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Global Citizenship: Mapping the Work and Creating a GC Model

By Leo Thompson
Global Citizenship: Mapping the Work and Creating a GC Model

If you attempted to build a model to reflect contemporary global citizenship (GC) work, what would it look like? What would you include? How would you arrange it? And what would you emphasize? Global citizenship, international-mindedness, global learning, internationalism, interculturalism, amongst others, are related terms but they mean different things to different people and groups. If it isn’t possible to nail down the meaning of these fuzzy conceptions due to a lack of common agreement, mapping the work in the area may provide some helpful direction.  

Despite its intimidating complexity, global citizenship education and related action is a wonderful opportunity to bring people, societies and cultures together to resolve, and in some cases prevent, challenging global and glocal issues. These issues include the three pandemics of viruses, environmental unsustainability and discrimination, amongst others, currently consuming educators and impacting our societies. Centred on specific values and attitudes, GC is at the heart and soul of international education (IE) - or at least it should be as we are transnational by nature and have a broader lens than most educational systems. However, GC can also speak to the mind as it is crammed with concepts and big ideas, and the hands as our students acquire competencies that equip them for life beyond school.

When we zoom out and look at all of the GC related programs, definitions and various models worldwide, it is clear that GC involves a dizzying swirl of connected values, attitudes, concepts and competencies that must be lived to ultimately achieve peace, justice and ultimately our sustainability and well-being. Yes, we educators are literally trying to change the world for the better! In the context of children, we are also empowering them through learning to be successful and navigate the world with skill and responsible purpose. For these reasons, there is a strong linkage between GC and the futures initiatives sponsored by the OECD, World Economic Forum, UN and Oxfam- not to exclude many other NGOs and institutions, public and private.

Diverse perspective and broad research is the basis of the proposed model. Due to my line of international education consultancy work, I am privileged and honoured to learn from many schools, colleagues and experts, too innumerable to list here, in creating and revising the model. As it is both structured and loose, the model can be further unpacked and added to. It is an attempt at creating a functional map of the ongoing learning and work in the GC terrain to help and support busy people reflect on their curriculum, approach and actions. Resources have been hyperlinked so that you can delve as deep as you have time or inclination. Twelve learning claims resulting from GC research and discussion include:

1) GC does and can help resolve many of the world’s biggest issues - humanitarian, societal, environmental

2) Nobody owns GC, but we are all responsible for it

3) GC concepts, values and attitudes and competencies interconnect like dots in a complex network

4) Intercultural understanding and competence fundamentally underpins GC education and action

5) Educators are rarely trained to plan and teach global citizenship so need support

6) GC work and education is in constant flux and will never be concluded

7) Time constraints prevent us from covering everything in our curriculums so we must pick what learning is most important in our diverse contexts and according to our values and beliefs

8) We can hold multiple identities and belong as local, national and global citizens

9)  Powerful economic, political, social and cultural forces impact and influence how these ideas are unpacked and re-defined contextually

10) We can all contribute in different ways and role model GC

11) No matter what we are doing for GC, we can always do more

12) +/-?  Your voice is important. Add your own claim or challenge the ones above

Though I hope the GC model largely speaks for itself, here are a few pointers on the model. All models are flawed and imperfect and so is this. Sorry to let you down! There are simply too many cultures, languages, actions and voices feeding into this work and the moment a model is published it is out of date. The model is invitational +/- and readers are invited to add and choose their own language, values, attitudes, concepts, and competencies. Your inclusion is important to improve the model and you are welcome to share it if it may help others and feels meaningful.

So, let us keep educating, appreciating and learning from each other. I wonder where we will be with this critical and ongoing GC work a year from today?

“Not only am I a proud Kazakh Citizen, I am a world citizen.”
A Grade 10 student, NISN, Kazakhstan.

Global citizenship and intercultural understanding are an intersecting set of core values, attitudes, concepts and competencies that empower us to contribute to our personal, societal and global well-being and sustainability.

Global Citizenship and Intercultural Understanding ‘Unpacked’

Leo Thompson, MA, MEd, QTS is an international education consultant and School Support and Evaluation Officer, contracted by the Council of International Schools. Based in Vienna, Austria.

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