THE GLOBAL DIMENSION
Global education is the term used internationally to describe a form of education which:
- enables people to understand the links between their own lives and those of people throughout the world
- increases understanding of the economic, cultural, political and environmental influences which shape our lives
- develops the skills, attitudes and values which enable people to work together to bring about change and take control of their own lives
- works towards achieving a more just and sustainable world in which power and resources are more equitably shared
Most commonly teachers in the UK talk about the need for a global dimension in the curriculum and the ability, therefore, of students to take a global perspective on contemporary events and issues. This is different from the term ‘international’ which refers to connections between countries, as in ‘international relationships’. The key organising concept is interdependence which highlights the complex web of interrelationships existing between people, places, issues and events in the world today. Exploration of local-global connections is at the heart of global education, since these dimensions are inextricably related and relevant to all subject areas. See chapter 2 in Sustainable Schools, Sustainable Futures for more details.
Global education places particular emphasis on curriculum process as well as content and is accordingly characterised by approaches to teaching and learning which are both experiential and participatory. It draws on two long-standing traditions within education. The first is concerned with learner-centred education and the development of the individual, the second focuses on the role that education can play in helping create a more just and equitable society. The emphasis in global education is therefore on both changing self and changing society for neither is possible without the other. See Making global connections.
A long history
These concerns have a long and interesting history in the UK which is well worth perusal. For details look at Ways of seeing: the origins of global education in the UK. In the early and middle years of the last century the term 'education for international understanding' was used by organisations such as the Council for Education in World Citizenship which played a major part in maintaining this tradition. In the 1950s and 60s Jim Henderson at the University of London Institute of Education emphasised the need for a world-centred perspective in the curriculum and coined the term 'world studies' to describe this.
In 1972 Henderson helped set up the World Studies Project under the influential leadership of Robin Richardson. This was followed by the World Studies 8-13 Project which worked with half the Local Education Authorities in England and Wales during the 1980s and early 90s and the Global Teacher Project which was based at Leeds Metropolitan University. At the same time the Centre for Global Education in York also developed wide-ranging networks through its in-service work and publications.
From the 1970s onwards NGOs such as Oxfam and Christian Aid also began to take a particular interest in education. With their expertise on North-South inequalities they were well placed to produce innovative teaching materials on development issues. A number of Development Education Centres were set up to work with teachers and those in Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, together with NGOs such as Oxfam, have significant publishing programmes. Today Think Global provides an important forum for debate on the global dimension in education.
One can no longer make sense of everyday life unless this is set in the context of living in a global society. In particular the process of globalisation has changed the face of the planet. We live with a multiplicity of global linkages, far distant events and decisions continually impact nationally and locally. The current world order is deeply shaped by the forces of globalisation. There is greater integration, e.g. the European Union, transnational corporations, pop music and fashion, but also greater fragmentation, e.g. resurgence of nationalism, ethnic and religious conflicts, critical social movements.
The Earth Summits in 1992, 2002 and 2012 highlighted the crucial issues of environment and development which need to be resolved if we are to create a more just and ecologically sustainable society. These issues have global, national and local dimensions to them and education has a crucial role to play in creating awareness of such issues. Too often in the past educators have focused solely on the extent of the problems rather than the range of solutions. Global education in the 21st century is thus about educating in a spirit of hope and optimism which recognises the rights and responsibilities of both present and future generations. See Four challenges.
The utilitarian and market driven ethos of society today is often at odds with the need to work towards a more just and sustainable world [see Education and Ideology]. Traditions such as global education, however, speak to the wider human condition, which is why it can inspire teacher and taught alike. It is an essential ingredient in any formulation of effective education. It is time now to make more widely known the good practice that exists and new initiatives that are currently emerging. Future generations could ask no less than this of educators at this time.