03.09.2013 - ODG

Global Citizenship Education should start at schools - Chosunilbo

Article published in the Korean Newspaper Chosunilbo on 3 September 2013.

The world seems more complex every day.

Societies are becoming more interconnected and diverse. Thanks to new media, a new global space is opening that pays little attention to traditional boundaries. Migration is increasing, and exchanges are deepening. At the same time, we are reaching the limits of our planet. Millions of women and men still live in poverty, facing violence, discrimination and social exclusion. Climate change is increasing the vulnerability of people around the world.

Today’s opportunities and challenges are global – neither respects national borders. Both call for new ways of thinking, new ways of acting and living together. The world is transforming – we need to change with it, to tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities, together.

Global citizenship is not a legal term, but rather a sense of solidarity with others and with the planet. It is about recognizing the rights and dignity of every woman and man. It is about a shared responsibility towards the well-being of everyone, wherever they live, whatever their circumstances, because humanity is a single family, with a common history and destiny. Global citizenship is a sense of belonging to a world that is one.

The Saudi cosmonaut Sultan bin Salman Al-Saud spoke about this after his first trip in space: “The first day or so, we all pointed to our countries. The third or fourth day, we were pointing to our continents. By the fifth day, we were aware of only one Earth.”

We can’t all go to space! We must find easier ways to foster global citizenship, and this is where education comes in.

Global solidarity must start on the benches of schools. This is where we must sow the seeds for peace and sustainability. Schools are the best places to learn SangSaeng – “living together, helping each other.” Education is essential for learning respect and understanding for other cultures and ways of living, for developing new behaviours for a globalizing world, for addressing HIV and AIDS and other global health challenges.

This idea guides all UNESCO’s work. Our Constitution says that peace cannot be built only between governments -- it must be founded in the minds of individual women and men, through “intellectual and moral solidarity.”

Today, we need global forms of solidarity. This is why fostering global citizenship is a core objective of the UN Secretary-General’s new Global Education First Initiative that UNESCO is steering forward. Every society needs education to teach learners the skills they need for the world of work. At the same time, education must foster the values we need for a world of change – the capacity to understand others, to feel empathy, to think critically, to exchange ideas and address global challenges together.  

We must make the most of education to teach human rights, to deepen understanding and protect the dignity of all, regardless of colour, gender, descent or national, ethnic or religious identity. Every culture is different, but humanity is a single community, united around human rights. We need education to foster respect for diversity as a source of strength, including the diversity of identities, which are for each of us increasingly multiple and dynamic. This calls for new skills of cultural literacy and dialogue, for curricula to become more global.

This calls also for schools to be ‘safe spaces’ for all girls and boys, free of all forms of discrimination. Bullying, sexual and gender-based violence is unacceptable, including homophobic bullying.

This is especially true for children living in conflict and disaster-affected situations, where education is essential for rebuilding torn lives, for learning how to live together again in trust. We must recognize education as an essential part of any response to any humanitarian crisis.

Empowering future generations with quality education is the best way to prepare them to take the reins of our planet’s future. Becoming a global citizen means accepting responsibility today for the generations that will follow, through new ways of acting, behaving and consuming. This is why Education for Sustainable Development is so important, to deepen new forms of global responsibility.

Teachers are essential for a culture of sustainability. Nothing can replace a good teacher – in inspiring girls and boys, in opening up new ways of thinking, to understand and stand up against injustice and inequality. Teachers must be supported to create new kinds of education that are participatory and linked into the global community. Learning for global citizenship must open up democratic spaces within schools, so that students can take part in decision-making, and early on, feel a sense of belonging with their school, their environment and society at large.

UNESCO’s network of Associated Schools embodies this global community – bringing together more than 9,600 schools across 180 countries. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, this network is a youth alliance to take forward global values.

UNESCO is acting at all these levels to help every girl and boy to understand the challenges of a world under pressure and to seize the opportunities of a world that is globalising.

Global citizenship must start at the local level. It must be grounded in local participation, in respect for cultural and linguistic diversity, and in harmony with biodiversity. It does mean not giving up on local identities; it means strengthening and building on them.

Global citizenship cannot be just an ideal – it must be a practice that is taken forward by each of us, every day. It is about human rights and dignity, it is about the responsibilities we have towards others and the planet, and it is a sense of global belonging and solidarity. This is the new humanism we need for the century ahead. These are the citizens we need for tomorrow – true citizens of a single humanity, of one world.

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