Enhancing Teachers’ Role in Global Citizenship Education (GCE): Compare the Approaches of UNESCO and Oxfam in Preparing GCE Teachers
As a significant educational framework in response to global connectedness and challenges and contributes to the realization of target 4.7 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Global Citizenship Education (GCE) has been mobilized by multiple stakeholders aiming to equip learners with the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors to develop shared humanity and address social and environmental problems that manifest both globally and locally (UNESCO, 2015; Tarozzi & Torres, 2016). Teachers as one of the crucial agents of GCE (Goren & Yemini, 2016) determine how GCE could be incorporated into the curriculum and delivered in classrooms. Their perceptions of GCE also affect to what extent they think this type of citizenship is relevant to their students and schools. However, recent research finds that teachers lack GCE-related content knowledge or teach it without appropriate and effective pedagogies (Bruce et al., 2019; UNESCO, 2018). As leading international organizations for promoting GCE, UNESCO and Oxfam have respectively developed a range of teachers’ guides that provide conceptual knowledge as well as practical strategies for teachers across various subjects and levels of education to decode the ambiguous and often misunderstood global aspirations of citizenship and integrate GCE into everyday teaching practice. This study will draw on a sample of major teacher guidebooks (n=4) by UNESCO and Oxfam and investigate to what extent they differ or converge in their approaches to assisting teachers to understand and teach GCE. The document analysis will focus on the descriptions and examples provided in these documents regarding content knowledge, pedagogy, and teachers’ roles for a GCE class and ask what critical and transformative implications they have for education in an interdependent but unequal and fragile world. Additionally, this study will discuss what is not addressed in these four documents but are important considerations as well as constraints for teaching and learning global citizenship in different national and educational contexts.
The increasingly diverse and interconnected world has posed numerous challenges for the traditional framework of national citizenship, especially its assimilating, ‘us vs. them’ approach to define and cultivate citizens. The rapid technological, demographic, ecological changes are reshaping one’s relationship with others and a larger social and environmental context. The proliferation of global challenges such as poverty, climate crisis, and forced migration, etc., demands a greater extent of civic awareness and participation of all people toward a more inclusive, just, and sustainable world. UNESCO and Oxfam as two major international organizations have been proactively promoting GCE during the last two decades. They published several influential and widely-read documents, including frameworks and reports for explicating the idea of global citizenship and outlining instructional strategies to implement GCE in and outside classrooms. UNESCO defines global citizenship as “a sense of belonging to a broader community and common humanity,” and it emphasizes “political, economic, social and cultural interdependency and interconnectedness between the local, the national and the global'' (2015, p. 14). In particular, UNESCO centers upon three core learning domains (i.e., cognitive, social-emotional, behavioral) embodied within the GCE framework. Oxfam highlights that GCE equips learners with knowledge, skills, and attitudes for critical and active engagement in challenges and opportunities of life, and it, similarly to UNESCO’s views, conceptualizes GCE for fostering a broader sense of belonging and participation in an interdependent world (2015). Building off the theoretical framings, empirical research has shown that the ways in which GCE is taught and implemented in schools (Goren & Yemini, 2017; Aktas et al., 2017; Sant et al., 2018). More importantly, a growing body of literature has begun to explore the importance of pedagogical support and resources that teachers need in order to better build content knowledge and instructional methods of GCE, particularly for social change and transformation purposes. For example, Osler (2011) argues that although teachers see the value of expanding students’ parochial identities and belonging, especially after finding the ethno-nationalistic and xenophobic attitudes among some students, they turn to highlight the local when teaching citizenship because of the lack of pedagogical support and adverse political climate.
