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What Are the Elements of an Effective Global Citizenship Curriculum?

The Global Citizenship Column
By Gordon Eldridge, TIE Columnist

Previous articles in this series:

Back in the fall, we started a series looking at the idea of global citizenship, a key element in many of our international school mission statements. The first article looked at issues around defining the idea of global citizenship. In this piece, we will consider structuring curriculum for global citizenship.

In October, we looked at an analysis of ten citizenship programs by Westheimer and Kahne. They identified three broad conceptions of citizenship; (1) the personally responsible citizen, (2) the participatory citizen, and (3) the justice-oriented citizen. The sample actions given for each illustrate the ideas in a nutshell. The personally responsible citizen might contribute to a food drive. The participatory citizen might organize the food drive. The justice-oriented citizen would explore why people are hungry and act to solve the problem at the level of root causes. As we saw, Westheimer and Kahne’s research shows that there is a strong link between the way curriculum is designed and the outcomes it is likely to achieve. I firmly believe that a curriculum intentionally designed for justice-oriented citizenship is what we should be striving for.

So what might the elements of such a curriculum be? A set of principles would be a great starting point and the Democracy and Diversity curriculum from The Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington outlines a set of four really useful ones:

Students should learn about the complex relationships between unity and diversity in their local communities, the nation, and the world.

Students should learn about the ways in which people in their community, nation, and region are increasingly interdependent with other people around the world and are connected to the economic, political, cultural, environmental, and technological changes taking place across the planet.

The teaching of human rights should underpin citizenship education courses and programs in multicultural nation-states.

Students should be taught knowledge about democracy and democratic institutions and provided opportunities to practice democracy. (pp. 11–14)

We can build our curriculum on the foundation of these principles using the building blocks of concepts, skills, and attitudes / values. In its Education for Global Citizenship curriculum, Oxfam suggests the following:




Social justice and equity

Critical and creative thinking

Sense of identity and self-esteem

Identity and diversity


Commitment to social justice and equity

Globalisation and interdependence

Self-awareness and reflection

Respect for people and human rights

Sustainable development


Value diversity

Peace and conflict

Cooperation and conflict resolution

Concern for the environment and commitment to sustainable development

Human rights

Ability to manage complexity and uncertainty

Commitment to participation and inclusion

Power and governance

Informed and reflective action

Belief that people can bring about change

Democracy and Diversity offers a very similar set of concepts with the addition of:

- Democracy

- Empire, imperialism, and power

- Prejudice, discrimination, and racism

- Migration

- Multiple perspectives

- Patriotism and cosmopolitanism

Of course, we could add to or vary these lists. For example, understanding the concept of “privilege” immediately springs to mind as being perhaps especially important in the international school context.

The final curriculum element we need is content. Neither of the curricula I have cited makes specific suggestions for specific content. This is appropriate since the content used to develop understanding of these concepts and build the skills and attitudes should necessarily vary according to the demographics of our student population and our geographic location. The principles, concepts, skills, and attitudes in the two curricula give us the basis of some excellent curriculum for global citizenship. In particular, the inclusion of concepts such as “power” and “equity” and of critical thinking skills, if developed effectively within the curriculum, should support the development of truly “justice-oriented” citizens. These two curricula are freely available for download on the internet (see links below).


Center for Multicultural Education (2005) Democracy and Diversity:  Principles and concepts for educating citizens in a global age. Seattle: College of Education, University of Washington. Retrieved October 26, 2020 from

Oxfam. (2006). Education for Global Citizenship: A guide for schools. London : Oxfam. Retrieved October 26, 2020 from 

Westheimer, J.  & Kahne, J. (2004) What Kind of Citizen? The politics of educating for democracy. American Educational Research Journal,  Volume 41, No. 2 pp. 237 - 269 10.3389/feduc.2019.0087

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Designing Curriculum for Global Citizenship
By Gordon Eldridge, TIE Columnist
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