23.10.2013 - Education Sector

Teachers for 21st Century Global Citizenship

UNESCO is leading a new global citizenship movement - one of the 3 pillars of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) -  to view schools and teachers as active contributors to a peaceful and sustainable future. On 4 October 2013, 400 participants were welcomed to World Teachers’ Day at UNESCO Headquarters by Director-General Irina Bokova who underlined the importance the Organization attaches to teachers, “UNESCO...has always been and is a House for Teachers”.

At the heart of the educational system, teachers hold the keys to a better future for all. The Director-General highlighted teachers’ role to learners of all ages around the world, “Teaching is a profession, but it is also a vocation. I wish to thank every teacher for their engagement and passion - working in sometimes difficult conditions, like the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, to bring the wonders of learning to those who need it most..”

The shifting paradigm of schools

The world is facing global challenges that cannot be fully resolved within national boundaries. Sustainable solutions must be found through collaborative and coordinated responses, at both local and global levels, that involve a wide range of stakeholders in the public and private sectors. We also need engaged and globally-minded citizens able to take up the challenges to build a more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable world.

This implies rethinking education and how it can contribute to the formation of global citizenship, for, as the Director-General states, “Education holds the keys to a more peaceful and a more prosperous 21st century.  It is essential for individual dignity and a motor for sustainable development. Teachers stand at the heart of this vision. Today we need more teachers and better quality teachers.”

So, what is global citizenship education? During World Teachers’ Day, UNESCO shared an operational definition of global citizenship education (GCE) as, “a sense of belonging to a global community and a common humanity, a feeling of global solidarity, identity and responsibility that generates actions based on and respect of universal values.”

Soo-Hyang Choi, Director of the Division of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development of UNESCO, points to the specific role of teachers in developing global citizenship, “Global Citizenship Education aims to empower learners to engage and assume active roles both locally and globally, and to face and resolve global challenges such as peace building or environmental issues. It also contributes to increasing individual competitiveness of learners in a globalizing world. Teachers have a role to play in this context.”

“Passing national exams is not enough, students need to learn to learn, learn to be, learn to do and learn to live with others,” said Charles Gitau Mwaniki, Acting Senior Assistant Director of Education of the State Department of Education, Kenya.

The Head of Educational Affairs Committee in Public Secondary Schools' Teachers of Lebanon (LPESPL), Bahia Baalbaki, echoed, “Nowadays, schools face new and greater challenges… there is a need to add … cultural diversities among curriculum…underlining respect of others and equity.”

Competences for Global Citizenship Education

Some of the competences of GCE were sketched out during the Technical Consultation on Global Citizenship Education that took place in Seoul, Republic of Korea in September 2013. The particular GCE competencies of knowledge and understanding of global issues/trends, critical thinking, communication skills, behavioral capacities to engage in actions, affective, social competences, and empathy were presented by UNESCO during the World Teachers’ Day panel discussions.

Teachers as change agents

For teachers to actively practice GCE, they must be global citizens themselves, life-long learners and researchers, and classroom facilitators, collaborators, program organizers and trainers rather than knowledge transmitters. Teachers need to be members of the school community to implement whole-school approaches.

For further information contact: wtd(at)unesco.org

<- Back to:
Back to top