1.2 The GCMC toolkit

Today’s students grow up in a world that is more interconnected than ever before and their generation faces global challenges that may seem daunting or even unsurmountable. While sea levels rise and species go extinct, while floods and droughts intensify, glaciers melt and soils are depleted, we may feel paralysed by the prospect of aggravated global warming. While our societies grow more culturally diverse, we may feel powerless to fight persisting biases, stereotypes and inequalities. As fake news spreads on social media and populists take advantage of these trends, we may doubt whether reason and critical thinking will prevail or we may lose faith in the resilience of our democracies.

In the midst of these alarming developments, teachers have a unique responsibility to help students navigate the challenges of developing a sense of global citizenship that is aware of the global impact of local choices, open towards diversity, and critically reflective of political and economic power structures.

We know that teachers around the world are struggling with their time management to convey all the knowledge and teach all the skills that they are required to. Spending time on global citizenship education may feel like yet another duty that comes on top of everything else.

Five units

We want to make your life easier. Therefore, partners from academic institutions in Graz, Bologna, Newcastle and Leeuwarden developed this online Global Citizenship and Multilingual Competences toolkit for teachers in secondary education. It aims to provide online teacher development resources, giving you tools to integrate GCE goals and multilingual pedagogies into your teaching practices in a sustainable way.

This online course consists of five units for teachers’ professional development and five matching units offering practical teaching ideas.

The themes are:

  1. Connecting local and global issues
  2. Promoting ecoliteracy
  3. Questioning images: Representation and critical visual literacy
  4. Recognising diversity: Towards inclusive, multilingual practices in secondary classrooms
  5. Hunting fake news through critical reading

The scope of global citizenship education

We believe this selection of topics best covers the scope of global citizenship education as described in academic literature and by intergovernmental agencies such as UNESCO1.

In line with UNESCO’s approach, we envisage our units to have a positive effect on all three domains of learning: cognitive, socio-emotional and behavioural. The cognitive part includes acquiring knowledge and understanding of global issues and globalisation, how regions and peoples are interdependent and how the local and global are interconnected. For example, in the unit about ecoliteracy, the cognitive part focuses on issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation and the ways in which these are impacted by human behaviour. The fourth unit, which is about gaining basic knowledge about minority languages and language rights, enables teachers to develop their own ideas on linguistic diversity and adopting multilingual practices in the classroom.

On the socio-emotional level, we hope the units will contribute to teachers and students developing a sense of belonging to a common humanity, with a shared destiny on this planet, all the while respecting and cherishing diversity of backgrounds and worldviews. In unit 3, on representation and critical visual literacy, we try to tackle biases and stereotypes about supposed ‘others’ – individuals or groups of people who may be viewed as differing from the implicit or explicit social norms regarding language, religion, ethnicity, ability, wealth or gender identity, among others. We try to convey the message that people of all ages and walks of life, wherever they may live, share some basic values as well as responsibilities towards each other and towards the planet.

Thirdly, on the behavioural level, our units aim to inspire teachers and students to make conscious choices at the individual level for a more sustainable world and greater equality. After you finished unit 2 on ecoliteracy, you may start wondering where and under what conditions your clothes were produced, or what the ecological impact of your diet is, and you may be motivated to make other consumption choices. After completing the unit on fake news and critical reading, you might consider a subscription for a reliable and critical (online) newspaper, and your students may think twice before they take the influencers they follow at face-value.


Being a responsible global citizen is inextricably linked to multilingualism. While mastery of all languages of our highly interconnected world is of course not an option, it is pivotal to raise awareness of how language proficiency shapes people’s participation in social life and their opportunities for economic success. There are for example ‘powerful languages’ (e.g., majority languages in specific contexts or English in most international settings), whose mastery is often the only option for a person to have full access to their social and civic rights.

On the other hand, we live in highly multilingual societies, where individuals often have rich personal multilingual repertoires, which contribute to define who they are and who they want to be. Recognising and valuing this diversity is thus another way to fight inequalities, as we come to see minority and majority languages as being equal in value.

