Education for global citizenship

Emiliano Bosio Correspondent

The shift from pedagogically based academic values to market-based values over the past 30 years has signalled not only a change in the basic fundamentals of educational philosophy in tertiary education; it has also presented us with real-world crises of economic irresponsibility, displacement, exclusion, division and inequality.

As the once fatalistic inevitability of neoliberal ideology begins to be questioned and the world around us grows ever more interconnected, yet unstable and uncertain, university educators have shown a growing interest in global citizenship, signalling a shift in the responsibility and purpose of higher education to that of shaping more peaceful, tolerant and inclusive societies.

Although there are diverse interpretations of the notion of global citizenship, just as neoliberalism can be considered an ideology, global citizenship can also be considered a mentality — what HG Wells calls “mental cosmopolis” — as well as an objective moral claim as has been well described by the Danish inventor Piet Hein’s striking statement: “We are global citizens with tribal souls.”

Global citizenship is a figurative idea that can co-exist with national citizenship, a state of mind, a feeling of belonging, an attitude, a set of dispositions and practices that carry an important responsibility: to do good for the entire human community.

This may sound idealistic pie-in-the-sky, but if it took less than a generation to turn inquisitive young people from truth-seeking scholars to market-ready corporate “customers”, then there is no reason why we can’t at least try to achieve these lofty ideals.

Educating for global citizenship

A common understanding of educating for global citizenship in higher education is that it means supporting learners to develop a sense of belonging to a wide community, beyond national confines, that emphasises our common humanity and draws on the interconnectedness between peoples as well as between the local and the global.

From this perspective, education for global citizenship addresses themes such as peace and human rights, intercultural understanding, moral education, respect for diversity and tolerance and inclusiveness and it responds to globalisation by widening the concept of civic education to global society and adopting the ethical values of peace education and human rights education.

This global society perspective not only urges investigation of global topics, but, more specifically, merges the global and the local into the ‘glocal’, involving multiple stakeholders, including those outside the learning environment, in the community and in wider society.

In other words, global citizenship education is a forward-looking framework suggesting a reorientation of universities’ responsibilities, an orientation that adheres to the belief that knowing without acting is insufficient.

Higher education should make an effort, in this sense, to come to terms with increasingly urgent global situations, including staggering poverty, mass violence, hypermobile infectious diseases, disintegrating states, growing right-wing populist politics and overwhelming global warming along with the many incipient and related crises that the current neoliberal framework has helped to create and exacerbate.

Moving beyond the market-driven mobility experience

Educational practice at universities should then move beyond singular focus often manifested through the market-driven mobility experience. Although clearly beneficial and directly relevant, we must also consider the entire range of competencies underpinned by a cosmopolitan outlook.

To do this, I propose that higher education should adopt a ‘values-based’ curriculum. A values-based curriculum engages the learner on multiple levels. Lessons emanating from a values-based curriculum should foster in our learners at least five areas:

• An understanding and acceptance of their obligations to all humanity.

• A belief in the possibility of making a difference in the world.

• Looking inward to assert a compassion that begins with the local communities they will interact with.

• Multicultural respect with a view that students should become socialised into living successfully in a global society.

• Civic commitment and global consciousness, including participation in community development and involvement in work that has public meaning and lasting public impact, with students coming to realise that their own choices can make a difference.

Education is not complete, however, until students have not only acquired knowledge but can act on that knowledge in the world. Bridging the gap between learning and participation is essential, with study abroad as an invaluable complement to academic training and an incredible affirming experience for our identity.

In times like these, we need to respect the value of knowledge more than ever. We need the capacity for critical thought and analysis and we need educators in higher education committed to creating these values.

As universities nurture the next generation of political leaders, middle managers, aid agency workers, financial consultants, tech entrepreneurs, teachers, volunteers, YouTubers and first-time voters who are forced to operate in the pervasive dog-eat-dog world of noeliberalistic late-capitalism, universities and those actors who populate them should develop the wisdom to recognise the interconnectedness of all human lives, the courage to attempt to comprehend people of different walks of life and the compassion to maintain a creative empathy that reaches beyond one’s immediate contexts.

Who knows, it might even prove to be an effective antidote to the malevolent neoliberalism that defines our times. – University World News

Emiliano Bosio is a PhD candidate at the UCL Institute of Education, University College London, United Kingdom. He currently lectures at Yokohama City University, Japan.

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