Global Citizenship Education for a new Century!

GCED – Transforming Education for an Interconnected 21st Century!

Global Citizenship Education (GCED) is one of the strategic areas of UNESCO’s Education Sector programme for the period 2014-2021.

According to the official definition given by the UN, the primary aim of Global Citizenship Education (GCED) is nurturing respect for all, building a sense of belonging to a common humanity and helping learners become responsible and active global citizens. GCED aims to empower learners to assume active roles to face and resolve global challenges and to become proactive contributors to a more peaceful, tolerant and inclusive and secure world. The logic behind the programme is that it is not enough for education to produce individuals who can read, write and count.  Education must fully assume its central role in helping people to forge more just, peaceful, tolerant and inclusive societies.

UNESCO’s work in this field is guided by the Education 2030 Agenda and Framework for Action, notably Target 4.7 of the Sustainable Development Goalswhich calls on countries to ensure that all learners are provided with the knowledge and skills to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable developmentIn this context, Global Citizenship Education (GCED) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) are recognized as mutually reinforcing approaches, with commonalities and specificities.

Both prioritize the relevance and content of education in order to ensure that education helps build a peaceful and sustainable world. Both also emphasize the need to foster the knowledge, skills, values, attitudes and behaviors that allow individuals to take informed decisions and assume active roles locally, nationally and globally. At the same time, they have different agendas discourses and international policy frameworks. They also have distinct thematic areas of focus and as a result partly different stakeholder groups.

The UNESCO’s approach to GCED can be summarized in four concepts: Holistic, addressing learning content and outcomes, pedagogy and the learning environment in formal, non-formal and informal learning settings; Transformative, enabling learners to transform themselves and society; Value based, promoting universally shared values such as non-discrimination, equality, respect and dialogue and Part of a larger commitment to support the quality and relevance of education. The concrete actions are instead divided in four main focus areas that are going to be summarized below.

  • Global advocacy and policy dialogue: NESCO regularly organizes policy and advocacy events on GCED in Headquarters and around the world in order to engage decision-makers, leading experts and innovative practitioners in a dialogue on effective strategies and practices to implement GCED. The UNESCO Global Forum on GCED, held every two years, is a unique global event dedicated to key issues of GCED policy and practice.
  • The global measurement of progress on GCED and ESD: It contributes to the measurement of GCED and ESD-related learning outcomes and support the monitoring of global progress on Target 4.7 . Main activities of this thematic area are to develop measurement indicators for GCED and ESD, to create an online databank of key data sources to monitor Target 4.7 and to develop thematic reports and trend analysis.
  • Peace and human rights education: It is a specific area of work for the UNESCO and for this reason a core element of the strategy. UNESCO’s work in this field is guided by its Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights treaties, the Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1974), the World Programme for Human Rights Education (2005-ongoing) and Target 4.7 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The area is than divided in three main subtopics dealing with peace and human rights education, multilingual education and education about the Holocaust and Genocide.
  • Preventing violent extremism through education: In the context of the United Nations Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, UNESCO is supporting countries seeking to deliver education programmes that build young people’s resilience to violent extremist messaging and foster a positive sense of identity and belonging. Activities underway in this area include to provide an international platform for dialogue on education’s role in preventing violent extremism; Developing guidance to mainstream PVE in education within the framework of GCED and Teacher Guide for discussing violent extremism. Last guide was published by UNESCO in May 2017.

Global Citizenship Education is both a central premise for all education and a particular perspective on all subjects, which means that it can either be an educational principle, or a separate independent topic that can be taught as part of a subject or even as a subject of its own. In this sense, we have to differentiate multiple levels, which should all be intertwined in order to ensure the optimal implementation of Global Citizenship Education.

There are different levels, such as curricula and decrees, or concrete content-related links to Global Citizenship Education in curricula for individual subjects and educational principles, as well as mechanisms of school democracy. There are also pilot projects in classroom teaching that aim at the implementation of Global Citizenship Education. The major emphasis, however, is on offering orientation and encouragement to teachers regarding the ways in which they may implement the principles of Global Citizenship Education in their own classroom teaching.

There are a number of institutions and organizations around the world that are advancing Global Citizenship Education, including, as stated by the UN official website, Ana G. Mendez University, a non-profit institution of higher education whose principal mission is to promote the cultural, social and economic development and well-being of Puerto Rican society, as well as of other Hispanic communities outside of Puerto Rico, UNICEF and Oxfam, which philosophy of global citizenship is implemented through a whole-school approach which involves everyone from learners themselves to the wider community.

Other UNESCO’s key GCED are the Asia Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding (APCEIU)the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) and UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP).

Global citizenship education is at the forefront of efforts to transform education to provide students with a holistic and well-rounded education that gives them the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they need to succeed in a global 21st century. The UN’s Global Education First Initiative has signed on 16 Champion Countries to catalyze political and financial support for education, including global citizenship education.

The UN has also identified several barriers to global citizenship education, including outmoded learning materials and lack of teacher capacity in this area. However, the biggest challenge for the future may be the legacy of the current education system, which was designed for the agricultural era rather than for an interconnected world. With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the inclusion of global citizenship education as a target for global education, now is the time to connect and leverage the expertise and best practices of practitioners and programs to advance global citizenship education for all students around the world.

By: Flavio Previtali