As reflected in the title of the project, you will find these issues across all units. According to the Companion Volume of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Council of Europe 2020) and other key EU documents (e.g., Council of Europe 2016), we have developed the resources for you to integrate multilingualism-oriented objectives in your classes. No matter what you teach (maths, geography or literature) and no matter whom you teach (in terms of age, nationality, languages spoken, etc.), there is always a way to raise your pupils’ awareness to their own and others’ languages.

There is no need to speak all languages spoken in your classes, nor must you necessarily teach additional languages while pursuing chemistry or history objectives: recognising and valuing languages and promoting each pupil’s personal multilingual repertoire can and should be an everyday practice across the curriculum. We hope you will find our examples useful to identify suitable ways (topics, materials, procedures, etc.) to promote multilingualism in your local context.

Let’s be clear: global citizenship as we see it, is not about acquiring the skills and competences to be this successful globetrotter who knows how to take advantage of the globalised capitalist economy, showing off their impeccable English. A global citizen is rather somebody who knows about the interconnectedness of local and global issues, who reflects critically on production and consumption patterns, on power structures and inequalities, who develops a sense of a common humanity while acknowledging and embracing multilingualism and other forms of diversity.

Teacher training module

There are five units which teachers of any subject can engage with to learn themselves about topics and issues regarding GCE and about the ways in which multilingual pedagogies can be integrated. These professional development units are offered in an online interactive format on the GCMC website and can be completed entirely online.

Each unit starts with overarching objectives and expected outcomes. Units consist of four to six activities, and each activity has up to three exercises. This online course for teachers includes useful resources, tips for teachers, and self-reflection tasks. Teachers who are eager to learn more after they completed a unit, can benefit from a list of additional external resources and references. Finally, the glossary will help you to get acquainted with frequently used terminology.

We recommend that the first unit, Connecting Local and Global Issues, is completed first, with each activity within the unit done in sequence. This first unit contains introductory materials about the notions of global citizenship and multilingual competences, and as such forms the basis for the other units. Units 2 to 5 can be done in any order.

While the materials are designed to be worked through by teachers on their own, we recommend that teachers work on them together with their colleagues. In that way, they can discuss and reflect on the materials together.

Teaching module

There are also five units of teaching materials on the same topics as the teacher professional development units. These teaching units offer practical ideas, teaching activities and detailed guidelines on how to engage with issues of global citizenship and multilingual competences in the classroom.

The materials are aimed at secondary-school pupils aged 10 to 18. As a teacher, you may find some exercises to be more suitable for a certain age group than others, but many exercises can be adapted to meet the needs of your pupils. Each unit is made up of four to six activities that usually take 40 to 60 minutes to complete. Each activity consists of two or more separate exercises. Each unit, as well as each activity, specifies objectives and outcomes.

To facilitate the largest segment of schools, the units are downloadable from the website as Word- or pdf-file and can be photocopied to be used on paper.

In order to ease the teacher’s burden, there are a number of photocopiable handouts ready to be used in the classroom. True to our multilingual approach, they are provided in the five main languages of the project: English, Dutch, Frisian, Italian and German.

Even though global citizenship education and multilingual pedagogies may generally be taught in social studies, geography or language classes, we intended to make our materials useful for teachers of all subjects. Therefore, there are some adaptations of materials offered as suggestions for specific school subjects such as maths, arts, history and biology. These are also offered in the five core languages of the project.

As for the teacher training module, we recommend that the first unit, Connecting Local and Global Issues, is completed first, with each activity within the unit done in sequence. Units 2 to 5 can be done in any order.

1 This UN organisation states that GCE aims to enable learners to: ‘develop an understanding of (…) global issues and connections between global, national and local systems and processes’; recognise and appreciate difference and multiple identities’; ‘develop and apply critical skills for civic literacy’; ‘recognise and examine beliefs and values’; ‘develop attitudes of care and empathy for others and the environment and respect for diversity’; ‘develop values of fairness and social justice, and skills to critically analyse inequalities’; ‘participate in, and contribute to, contemporary global issues at local, national and global levels’ (UNESCO 2015:16).