Global Education an Issue For Every Classroom? Essay

Issues like globalisation, sustainability or global warming are omnipresent in 21st century Western societies. We, as adults, are confronted with these issues on a regular basis as dealing with them is an essential competence for a successful life in the third millennium. As the education our youth receives shall prepare them for a successful conquering with the “real life” after schools and its problems and chances, I claim that Global Education, as a concept which deals with global issues like development, peace, human rights and environmental sustainability, should be introduced into school curricula world-wide. After giving a definition of Global Education and introducing some of its key principles, I will finally summarise my arguments why global issues shall become part of global educational systems.

As Global Education is a rather young field of research, which came into existence in the nineteen-eighties, scholars have not agreed on a common definition. For the first regional conference on Global Education organised by UNICEF MENA David Selby (2003: 145) presented the following definition:

Global education is a holistic paradigm of education predicated upon the interconnectedness of communities, lands, und peoples, the interrelatedness of all social, cultural und natural phenomena, the interpenetrative nature of past, present und future, und the complementary nature of the cognitive, affective, physical and spiritual dimensions of the human being. It addresses issues of development, equity, peace, social and environmental justice, and environmental sustainability. Its scope encompasses the personal, the local, the national und the planetaly [sic]. Congruent with its precepts and principles, its pedagogy is experiential, interactive, children-centred, democratic, convivial, participatory, and change-oriented.

In other words, Global Education can be characterised as an interdisciplinary approach, which focuses on helping people to acquire knowledge, concepts, values, skills and competencies required for living in an increasingly interconnected, interdependent, pluralistic world. Therefore Global Education aims at being part of every subject in school, not only part of those which seem more appropriate than others to deal with topics like globalisation or environmental sustainability (i.e. geography or biology).

As it is difficult to substantiate such a wide term like Global Education, some key areas will be listed below. Selby (2003: 153) states key issues like “Development Education” (e.g. Third World, North-South interdependencies and inequalities), “Environmental Education” (e.g. sustainability), “Human Rights Education” (e.g. moral and legal rights), “Peace Education” (interpersonal/international peace), “Health Education”, “Gender Equity Education” (e.g. equal opportunities, sexism), “Education for a Multicultural Society” (e.g. cultural diversity, racism), “Humane Education” (e.g. animal rights), “Citizenship Education” and “Media Education” (e.g. deconstruction media messages and images). All these show that Global Education can be incorporated in every classroom and all these are essential issues for enabling pupils to explore the world in which they live.

A number of conceptual frameworks have been developed to describe the core elements of Global Education. Pike and Selby (1995) promote a four-dimensional model for global education which comprises three outer dimensions and an inner dimension. The first outer dimension, the Spatial Dimension, addresses the concept of

interdependence and interconnectedness at multiple levels including intrapersonal, interpersonal, local, bioregional, national, international and global. (Selby 2003: 148)

Global Education is therefore aiming at developing an understanding of the many levels which influence the pupils’ present and future lives and the connections between them.

The second outer dimension, the Temporal Dimension, concerns the “interpenetrative nature of what are commonly held to be distinct phases of time” (Selby 2003: 155). Therefore by understanding the interconnectedness that exist between past, present and future, pupils shall be equipped with competencies to understand and reflect upon the future in order to chance it into a desirable future, or as Selby (2003: 156) puts it, a “preferred future”, for them.

The third outer dimension, the Issues Dimension, embraces five major problem areas which are present on our planet: inequality, injustice, conflict, environmental damage and alienation. Pupils shall be lead to an awareness of the impact these problems may have upon each other and be empowered to think about possible solutions.

The fourth dimension, the Inner Dimension, emphasises the fact that “an emerging awareness of the world goes hand in glove with a growing level of self-awareness” (Selby 2003: 159). Introspection is therefore promoted to face the problems the world confronts us with. Selby (2003: 159) underlines the effects Global Education should have on each pupil:

A student brought face to face with new perspectives, different cultures, new ways of seeing the world, alternative visions of the future; learning that her life is inextricably bound up with problems and prospects of peoples and environments thousand of miles away, will inevitably begin to critically examine her assumptions, perspectives, values and behaviours.

From all this it follows that Global Education is an inevitable principle of future world-wide educational systems, as we cannot deny the fact that our world is becoming smaller and the problems around the world are problems for every individual living on our planet. Thus, understanding the complexity of our global society is a key competence for a successful life in the 21st century. Pupils themselves support such efforts, as “eight out of ten 11-16 years olds” feel that it is important to learn about global issues at school “in order to make better choices about how they might lead their lives” (Mori 1998 quoted in Hicks 2003: 265). It has always been one major principle of education in whatever institution to equip pupils with competencies to deal with the world around them. As today’s students are living in a globalised world I claim that it is our teacher’s task to prepare them for the challenges they (might) have to face as global citizens. Irene Davy (2006: no pagination) summarizes her demand for Global Education as follows:

Our children will become citizens of the global village if we give them the tools, skills, knowledge and attitudes to see the world as their home, and its people as their neighbours. Through a global approach to curriculum, they will become passionate, active and caring members of the earth community.

I also claim that beside subject knowledge of various kinds a holistic understanding of the world is one of the key principles of today’s teaching and therefore Global Education must be an issue for every 21st century classroom.


Davy, Irene. 2006. “Why a global curriculum makes sense”. Dialogue for Canada’s independent educators. (25 January 2008).

Hicks, David. 2003. “Thirty Years of Global Ecuation: a reminder of key principles and precedents”. Educational Review Vol. 55, No. 3, 265-275.

Pike, Graham & Selby, David. 1995. “Reconnecting: from national to global curriculum”. UK: World Wide Fund for Nature.

Selby, David. 2003. “Global Education as transformative education”. In Lang-Wojtasik, G, & Lohrenscheit, C. (eds.). Entwicklungspaedagogik – Globales Lernen – Internationale Bildungsforschung. Frankfurt am Main: IKO-Verlag für Interkulturelle Kommunikation, 145-165.