Three Different Approaches to Global Citizenship Education

Three Different Approaches to Global Citizenship Education

Global citizenship education (GCE) is not a brand-new concept but it was the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which raised attention to the education. As GCE was included in one of the education targets of the SDG 4 or Global Education 2030 Agenda, it received more attention than before the SDGs. The fact that GCE is one of the targets of SDGs means that GCE is expected to contribute to sustainable development of the world. When we get down to GCE, we need to think how GCE would devote to sustainable development and what kind of GCE would do. This is because GCE is a contested concept which is differently understood and practiced according to the perspective toward it. Global Citizenship Education Topics and Learning Objectives published by UNESCO in 2015 suggests a guideline to GCE providers such as school teachers, education program managers, or policy-makers. According to the guideline, global citizenship described as “a sense of belonging to a broader community and common humanity” (UNESCO, 2015: 14). Also, the guidebook explains that GCE has three core conceptual dimensions— cognitive, socio-emotional and behavioural and GCE learners are Global Commons Review 2 s Spring 2018 s Cover s Contents s About Us 57 expected to be transformative and to build the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that they need to be able to devote to a more inclusive, just and peaceful world (UNESCO, 2015: 15). Although the perspective of UNESCO on GCE is broad and inclusive, there are still various views on GCE. This paper suggests that there are mainly three approaches to GCE: a) competency-based approach, b) moral approach, and c) critical approach. Each approach is distinguished in terms of the perspective on global citizenship, the educational approach, descriptions of a global citizen, global problems and global conflicts, the purpose of education, and educational topics. 

First, the competency-based approach understands global citizenship from individualism and neoliberalism and its educational approach is close to human capital theory. It emphasizes individual freedom and the ability to adapt to the competitive global free market. From this approach, a global citizen is who is a free traveler crossing countries, a participant of the global economic system and a prospect global leader. It is important for individuals to be prepared for a job and ready to live in the competitive global economy as a global citizen. Since this approach appreciates individuals’ liberty and economic development, it is considered as global problems that global economic crisis and unstable international security or issues that hinder economic growth and disrupt global order. Thus, individuals are asked to have knowledge of global interdependency (or globalization) especially in terms of economy and to equip with skills such as foreign languages in order to be a global citizen through GCE. Also, individuals learn to have an open attitude and global manners as a global citizen or a leader. The focus of this type Global Commons Review 2 s Spring 2018 s Cover s Contents s About Us 58 of GCE is mainly on individuals’ development and human capital not on global conflicts or structural injustice. The possible educational topics of competency-based approach are global economy, international politics, international organizations and foreign languages.

Second, the moral approach has the perspective of moral cosmopolitanism, moral universalism, multiculturalism, humanitarianism when it accepts global citizenship. Also, it has features of character education. This perspective emphasizes the importance of human rights, cultural diversity and individuals’ moral responsibility. The issues that hamper world peace such as poverty, war, or climate change are regarded as global problems. It is essential for global citizens to be aware of the global issues and have moral responsibilities to resolve them as a benevolent neighbor in a global community and a conscientious and responsible citizen. The learners are encouraged to have a sense of belonging to a common humanity and engage in problem-solving activities through GCE. The possible educational themes and topics are global issues, human rights and cultural diversity. Even though global conflicts are handled in this type of GCE, they are superficially recognized not considering roots of the problems.

Third, the critical approach explains global citizenship based on the critical theory and post-colonialism while its educational approach is similar to transformative social justice learning. From this perspective, it is not enough to just have a knowledge and focus on phenomena to resolve the current global conflicts. It is rather crucial to critically reflect the global structure and embedded power relations and identify the rooted causes of problems. A global citizen is who is an agent of social change in the local and global society. Thus, the Global Commons Review 2 s Spring 2018 s Cover s Contents s About Us 59 purpose of this type of GCE is to be aware of the structure and power relations of the global system and recognize local, national and global issues and conflicts. Also, learners are expected to critically reflect their own status and to develop a capacity to investigate deeper causalities of global issues and an attitude of solidarity. In other words, the ultimate goal of GCE with the critical approach is to transform the current global system where inherent inequality and injustice exist. Hence, educational topics and themes would be understanding the global structure, power relations and postcolonial legacies.

After GCE was added as a new global education agenda, GCE-related activities have increased rapidly. Generally, each of three approaches is encompassed in the activities, rather than a specific approach is taken. However, educational practice without any effort to understand GCE should be avoided because the practice and outcome would be different in accordance with which approach is taken. Moreover, unintentional outcomes could be earned without an understanding of GCE. Therefore, it is crucial for GCE providers to recognize the different features of each approach, especially when it comes to the sustainable development of the world. They need to consider what kind of GCE they will provide in order to contribute to sustainable development of the world. This paper would guide educators to picture the different GCE approaches and help them to take a specific approach.


UNESCO. (2015). Global Citizenship Education Topics and Learning Objectives. Paris: UNESCO.

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