Global Education-what IS it?

from NGV exhibition
from NGV exhibition


Global education is a concept with a diverse number of understandings.  Even the term ‘global education’ has different viewing platforms from global learning to global competencies from global citizenship to education for sustainable development.

In some parts of the world, global education is viewed as learning by connecting with others using technology.  According to my experience, this is, by far, the perspective assigned to the term in the United States of America.  It falls short of the vision and framework required to understand and act on issues of global significance.

With a deeper synthesis of theory and practice, global education is a response to engage learners in issues critical to understanding their communities, their world and their future. This cannot be done by simply (or with technological difficulty) connecting learners across the globe.  There must be purpose for the technology connection.

I want to take this concept further, offering Australian and international examples.

In Global Perspectives: A framework for global education in Australian Schools Commonwealth of Australia, 2008, Global Education “promotes open-mindedness leading to new thinking about the world and a predisposition to take action for change. Students learn to take responsibility for their actions, respect and value diversity, and see themselves as global citizens who can contribute to a more peaceful, just and sustainable world. Enabling young people to participate in a better shared future for all is at the heart of global education.”

In Australia, the Curriculum sets out the core knowledge, understanding, skills and general capabilities important for all Australian students. It describes what all young Australians are to be taught as a foundation for their future learning, growth and active participation in the Australian community. There is congruence between global education and the Curriculum although it could be enhanced with more explicit activities to allow learning outcomes to be more easily identifiable.

The Melbourne Declaration of 2008 stated, “All young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens who are responsible global and local citizens”

The Asia Society and Council of Chief State School Officers talk about Global Competencies to improve the education of children by better supporting the development of their higher order thinking skills and their ability to apply these skills effectively to a broad range of problems. It is, in part, these skills that will enable children to invent and contribute to the new world.

We take a name shift and, in 2004, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation launched its decade for Education for Sustainable Development which has as its focus, the goal of every human being to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future.  Education for sustainable development…challenges individuals, institutions and societies to view tomorrow as a day that belongs to all of us, or it will not belong to anyone. (UNESCO Education sector).  During this period, the United Nations also released The Global Education First Initiative related to education about the Millenium Development goals and, in particular, the goal about education.

After 2015, The Millenium Development Goals will morph into The Sustainable Development Goals giving headway for global learning to take a directional terminology shift to Sustainable Development.  I see Sustainable Development as our number one learning priority.  I have written about this in my posts Education for Sustainable Development part 1 and  Education for Sustainable Development part 2.

Education for sustainable development is not just about using 21st century learning tools to engage learners and engage with learners across the globe. It’s about preparing our learners to take their place as informed, skilled and active global citizens; to think critically about issues of food security, population distribution, water cooperation, ethical consumerism, human rights, social justice, identity, cultural diversity, interdependence, globalisation, environmental sustainability, breaking the poverty cycle, social technology, socially responsible trading, economical sustainability, sustainable farming and agricultural practices, health and human development, peace, conflict resolution and getting on with others. The future of this planet lies with globally educated learners.

We are now challenged because ways to conceive content for Sustainable Development with its broad coverage of learning areas/disciplines are neither traditional nor mainstream. Building a systematic and cohesive program from Early Years to Year 10 requires a whole school overview and focussed leadership. Its importance cannot be overestimated.

Global Education-what IS it?

Education for Sustainable Development Part two

India tile

How can sustainability enhance the learning areas in curricula?

My favourite picture storybook is The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley  (Thank you Nuella.)  You MUST read it.  The message I took away was live simply so others can simple live. (Thank you Gandhi.)

A curriculum that has sustainable futures at its core will be a dynamic and value enriched program of learning. The ways in which we can meet our current needs without diminishing the environment or reducing the capacity of future generations to meet their own needs is what a sustainable future is about.

So as a learner and facilitator, I brainstormed all the concepts of a global curriculum centred around the functions of sustainability – cultural sustainability, economic sustainability, environmental sustainability and social sustainability … here goes…….needs and wants, human rights, politics, Millenium Development Goals, belief systems, value systems,  gender equity, poverty reduction, global cooperation, interconnection, human well being, peace, resolving conflict, partnerships, trade, water, forests, natural hazards and disasters, biodiversity, food security, endangered species, energy, desertification, effects of climate and its change, trading fairly, education,  identity, child Rights, Agriculture, ethical consumerism, migration, immigration,  refugees, population, intercultural understanding, cultural diversity, connections to the past, indigenous culture, global health…… phwew!! And that’s just for starters.

Write down these learning areas- Civics and Citizenship, Geography, Science, History, Technologies, Maths, The Arts, English, Health and Phys Ed, Languages and  Economics.

Now try and fit any one of the concepts above under just one learning area.  Can’t choose? That’s because sustainability and global learning cross all areas of the curriculum. A rich curriculum has interconnected learning.

The best way to work out where you can work with these concepts in your curriculum is to do a concept map.

Take a look at your existing curriculum. Could you enhance it and open the eyes of your learners a little wider by including a concept around sustainability?









Education for Sustainable Development Part two

Education for Sustainable Development Part one

Have you asked yourself, “What REALLY IS sustainability?”

A greenhouse nightmare

Since the late 1960’s, sustainability, which initially had an environmental focus, expanded to include economy and later social and cultural considerations.

In 1987 the approach to conservation brought together environmental conservation and development and so came the term ‘sustainable development’. This represented the first formal recognition that “development should meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, suggesting development, progress and growth had to take account of their environmental impacts.

So wider ethical issues such as human rights, in support of values, justice and fairness are integral to education for sustainable development.  Intercultural understanding strengthens respect for equality.  Peace and resolving conflict foster the values of empathy and cooperation.  A rights based education encompasses the concept of education for sustainable development and reinforces the awareness that we share a common destiny with others. (OHCHR 2006).

Sustainability has become a vast social, political, economic and educational concern. The UN has devoted a decade to Education for Sustainability. The Australian Curriculum considers sustainability important enough to be delivered across the curriculum.

Watch out for more posts on this topic.

Part 2 “In what ways could sustainability enhance the learning areas in my curriculum?”

Part 3 “How could I amplify sustainability throughout my school?”

Cartoon by Nicholson from “The Australian” newspaper: – See more at:

Education for Sustainable Development Part one