This issue of the journal offers a range of perspectives on the challenges and tensions in global learning and global citizenship education facing educators in different contexts. The authors examine the dilemmas educators are confronted with, and explore possible responses and modalities for responding to those challenges in a range of geographical areas.
In their article, Sheila Baker and Debra Shulsky take on the challenge for educators in helping learners to develop a ‘perspective consciousness’ – a sense that their view of the world is not necessarily shared by others, and an understanding that it is influenced in ways they are not consciously aware of. They situate this endeavour within a global citizenship education approach, highlighting the following elements of perspective consciousness: broadmindedness, innate contemplation and critical conviction. Setting their research in the context of various new standards, policies and initiatives within the United States, they illustrate how teachers are being encouraged to help their learners to develop global perspectives and argue that using literature can support this endeavour. They suggest book titles, criteria for curating literature and relevant learning activities to promote the development of mindfulness and therefore perspective consciousness. They argue that criteria should include, for example, whether the works present multiple perspectives, whether they promote understanding of the life experiences of others and whether they promote empathy or open-mindedness. Their aim is to encourage teachers to view literature as a route into compassionate global citizenship for learners.
Sara Franch’s analysis of global citizenship education policy discourse in northern Italy highlights the tensions teachers have to navigate between the qualification, socialization and subjectification functions of education. Drawing on the perspectives of teachers, policymakers and the international development sector, her analysis shows that there is a qualification discourse that dominates education policies and influences strategies around international development. Teachers, however, are more focused on socialization than with a concern that their students develop as global citizens. She argues that global citizenship education is seen by teachers as a ‘new moral pedagogy’, which is informed by humanistic and cosmopolitan values. This perspective links to a qualification focus as teachers aim to help students develop the relevant skills for a global society and economy. Although she notes that a subjectification approach, with a focus on a socio-political analysis of poverty and inequality, is mentioned by those involved in international development but not foregrounded by teachers and policymakers, she argues this is essential for global citizenship education. Her article draws out the links and tensions between the three functions and the dangers of ignoring the subjectification approach, thereby reproducing what she refers to as ethnocentric and paternalistic perspectives.
Gregor Lang-Wojtasik, Ronja Erichsen-Morgenstern and Jörg Stratmann consider the challenge of combining global learning with media literacy through the evaluation of an online course for Japanese and German education students, called ‘Global Medial’. The motivation for developing the course was a recognition of the combined effects of globalization and digital media on society, and the need for teachers to develop competencies in this area. They present a conceptual framework that brings together globalization, global learning, digital media and media competence, drawing on spatial, temporal, factual and societal perspectives, and suggest pedagogical responses to deal with the challenges posed by global society. In their argument they examine various tensions and educational challenges posed by these perspectives. They consider, for example, how to aim to develop an openness to the world, while also having an anchoring in the local (global learning), or how to reconcile learners’ exposure to digital media in all aspects of their lives with their lack of skills to enable participation in a more global world (media competence). The final challenge then is how to combine these two fields. The qualitative and quantitative evaluation data they have collected illustrate how working in international groups helps to foster a more dialogic approach, with students reflecting on and comparing, through online group work, their different perspectives on global learning. They conclude that exploring links between globalization, digital media and societal challenge is an important element in the students’ learning.
Jørgen Klein’s article sheds light on how collaborating partners in the South experience and perceive international student exchanges from countries in the North – in this case, Namibia and Norway. He highlights the challenges raised through this experience for both the student teachers and Namibian educators. Using a postcolonial perspective and focusing on a case study of a practicum visit in Namibia, he explores how such programmes contribute to intercultural competence and global awareness from the Namibian educators’ perspective. The article illustrates the changes perceived in the pre-service teachers in relation to how well they integrated and developed through the experience of cultural exchange. Although very different approaches to education, particularly around discipline and more learner-centred methods, caused some friction, overall the Namibian educators saw the practicum as beneficial. The most challenging question posed by the article is how to deal with issues of race that are raised by study visits in postcolonial contexts. The pre-service teachers were accorded a status that reflects notions of white superiority. Klein highlights the need to help pre-service teachers reflect on the privilege they have in such contexts. He concludes that immersion in the local community is key to generating better understanding of the postcolonial context, and that dialogue around the issues that arise through these encounters is important to generate learning.
Jane Leithead and Steve Humble’s article focuses on children in three schools in poor informal settlements in the Greater Accra region in Ghana and asks questions around the development of global citizenship in that context. Using a model developed by Reysen and Katzarska-Miller (2013), which utilizes a mixed-methods approach, they examine the self-identification of children as global citizens. The research illustrates that the children’s environment is influential in terms of the attitudes and views of their friends and family. If those close to the children value the concept, they are more likely to be familiar with it. Interestingly, the aspect of the model that focuses on valuing diverse cultures did not emerge as a concept the children are familiar with from their school curriculum, in contrast to other factors such as sustainable environment, intergroup helping and responsibility to act. In contrast to the issues raised in the other articles, which pose more challenges for educators, this article challenges our thinking about the concept of global citizenship and its applicability in all contexts. Alongside offering evidence of the value of Reysen and Katzarska-Miller’s (2013) model, the article challenges the view that global citizenship is an elitist notion, arguing that the children in this small study show an affinity with the concept, even though it has not been explicitly included in their school curriculum.
Finally, Shea Kerkhoff’s review of Leadership and Power in International Development: Navigating the intersections of gender, culture, context, and sustainability, edited by Randal Joy Thompson and Julia Storberg-Walker, offers an insight into how international development and development education practitioners and researchers can respond to the challenge of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. She highlights, in particular, the ‘culturally and critically conscious lens’ offered by the contributors to the book, and the way the book is structured, with both overviews and qualitative content analysis. She identifies the contributions made by the authors of the chapters to both theory and practice, and identifies key themes, such as how power achieved through status and privilege affect work in this field.