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The quest for global citizenship education

ronjaievers-headshot1Ronja Ievers
External Relations Coordinator
Hui E!

Nobody would disagree that today, more than ever before, the globe is part of our everyday lives. We are linked to others on every continent. Socially through media and telecommunications, culturally through movements of people, economically through sharing one planet, and politically through international relations and system regulations. But, while globalisation draws us together, ongoing tensions and conflicts tear us apart.

Education plays a huge role in equipping all learners with the knowledge, skills and values to help navigate through these unprecedented and complex challenges. In 2012, former Secretary General of the United Nations identified the fostering of global citizens – someone who is aware of, understands and acts responsibly both locally and in the wider world – as one of three priorities, to promote peace, mutual respect, and environmental care.

This also laid the foundation for a bold education agenda, as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Agenda, that is inspired by a humanistic and transformative vision of education, nurturing values and attitudes, respect based on human rights and dignity, and empathy towards others. Goal 4 calls for  inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all, specifically referring to education for sustainable development and global citizenship.

I think that Paris (in 2015 hosted the UN Climate Talks) also represented a shift in an understanding from inter (-between) national to global (-we).

UNESCO’s approach to this kind of education is that it is a framework and employs concepts, methodologies and theories already implemented in different fields, and builds values, soft skills and attitudes among learners that can facilitate international cooperation and social transformation. It must bring together our youth as the drivers of this kind of education, our whanau, educators, community leaders and ICT and media as tools for constructive social engagement.

Although I think that our education system does well on many fronts, it has major constraints holding us back. A youth delegate to the 2016 UN Climate Talks in Marrakech quite rightly spoke about the lack of climate change learning in our curriculum, its vital importance for empowering communities to mobilise for positive change, fostering global citizenship identities, and including people in decisions and issues that directly affect them.

Anecdotal evidence that I was able to collect over the past year also suggests that there are key challenges faced by teachers for global citizenship education in NZ including: lack of awareness and understanding, resistance to new initiatives, assessment driven environment with no space to experiment, misconception that it is a subject (as opposed to a conceptual lens or framework) competing with other subjects, lack of Professional Learning and Development opportunities, and not accessible to students and teachers.

It is timely that the Minister of Education Hon Chris Hipkins last week announced a review of the whole education work programme for the next three years including the purpose and values underpinning our education system in New Zealand. At the heart of it is a vision of a high quality, fair and inclusive education system.  It includes a review of how schools are governed and how learners’ progress is being measured, with a particular focus on over-assessment of students and teacher workload. There is also a strong focus on strengthening support for our Maori and Pasifika learners, for whom the system has consistently failed and  involving every learner through dynamic and engaging learning.

There will be opportunities to have significant input into these reviews at an Education Summit in May this year in Christchurch and Auckland and we should all be actively involved in the discussions as the outcomes will shape our communities of tomorrow.

This blog has been contributed by a member of the ComVoices network

ComVoices is a Wellington based network of national community and voluntary sector organisations. It was established so that sector organisations would have a more powerful voice at Government level and in the community.

Click here for our website:  http://comvoices.org.nz/