The GCMC project came about from a recognition that humanity is facing a pressing set of global challenges which requires education to rethink how it prepares the next generation to meet these demands which include social inequalities, discrimination, and environmental and economic crises, to name a few.
Our project is centred around a core set of competences related to global citizenship and these lie at the heart of our project. Global citizenship has been defined as the “awareness, caring, and embracing [of] cultural diversity while promoting social justice and sustainability, coupled with a sense of responsibility to act” (Reysen and Katzarska-Miller 2013: 858). Global Citizenship Education (GCE) aims to work towards “a common understanding of shared humanity of a fragile planet coupled with a commitment to addressing social problems through engaged public participation” (Gaudelli 2016: 7).
One key feature of global citizenship is the notion that anyone can make a difference in tackling the various challenges facing the planet as a whole whether beginning with local concerns or reflecting on global issues. Indeed, GCE also seeks to foster an awareness of everyone’s interconnectedness and thus shared sense of responsibility for global issues. Elements of GCE have already been incorporated into the national curricula of several countries, such as Korea, the UK and Colombia (UNESCO 2014).
Globalization has also increased the number of multilingual speakers. In many regions, the majority of people are multilingual and monolingualism is no longer the norm (Diamond 2010). Speaking multiple languages offers many benefits including enabling us to connect with people from around the world and providing us the opportunity to explore different cultures (Haukås et al. 2022). In education, contemporary classrooms very often include students with diverse first languages and multilingual competences. In order to support all students, teachers must have an understanding of the benefits of multilingualism and the role of diverse languages as resources for learning.
One possible approach to drawing positively on the multilingual diversity in one’s classroom is to engage in translanguaging. This is defined as using more than one languages during one lesson in a planned and structured way (Conteh 2018). This approach highlights the importance of different languages and allows learners to draw on their personal language resources in class. Research has shown that multilingualism has numerous cognitive benefits, it increases creativity as well as empathy and open-mindedness and it also allows students to acquire new languages faster due to their ability to make connections between the languages (Haukås et al. 2022).
An often overlooked aspect of global citizenship is the explicit awareness and active support of linguistic plurality and the integration of multilingual pedagogies. As Torpsten explains, “when skills increase in different languages, people become aware of their multilingual identities as well as their possibilities of being active, multicultural, global citizens” (2011:4). We see global citizenship and multilingualism as connected and that increasing teachers’ awareness in each area will in turn add to their understanding of the other.
Thus, one key objective of this project is to explicitly strengthen the connection between global citizenship education and multilingual pedagogies. Although the significance of GCE and multilingual competences in education is becoming increasingly well established, there remains a lack of consistency in how best to incorporate these sets of competences within existent school subjects. Our hope is that our project will help teachers in any school and for any subject to see GCE as something they can integrate into their practice. We hope all the educators who work with these resources will feel empowered to take action towards meeting the current global challenges together with their pupils.
The project is designed to help teachers of all subjects develop their abilities to integrate GCE and multilingual approaches into their pedagogical practices. Specifically, teachers will have the possibility to learn how to identify and work on GCE topics such as global awareness, cultural diversity, social justice, sustainability, and a sense of global citizenship and shared responsibility to act. To achieve this goal, the project has created three main outputs.
The Global Citizenship and Multilingual Competences (GCMC) toolkit is an Erasmus+ project with partners in Austria, Italy, the UK, the Netherlands and Germany. The academic institutions that are part of this project were specifically chosen based on their expertise and experience with the topics and include the University of Graz, Newcastle University, Fryske Akademy and the University of Bologna.
During the process of developing the toolkit materials, the consortium of partners was supported by a teacher advisory board consisting of teachers working in the partner countries, as well as associated partners, who have expertise in the project fields and work at the following universities: the University of Westminster in the UK, the University of Alberta in Canada, Macquarie University in Australia and the University of Bergen in Norway. Both, the teacher advisory board and associated partners provided invaluable support and feedback throughout the process, ensuring a range of perspectives and adding a variety of perspectives to the materials. The development and technical support of the project website was provided by the Germany-based web design company NEOSMART.