“How are [children] going to negotiate and navigate conflict? How are they going to reconcile differences? How are they going to look at equality? How will they think about empathy? These are the things that are missing in our curriculum around the world,” – Gowri Ishwaran
On September 25th, 2015 193 countries of the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) as a successor of the Millennium Development Goals. In keeping with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s call for global citizenship and quality education, the Asia Society and the Global Business Coalition for Education hosted Educating for Citizenship in a Global World, a series of roundtable sessions, on September 30th. The opening remarks were given by Josette Sheeran, Kevin Rudd, Sarah Brown, Lulu Wang and Svein Østtveit.
The speakers touched upon the importance of global education in the post-2015 development era. Mr. Østtveit, in particular, discussed UNESCO‘s aim to reinforce engagement in four priority areas concerning Target 4 of the SDGs: “strategic information and analytics in global citizenship education (GCE), global advocacy and capacity development for GCE, prevention of violent extremism through education and reinforcement of peace and human rights’ education.”
Within the U.S., Asia Society has built a national movement around a similar concept i.e. global competence (the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to engage with and act upon issues of global importance) which sets the precursor to GCE.
How is this problematic?
Firstly, I agree (to a certain extent) with the Economist‘s claim that the SDGs are “worse than useless,” and the efforts of the drafting committees “are so sprawling and misconceived that the entire enterprise is being set up to fail.”
Secondly, the use of the word ‘sustainable’ also appears to be problematic – what are the concrete ways in which sustainable education development can be introduced in localised contexts?
Lastly, there appears to be an uncritical acceptance of the merits of GCE – it has become almost self-evident to call for GCE. We can clearly see the power of discourses at work here – the Asia Society, in the U.S., begins to promulgate the idea of global competence and it gets picked up at a global forum by the UN and is brought into formal discourse as global citizenship education.
At the conference, Josette Sheeran retold this narrative, “Everything I was before [the new curricula] was a loser… I was from another country, I spoke broken English, I didn’t understand what a monopoly was, I didn’t know how to play golf… When this curricula came in everything I was was a winner, all of a sudden I knew how to communicate across borders, I had a passport, I had travelled.”
Is this the true implication of global education – transforming cosmopolitanism into an attitude and a style that can be achieved by speaking English and playing golf? Who’s globalisation is this?
Calhoun, C. (2008). Cosmopolitanism in the modern social imaginary. Daedalus, 137(3), 105-114.
Educating for Citizenship in a Global World – Keynote Remarks. (2015, September 29). Retrieved October 5, 2015, from http://asiasociety.org/video/educating-citizenship-global-world-keynote-remarks
Education International – Global citizenship education is at the heart of new global goals. (2015, September 30). Retrieved October 5, 2015, from http://www.ei-ie.org/en/news/news_details/3729
Jackson, A. (n.d.). Global Competence. Retrieved October 5, 2015, from http://asiasociety.org/globalcompetence
Lau, T. (2015, September 30). How to Educate Students for Citizenship in a Global Era. Retrieved October 5, 2015, from http://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/how-educate-students-citizenship-global-era?utm_campaign=socialmedia&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialmedia
Menten, A. (2015, September 25). Everyone Thinks ‘Global Citizenship Education’ Is Important – But What Exactly Is It? Retrieved October 5, 2015, from http://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/what-global-citizenship-education
The 169 commandments. (2015, March 28). The Economist. Retrieved October 5, 2015, from http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21647286-proposed-sustainable-development-goals-would-be-worse-useless-169-commandments
UN adopts new Global Goals, charting sustainable development for people and planet by 2030. (2015, September 25). Retrieved October 5, 2015, from http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51968#.VhKQWxPBzGc