurydice, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency have played an important role issuing policies. Among European Union institutions is important to stress the importance and active role of the Commission (International cooperation and Development department) which has supported projects that seek to inform EU citizens about the interconnection of the world and empower them to become critically engaged on global development issues. Over the last four years the Eu provided approximately 143 million for the EU DEAR programme. The Development education and awareness raising (DEAR), which is mostly implemented by civil society actors and local authorities in EU and acceding countries, aims to inform EU citizens about development issues, mobilize greater public support for action against poverty, give citizens tools to engage critically with global development issues, to foster new ideas and change attitudes. The European Commission has been playing an important role in facilitating dialogue among DEAR policy-makers and practitioners, fostering capacity development among DEAR partners and supporting capacity development and networking activities of the EU-funded DEAR projects. The Commission is also encouraging the Member States to move from project-level coordination towards policy coordination and to achieve these objectives, the DEAR programme focuses on two lines of action:

  • Global Learning, to foster knowledge and competences to engage with development issues, through the use of participatory and experiential education methodologies, either within or outside the formal education system;
  • Campaigning & Advocacy, where the objective is to support citizen involvement and advocacy for more sustainable policies, political and economic structures and individual practices, in relation to global development.

Another important instrument at disposal for the implementation of Global Education in Europe is GENE – Global Education Network Europe, the network of Ministries and Agencies with national responsibility for Global Education in European countries. GENE brings together Ministries, Agencies and other bodies that develop national policy and provide funding for Global Education in European countries. Ministries and Agencies participating in GENE combine their expertise through structured networking, sharing strategies, and a peer learning approach that leads to enhanced results nationally. The network final goal is to achieve access to quality Global Education for all the people in Europe and do this by bringing together Ministries and Agencies regularly, through Roundtables; networking members and providing a platform for sharing of their strategies; engaging in peer learning, including facilitation of the European Global Education Peer Review Process; supporting members through advice, training/capacity building, briefing and policy support and engaging in policy research, supporting common projects, emphasising a focus on quality. Starting in 2001 with 6 national institutions from 6 countries, GENE has now grown to facilitate the sharing of policy learning between over 40 Ministries and Agencies and other bodies from over 25 countries, through the regular GENE roundtables and networking mechanisms.

Moving forward to concrete projects at an European level, GENE is currently implementing a Programme for Strengthening Global Education and DEAR in Europe through Inter-ministerial Networking, Policy Learning, and Capacity-Building (2015 – 2018), funded by the European Commission. The programme purpose is to increase and improve the provision of GE and DEAR in a growing number of European countries through multilateral networking for policy learning, capacity building and enhanced quality between an increasing number of national Ministries and Agencies. One very last project this article is going to mention is Global Schools, started in 2015 is a European project realised in 10 EU countries by 17 partners, led by Autonomous Province of Trento (PAT). It is co-­funded again by the DEAR Programme of the European Commission. The three-­year-­long commitment aims at embedding Global Citizenship Education as a cross-cutting theme, and approach, to all existing subjects of primary school programmes in the partner countries. In the long run, it strives for a cultural change in schools and in the society at large, aimed at raising a new generation of world citizens motivated by values of solidarity, equality, justice, inclusion, sustainability and cooperation. Global Schools supports the mainstreaming of GCED both through a revision of educational policies and through the promotion of innovative teaching practices and it works at three levels. At the policy level, it advocates for the integration of GCED in educational policies and school curricula in the 10 countries; at the technical level, it supports teachers’ motivation and provides continuous professional training both to teachers and to CSOs working in schools, in the effort of embedding GCE in their everyday didactics and finally at the social level, it encourages parents and the wider community to help children grow into aware and responsible world citizens.

By: Flavio Previtali