Additionally, Bruce et al. (2019) and Carr et al. (2014) are concerned with teachers’ uncertain, neutralized, and even sometimes ethnocentric, paternalistic, and salvationist perspectives toward global citizenship and toward the ‘Other’ while rarely being aware of inequality issues or questioning normative discourses like modernization or universalism. Other studies on teaching GCE point out that the “provision of well-resourced and focused resources” in teacher education programs are vital in fostering GCE in schools (Buchanan et al., 2018, p. 60). Researchers further reveal that teachers especially desire “methodological, content, and curricular assistance,” “infrastructure and institutional support” (Kim, 2019), as well as strategies for teaching controversial issues (Ersoy, 2013) or facilitating critical dialogues (Ghosn-Chelala, 2020). In line with the above findings, UNESCO (2018) articulates the importance of providing high-quality and continuous learning opportunities for teachers to undertake a key and stressful role in GCE. The recent release of various online, easily accessible teaching materials and resources for GCE such as guidebooks, brochures, reports, and other documents from UNESCO and Oxfam seek to equip teachers and educators with the knowledge base and instructional skills that teachers otherwise may not have access to in their own schools or affiliated institutions. Critical questions remain, however, is how do GCE teacher guides published by these two organizations differ or bearing similarities in outlining and explaining GCE pedagogies.
To fill this literature gap, this study takes on four documents, including Schools in Action Global Citizens for Sustainable Development: A Guide for Teachers (UNESCO, 2016), Preparing Teachers for Global Citizenship Education: A Template (UNESCO, 2018), Global Citizenship in the Classroom: A guide for teachers (Oxfam, 2015), and The Sustainable Development Goals: A Guide for Teachers (Oxfam,2019) and conducts qualitative document analysis on the texts (Merriam, 2015). The analysis process focuses primarily on the meanings of teaching for global citizenship and descriptions and interpretations of GCE pedagogies (including curriculum design, classroom activity, or assessment examples, etc.). The use of document analysis reveals the embedded values and points of view within the textual narratives. Therefore, it facilitates the identification of themes or categories that cut across all selected documents. The themes (i.e., content knowledge, pedagogy, teachers’ roles) emerging from the preliminary analysis are then discussed in-depth in each subsection of the findings, focusing on the convergence and divergence in the selected documents from the above two organizations.
Overall, both teacher guides of UNESCO and Oxfam illustrate the broad ideas of global citizenship and the conceptual knowledge as well as pedagogies associated with teaching for global citizenship. GCE’s close links with SDGs and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is also acknowledged since they all share the vision for “empowering learners of all ages to become proactive contributors to a more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive and sustainable world” (UNESCO, 2016, p. 10). For GCE knowledge specifically, Oxfam and UNESCO come together in emphasizing the important GCE themes, including globalization and interdependence, social justice and inequality, identity and diversity, sustainable development, and peace and conflict. In particular, Oxfam (2015) argues that teachers are not expected “to be an expert on every global issue,” but their “ongoing willingness to grapple with” the above big themes matter in instructions (p. 6). UNESCO (2018) maintains that teachers are encouraged to “look beyond the contents'' discussed in the guides, but use it as points of reference to bring about other areas of knowledge as long as they match students’ needs as well as teachers’ interests for global citizenship (p. 6). In addition to content knowledge, they both direct teachers to focus on a set of skills, values, and attitudes viewed as essential within the GCE curriculum, which includes decision making, critical thinking, collaboration, respecting diversity, as well as communication, which could be more challenging to foster in learners. Besides, Oxfam and UNESCO stress that GCE is “not an extra subject” and would be optimized when taught through existing curricula and in different disciplines or school levels. Especially, GCE is thought of as a whole-school approach that engages diverse school professionals as well as a wider school community. For example, the discussion of several ASPnet (Associated Schools Network of UNESCO) programs as case studies provide teachers with exemplars showing how school-wide engagement could be implemented and could be “more effective than isolated efforts of individual teachers” (UNESCO, 2018, p. 15).
