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What Beliefs Underpin Different Conceptions of Global Citizenship Education?

By Gordon Eldridge, TIE Columnist
What Beliefs Underpin Different Conceptions of Global Citizenship Education?

As we define global citizenship and make decisions about the kind of global citizens we hope our schools will produce, it is important to examine some of the beliefs and assumptions which underpin differing conceptions of what it means to be a global citizen.

One tool that may help with this is a chart contrasting two very different visions of global citizenship education developed by Vanessa Andreotti, Research Chair in Race, Inequalities and Global Change at the University of British Columbia. Andreotti contrasts what she terms "soft global citizenship education" with what she calls "critical global citizenship education."

Above is an extract of some of the assumptions and implications she lists, though I highly recommend accessing the full version of this table.

What does this mean for us in international schools?

Sometimes we design programs and activities without truly considering the assumptions that underpin them. When we do this in the case of global citizenship programs, it is all too easy to leave dominant Western assumptions about progress and development unchallenged.

Too often, global citizenship is defined solely as a moral issue, as an issue of character. And while it is indisputable that good character forms a base for citizenship, citizenship is inherently political.  If we stop at character development, we can unintentionally reinforce the power relations that leave many in our world disenfranchised.

We need to teach students how to uncover their own assumptions along with those of others, how to unravel how they came to believe what they believe. We need to teach them to recognize that all knowledge is partial and incomplete, and to use their skills and understandings to reflect on the world around them and ultimately to act in ways that lead to greater justice for all.


Andreotti, V. (2006) Soft Versus Critical Global Citizenship Education. Policy and Practice - a Development Education Review,  Issue 3, pp. 40 - 51. (  retrieved 20 / 8 / 2020)

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