Education’s responsibility to create global citizens


By Heather Styche-Patel


“We must foster global citizenship. Education is about more than literacy and numeracy. It is also about citizenry. Education must fully assume its essential role in helping people to forge more just, peaceful and tolerant societies.”
– Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General (2012)


The Incheon Declaration for Education 2030[1], signed in 2015, highlights the transformative power of education and identifies it as one of the main drivers for worldwide development.  The Declaration ‘committed with a sense of urgency, to a single, renewed education agenda that is holistic, ambitious and aspirational, leaving no one behind’.  Within its associated framework many goals and objectives are listed to achieve this vision.  One in particular stands out as particularly pertinent at this time:

“By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed 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 development.”

To measure success, UNESCO has identified the extent to which global citizenship education is embedded in the mainstream education policies, curricula, teacher education and student assessment at all levels.  Over the last three years, we have been researching attitudes towards curriculum development and change and in this blog we share some insights.


Curriculum change

We continue to observe the changing nature of curricula in our schools; change which is being driven by shifting expectations and demands of Government, parents, students and employers.  Our interviews with senior leaders and practitioners have highlighted how schools are striving to move away from a sole focus on subject knowledge acquisition and towards curricula designed to support the broadest development of skills:

“Education is more than just imparting a body of knowledge.  We place great emphasis on the development of character and personality, emotional intelligence, enthusiasm, being prepared to give things a go and having a sense of place and purpose.  All our pupils develop corporate responsibility.”
Head of a 3 – 13 co-ed prep school

“Some skills are taught, others are bound up in the culture of the school, e.g. success in whatever area pupils enjoy and are good at, with recognition by the community.”
– Head of a co-ed day school

There is perhaps nothing new about the desire to inculcate many of these skills and traits.  What is perhaps new is the debate about how schools should best foster these skills and, interestingly, a growing student expectation that they should do so.  We have seen an increasing desire across schools to develop robust responses to the need for skills development and that they should not just be developed incidentally within a conventional, subject-based curriculum.


Global perspective: an unintended consequence?

Alongside this desire to embed skills-based curricula, we have observed an unintended consequence.  In our interviews, many heads highlighted skills that are aligned very closely to Oxfam’s definition of global citizenship.  Oxfam defines a global citizen as someone who:

– Is aware of the wider world and has a sense of their own role as a world citizen.
– Respects and values diversity.
– Has an understanding of how the world works.
– Is passionately committed to social justice.
– Participates in the community at a range of levels, from the local to the global.
– Works with others to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place.
– Takes responsibility for their actions.[2]

Whilst we have not seen evidence of curriculum review being motivated by the drive to create global citizens, this is a positive state of affairs.  Indeed, it could be argued that the need for global citizens has never been more important.

Of course, there are many schools that embrace an international agenda and mindset through their choice of curriculum, e.g. IB programmes, which have a clear mission to promote compassionate, active and lifelong learners around the globe.  We explored attitudes towards internationalisation in our 2017 UK Ten Trends report and we invited readers to consider the changing purpose of education and its responsibility for both the ‘wellbeing of individuals and the wellbeing of nations.’ [3]

It is clear that independent schools in the UK are slowly, but perceptibly, becoming more internationally oriented and we have harvested many of their ideas and initiatives to create an online supplement full of ideas and suggestions for embedding international mindedness.  This supplement can be downloaded from:



[1] In May 2015, UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Bank, UNFPA, UNDP, UN women and UNHCR organised the Word Education Forum 2015 in Incheon.  1,600 participants from 160 countries, including government ministers, country delegations, agencies and officials of multilateral and bilateral organisations, representatives of the teaching profession, young people and private sector adopted the Declaration which set out a global vision for education by 2030.

[2] OXFAM (2015) Education for Global Citizenship – A guide for schools

[3] From a speech by Miho Taguma, Senior Policy Analyst at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development at ChangemakerEd 2016 Summit

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