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What is global citizenship education?

Global citizenship is the idea that instead of being the citizen of any particular country in the world, that everyone is a citizen of the world, therefore having rights and responsibilities towards the rest of the world, or in other words, towards “humanity”. National citizenship would still exist, but it is given a lesser importance, as global citizenship would be seen as the primary form of citizenship.

Global Citizenship Education (GCED) is UNESCO’s answer to human rights violations, inequalities and poverty in the world. It works by encouraging students to recognise that these are global problems and that they should be tackled from a global perspective through the promotion of more inclusive, safe and sustainable societies. GCED is part of UNESCO’s Education Sector programme and builds upon the efforts of Peace and Human Rights Education. The purpose of GCED is to inspire learners to support and become more responsible global citizens by being more creative, innovative, and showing a strong commitment to peace, human rights and sustainable development. GCED brings together a number of different fields within education such as peace education, human rights education and education for sustainable development, following the idea that these areas are interlinked issues that need to be solved globally. For example, UNESCO works on the following issues: Preventing violent extremism through education, Education about the Holocaust and genocide, Languages in education and the promotion of the rule of law through global citizenship education.

UNESCO works together with a wide-ranging global network including other UN agencies and inter-governmental organizations such as: the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP), the International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA), the UNESCO Institute for Statistic (UIS), the Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding (APCIEU), the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPNet) and UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs.

GCED is grounded on three areas:

· Cognitive: knowledge and thinking skills essential to develop one´s understanding of the world and its intricacies.

· Socio-emotional: standards, views and interpersonal skills that empower students to grow in a way in which they can live with others respectfully and peacefully.

· Behavioural: practical application and commitment.

Scholars have also been interested in GCED. Here are some common viewpoints on the topic:

· Critical and transformative perspective: from this perspective, students must be actively involved in society and use their rights and responsibilities as citizens to promote change.

They must be taught critical thinking and transformative thinking not only to become politically critical but also to be able to change their own behaviours towards specific issues as well as their own convictions. In order to do this, teachers use practical social issues as case studies in class, in order to raise awareness and promote action by asking students to provide real answers to the issues and support them to implement new solutions in their everyday lives.

· World mindedness and child-centeredness: Graham Pike and David Selby understand GCED as being composed of two different aspects. The first one is world mindedness, which means that the world has to be understood as a united entity and as such, the decisions taken at the national level should take into account the global needs rather than the national ones. The second one is child-centeredness, a teaching method that inspires students to discover and learn on their own. Students are all considered as individuals with unique opinions, knowledge and capacities, which must be considered by teachers when they approach teaching a particular student.

· Holistic Understanding: this view was initiated by Merry Merryfield and focuses on understanding oneself relative to the world. This teaching method focuses on attending to human principles and opinions, universal systems, problems, history, multiculturalism, and the improvement of ones´ analytical skills.

In conclusion, GCED aims at supporting students to become informed world citizens, featuring essential critical thinking and analytical skills coupled with a humanist sensibility. In a world of growing populism and “fake news” these methods should undoubtedly be further integrated in the traditional education system.

Author: Dr Fanny Tittel-Mosser

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