Furthermore, the teacher guides provide a wide range of practical, creative, and holistic ideas for curriculum design and classroom practice. They feature adaptable teaching tools and student- and process-centered activities, which encourage students to ask questions and make global-local connections, and promote their participation and agency in resolving real-world problems. Teachers as facilitators will guide students to dialogues rather than “telling people what to think and do” and imposing one’s views on others (Oxfam, 2015, p. 5). Additionally, a critical approach to GCE is recognized and supported in the teacher guides. For example, the topic of social and economic justice is explicitly addressed in the Oxfam’s guides when it describes the importance of global citizenship and asks teachers to reflect on the “nature and equality” of one’s relationship with other people, places, and cultures. In a similar vein, the emphasis on political literacy and critical empowerment could be found in UNESCO’s curriculum designs.
Geographically speaking, the two documents by Oxfam primarily focus on the UK context (including England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) and, therefore, the instructional advice and case studies discussed in them also align with these contexts. However, it does not mean that teachers and educators from other countries or regions having different educational systems or structures from the UK could not get content and pedagogical support from the guides. As mentioned above, the classroom activities and curriculum design introduced in the guides could serve as starting points for motivating teachers to adapt them into their own contexts and create their lessons and instructional goals. By contrast, UNESCO with a worldwide focus tends to include GCE examples and case studies from both the Global North as well as Global South countries. In addition, Oxfam highlights the importance of grasping opportunities and students’ success in developing global citizenship by stating that “the opportunities our fast-changing ‘globalised’ world offers young people are enormous” (2015, p. 4). UNESCO, however, advocates universal values and it directs teachers to focus on the values such as human rights, democracy, a sense of belonging to the global community and a common humanity.
Furthermore, although both UNESCO and Oxfam give attention to learners’ reflections, especially concerning their previous assumptions, the latter also emphasizes teachers’ reflections. The points of reflection like “There is a variety of views about the meaning of global citizenship. So how would you define a ‘global citizen’? How do your ideas compare with Oxfam’s?” “What do you think are the most important attitudes and values, knowledge, understanding and skills that learners need in the world today? How might this vary in 20 years’ time?” and “What do you see as the main purposes of education” (Oxfam, 2015, p. 4) are imperative to prompt teachers to think more deeply about the meaning of (global) citizenship and to what extent this set of citizenship constructs relate to their own understanding and philosophy of teaching. An understanding of teachers’ roles when teaching GCE also differs. UNESCO stresses that teachers need to become global citizens themselves (2018, p. v) while Oxfam describes teachers as organizers of knowledge and ‘enablers’ (2015, p. 11). Lastly, the UNESCO’s guides take a step further and lead teachers to distinguish the critical from soft approach to GCE by pointing out that teachers should help learners understand both paradigms, in which the soft mode views “contemporary interdependence of nations as a fair sharing and exchange of resources, goods, services, technology and knowledge” while the critical approach interrogates the equality relationships between nations due to engrained dependency and power asymmetries (2018, p. 18). Teachers’ understanding of the differences between these two approaches matters because it has different implications for learning objectives and outcomes.
Discussion & Conclusion
Teachers are key actors in ensuring quality education. As what UNESCO asserts, “the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers and the quality of teaching” (2018, p. 5). This study compares four teacher guides documents by Oxfam and UNESCO and finds that they both converge and diverge in their approaches in supporting teachers and educators to engage GCE knowledge and pedagogies. The analysis unpacks the humanist, liberal, and to some degree, critical discourses reflected in these documents. These teacher guides, however, cannot overcome numerous constraints posed to teachers such as test-driven and accountability systems, Eurocentric perspectives, unequal school environment (Kim, 2019), and restricted curriculum structures (Schweisfurth, 2006). Therefore, although providing some conceptual and practical ideas that help teachers on their way to GCE, it remains unknown to what extent these guides can actually be used in classrooms and how teachers perceive their effectiveness over time, which will be important future research directions. Future studies could also investigate how teachers would react, and more importantly, negotiate between the school (and also social) reality in the local contexts with the aspirations of global citizenship and its associated values. Thus, teaching and learning for global citizenship is not a prescriptive but a creative, participatory, and continuing process.
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