One key objective of global citizenship education is to increase students’ understanding of how everything in the world is interconnected and make them aware that their local actions, as minor as they might seem, can have a meaningful impact on a global scale. Thus, the main aim of Unit 1 entitled Connecting Global and Local Issues is to raise teachers’ and teacher educators’ awareness of how to inspire and empower learners to become active global citizens.
Newspapers, television broadcasts and social media make news from around the world available to us keeping us updated on global events within seconds. This can sensitize us to issues that affect people globally and has the potential to motivate us to want to make a difference. The aim of our project is to equip teachers and teacher educators with the necessary skills and knowledge to prepare lessons that help students understand important global topics and provide clear suggestions on how to make a difference – no matter how small it may be.
Unit 1 starts by introducing our project’s two main concepts: global citizenship and multilingualism. Both terms are probably familiar to teachers, but unit 1 will help deepen your understanding of these concepts and related issues.
This unit explores the interconnectedness of the world through daily, tangible examples that every teacher educator, teacher and student can relate to. We get dressed in the morning, eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, drive with a car and use various gadgets without ever stopping to reflect on where these products and the materials to create them have come from. How do our daily habits and what we consume affect people on the other side of the planet?
Similarly, we rarely ponder the norms of the societies we live in, including social hierarchies, privileges, access to education or financial possibilities, the status of the languages we use or who faces discrimination and why. How do our actions in our communities affect others around us? To what extent is everyone in our community able to enjoy collective and personal wellbeing? In this unit, we reflect on these issues and sharpen our own perceptions so that we are then better positioned to help our learners think about themselves and their position in the world in relation to others.
The way we perceive the world and the preconceptions we hold about the people around us are shaped from an early age. We are constantly looking for ways to make sense of the world around us. Family and school are two major factors in shaping our understandings of how the world works. It is the responsibility of schools to educate children about the world around them by utilizing materials such as school books to guide this process.
However, taking a closer look at school books reveals implicit stereotypes and prejudices. Men and women are still portrayed doing stereotypical gender tasks, while homosexuality and disabilities are rarely pictured, thus only representing a fraction of today’s lived diversity. Taking a critical view of the materials we work with and how the present the world around us can help us to reflect on our own biases and what may be directly or indirectly communicated to our learners.
Tackling these topics in class might sound daunting. However, this unit will support you in finding a sustainable and personally suitable way of addressing these issues. Nobody expects teachers to have all of the answers, but we can all take small steps in ways that match our interests, passions, values, and possibilities. This unit encourages teachers to reflect on their role and their potential to inspire their students to engage with their surroundings – and eventually the world – and find ways to make a positive difference to their local and global communities.
We hope that unit 1 inspires you to appreciate the diversity of your surroundings and recognise your role as one piece of the global jigsaw of humanity. This thought was perfectly captured by one teacher educator we interviewed for this project when she said that the aim of GCE is “to become aware that I am really only a part of a larger whole [and that] I have responsibility.”