A study carried out by the Belgian NGO federation ACODEV shows that students acquire useful skills through Global Citizenship Education (GCED). GCED helps young people to become responsible and critical citizens who are aware of the importance of international solidarity and actively contribute to a more just world.
In Belgium, Global Citizenship Education is mainly promoted by civil society organisations, including NGOs. Kleur Bekennen/Annoncer la Couleur (KLB/ALC), a programme of the Belgian Development Cooperation that specifically focuses on education, plays an important role in this. Its main objective is to anchor GCED in schools. To this end, KLB/ALC uses the momentum of the reform of the attainment targets, the pacte d’excellence and philosophy and citizenship classes.
ACODEV's study, together with Annoncer La Couleur, is the first to examine the impact of GCED in schools. It was carried out by an independent agency in several schools located in Wallonia and Brussels.
Global Citizenship Education?
The aim of Global Citizenship Education is to contribute to a more just and inclusive world through different approaches. For example, GCED tries to inform and engage citizens about global challenges. Raising awareness of the interdependence between North and South is another approach. Citizens’ personal and collective commitment to a sustainable and equitable development model is another important aspect of GCED. Finally, GCED wants to mobilise citizens to strive for more equitable and solidary policy choices at local, national and international level.
Belgium is one of the leading European countries when it comes to GCED. According to Mara Coppens, head of development education at the SPF Foreign Affairs, GCED plays a crucial role in development cooperation: 'Belgium cannot be a legitimate actor in sustainable development if it does not take to heart its own responsibilities in terms of sustainable development.'
Raising awareness of the interdependence between North and South is another approach. Citizens’ personal and collective commitment to a sustainable and equitable development model is another important aspect of GCED.
The recent study shows that students who come into contact with GCED score remarkably well on skills that are characteristic of world citizenship, such as informing yourself about what is going on in the world or with regard to international relations. Feeling involved and adopting a positive, non-discriminatory attitude are also important skills acquired through GCED.
The positive impact of GCED is not limited to students. Schools also enjoy the benefits. For instance, the connection between students and teachers improves when they have to work on projects together. In addition, by focusing on trust and motivation, GCED leads to fewer school dropouts. Last but not least, GCED enhances the school’s reputation.
The different activities organised by GCED actors are positively received by teachers. Extracurricular activities are particularly appreciated. Teachers also make eager use of pedagogical tools and audiovisual material.
Teachers can introduce world citizenship in their classes through different angles. Sustainability, and particularly climate change, are hot topics right now. By simultaneously addressing other themes such as world economy, diversity and democracy in the classroom, students are taught to pay attention to injustice, equal opportunities and the importance of solidarity, among other things. While charity projects stimulate students’ commitment, GCED should not be limited to charity. It is about mentality change, also in the long run.
The world is constantly changing. It is important that everyone remains critical and decides for themselves how far their commitment goes.
Too much pressure?
However, it remains important not to put too much pressure on young people and especially children. They do not need to be turned into perfect citizens, but should, above all, be made aware of the importance of international solidarity. Mara Coppens emphasises that there does not exist one single world citizen model that must be followed at all costs: 'The world is constantly changing. It is important that everyone remains critical and decides for themselves how far their commitment goes.'
According to this study, GCED generally has a positive impact on students, regardless of the level of the classes. This study is the first that focuses on the impact of GCED within schools. Although it remains difficult to measure the exact impact, the study should serve as a solid basis for further research.
Want to know more about Global Citizenship Education? Read World Citizenship Education: more than Thick Sweater Day