Across school curricula, there are difficult topics. Topics like poverty and inequality. How do teachers begin to explain global development to young children? How can we teach them about the role they play in the globalized world? This is part of global citizenship education. And we can’t gloss over the tough bits.
The fact is that schools and teachers in the developed world need help. They need help in continuing the discourse about what a global citizen actually is. They need help to deliver global awareness programs. And they need help to connect students with international development projects. If schools say they create global citizens, then they must educate children with a sense of responsibility for the world and human rights. But this is easier said than done.
International development organisations of all sizes play a part in this education, especially when dealing with the uncomfortable topics. Research has found that teachers who use international development resources make effective connections for their students between global cause and effect. Children are, in turn, better able to reflect, participate and take action.
When international development organisations work with schools, the experience of active global citizenship can be more meaningful and positive. Students get direct contact with projects. However, one of the dangers is the fundraising or charity trap.
Equating global awareness action with charity is a fallacy. Student action is not charity- but that’s how many schools interpret it. I suppose it’s easier to deal with the idea of ‘charity’ than the political reality of advocacy. So what schools need is context.
Working together, development organisations can help teachers and schools to link the local with the global. This provides the context that is desperately needed in global citizenship education. Children are a part of globalization. The decisions that they make can impact someone in another country. When we carefully expose students to the reality of their involvement in an unequal world, their inevitable reaction is to want to act to improve it. This might mean changing family consumer habits or influencing school practices or local political engagement.
International development NGOs have been instrumental in contributing global perspectives to national citizenship education programs, in providing action projects and service learning for international curricula such as the International Baccalaureate. Through development, students can see that citizenship and human rights go hand in hand. A strong relationship between education and international development is vital for the next generation of active global citizens.
Caroline Ferguson is an English teacher in The Netherlands and researcher in global citizenship education. She has a Master of Education with a specialisation in Global Education from the University of Tasmania, Australia and blogs at The Global Educator.
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