Second UNESCO Forum on Global Citizenship Education

ECI was invited to participate at the Second UNESCO Global Forum on Global Citizenship Education (GCE) that took place in Paris on 28-30 January 2015 at UNESCO Headquarters. Alicia Jimenez, ECI Secretariat staff member and Kartikeya Sarabhai, ECI Council Member, participated in this Forum.

The two main objectives of the 2nd Forum were to consider GCE in the context of the post-2015 education agenda including consideration of the emerging Framework of Action Post-2015. It also addressed the role of GCE for peace to clarify future policy directions of GCE at different levels, working as well in building partnerships.

The timing for this Forum was very strategic, since it happened during the UNESCO regional consultations on EFA and post-2015 and before the Global Education Forum (WEF) in May 2015 in Incheon, Republic of Korea.

Around 250 participants from 62 countries from all regions of the world participated in this event, representing different education movements, such as peace education, education for sustainable development, human rights, development, and health education, among others.

Day 1: 28 January.  Opening and Plenary session 1: Global Citizenship Education in the post-2015 education agenda

In the opening session, Mrs. Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General spoke about the importance of strengthening networks of practice and knowledge to better define the education we need on the XXI Century for a more sustainable world.   She mentioned the importance of new forms of cultural literacy considering the ongoing process of globalization. Also, she spoke about new foundations for a culture of peace. “It is important that we all learn to connect the dots between social, economic, and environmental aspects”. Mrs. Bokova stressed the role that Education has in the post-2015 development agenda, and that it is important to create a roadmap for Education in the post 2015 process, where global citizenship education can be a common framework.

Other speakers at this plenary were Amira Yahyaoui, President of Al-Bawsala organization from Tunisia, and Peter Ronald de Souza of the Institute for Advanced Study, India. Both of them agreed on the importance of values and a common normative framework. Peter de Souza also emphasized that education should be seen as a common good.

Gloria Carrasco, from the Bogotá Municipality in Colombia, shared the strategy from her local government to move from the right to access education to the right to access quality education. This means promotion of competences like critical thinking for building students’ empowerment.

In terms of the post 2015 development agenda, Mr. Alberto Motivans from UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics mentioned that right now Member States are actively involved in developing the indicators for the targets related to the 17 proposed Sustainable Development Goals.   There is just one goal on education, with seven targets. Most likely the indicators will focus on skills and knowledge necessary to promote sustainable development, and they need to be adapted to global, regional and national levels.  Measuring socio-emotional skills and behavioral changes is a challenge for the SDG on education, although in the OECD isworking on this.

Several concurrent sessions were organized with small groups, one of them related to the outcomes of the World Education for Sustainable Development Conference in Nagoya and its implications for GCE. One of the main conclusions is that because the Global Action Programme launched in Nagoya in 2014 is very clear and concise, it has the potential to help advance GCE in national policies and at local level processes (in education institutions and communities).

Day 2: 29 January. Plenary session 2: Global Citizenship Education forging peace

The claim that GCE can contribute to global peace was widely accepted by the panelists in this session, what they further discussed was the meaning of global peace, how lessons from peace education experiences, interfaith and intercultural dialogue and promotion of gender equity can inform GCE.

Carlos Alberto Torres, Chair-holder, UNESCO Chair on Global learning and global citizenship education at UCLA stressed the factors that undermine peace, such as inequality, poverty, neoliberal policies, banking education and predatory cultures. For him, GCE should promote a sense of planetary citizenship that seeks a more sustainable world, and adds values to national citizenship. “Global or planetary citizens should be aware of the global commons, that we share this planet not only with humans, but other living beings that also have the right to live. In this sense, a global citizen would cultivate a spirit of solidarity with people and other living beings they don’t know. This has to go hand in hand with building a multicultural tradition, promoting respect and tolerance, and preventing separatism.”  Mr. Torres concluded by saying that the launch of GCE is an opportunity to stir up a silent revolution, using UNESCO’s soft power, to promote the changes needed for a more peaceful world.

Tony Jenkins, Director of the Peace Education Initiative, talked about the pedagogical challenges to generate the changes we want to see in the world. One of the biggest challenges is a lack of a theory of change to education that allows us to understand how change happens to learners. Educational change, he said, happens at a personal and institutional level. The personal refers to psychological aspects of the internalization of values, socio-emotional learning to help individuals to overcome problems related, for example, to the practice of peace.  At the institutional level, change is sometimes more difficult to perceive. Whole institution approach can help to overcome the problem of a disconnection between what the individual is learning and the day-to-day actions in the educational institution.

“We need to understand how identity functions otherwise we can’t work on positive change” said Patrice Bordeur, from the KAICIID  Dialogue Center. He referred to the importance of promoting intercultural and interfaith dialogue for practicing and promoting peace and a sense of global citizenship. Dialogue helps to identify and clarify our values, what we bring to the table when sharing or making decisions.  Education processes of GCE should promote dialogue skills.

After this second plenary, more concurrent sessions took place over the rest of the day. These are some key messages that were shared:

  • Tony Jenkins said that the peace definition contained in the Earth Charter was very important to the United States, since peace is a politicized concept in this country, and is difficult to bring to education settings, but the concept in the Earth Charter showed a non-politicized view that was not considered as threatening to others.
  • How to teach about human rights in a place like Palestine? The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is doing it with teachers on the ground. One teacher explained how they do it: “We may not be able to live in a safe environment, but at least we will make the classroom a peaceful and safe place. Here is where we practice peace”.
  • The Framework for Action that will be defined in the World Education Forum in South Korea (May 2015) will aim to support the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda, and its education goal. One of the targets proposes that all learners acquire knowledge and skills to promote sustainable development, through ESD, GCE and others. Now, even if this target is not retained, it is important for stakeholders to continue to work on making this target happen.

Day 3: 30 January:  Plenary session 3: Moving forward together: GCED in the Framework for Action for post-2015 and Closing Session.

One of the key messages of panelist Choong-hee Hahn, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations, was that GCE curricula should consider appropriate contextualization without compromising universal values.

Susan Hopgood, President of Education International said that teachers needed support for their professional development… and trust from authorities. In addition, she expressed the need to better connect values affirmation and values implementation, because most people affirm that being respectful is important, but not all practice it. So, it is important to find pedagogies that allow for the practice of universal values.

The youth present in this forum presented a Youth Statement in the closing session. In addition, the three rapporteurs of the Forum presented a summary of this event related to three aspects: Policy making; Education implementation; and Partnerships.

On policy making, it is important to incorporate teacher training and integration of GCE in programmes related to other education movements.

On education implementation, the rapporteur said that it was important to acknowledge that GCE is values oriented, and an ethical framework is needed as a reference for ethical reflection. Also, teachers are curriculum gatekeepers, so in this sense, teacher training to share GCE principles is a priority

In terms of partnerships, the role of UNESCO was highlighted as important to support the “silent revolution” to promote GCE principles, and to continue to be a convener.

The final statements were offered by Heeseung Yuh on behalf of the Secretary-General of the World Education forum, and Soo-hyang Choi, Director of the Division for Teaching, Learning and Content of UNESCO Headquarters. They both expressed that this was an interesting moment where different education agendas will be integrated to find synergies among them. Although at the national level there will be discussions about how to translate a global vision for sustainability and global citizenship into national targets, Mrs. Choi reminded us that it was important to take on board not only what can be measured in quantitative ways, but also what can be experienced by students.

Find more information about this Forum in this link.  And also read the publication that UNESCO produced to clarify Global Citizenship Education.