UNESCO | In a globalizing world, we must teach global citizenship
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In a globalizing world, we must teach global citizenship

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There is no single cause for the rise of violent extremism, nor is there a unique path for radicalization. What we do know is that we need new forms of ‘soft power’ to get at the root causes driving violent extremism and to prevent its rise. In the words of UNESCO’s constitution, we need education to build the defenses of peace in the minds of women and men.

This calls for new thinking about education in response to the needs of turbulent times.

Numeracy and literacy are essential — but education must also be about values, skills for civic engagement and dialogue, new forms of global solidarity and understanding. We need education today to prepare the ground for more inclusive societies and a more peaceful world. No one is born a violent extremist — we must teach young women and men peace and tolerance.

This is the importance of global citizenship education — part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed last year.

This requires new commitment and action across education systems. A UNESCO review of education curricula in 78 countries from 2000-2015 showed that less than half include any mention or training to prepare students to handle a diverse and connected world. We need to ensure teachers are trained effectively to support new global competences. We must overcome challenges that persist in supporting and monitoring learning.

Young people need problem-solving skills to frame issues in a global context, and to use knowledge from multiple sources to produce potential solutions. They need the ability to recognize the perspectives of others and broaden their own worldview through these interactions. They need to learn to communicate across cultural boundaries in their own and others’ languages, and to work with people from different backgrounds. They need the skills and attitudes that empower them to use what they know for the common good. They need new media literacy skills to harness the power of new media for tolerance and respect.

These competencies must be built into education systems at every level — this goal guides all UNESCO’s action to shape new curricula and teacher training, working in close cooperation with leading partners like the Asia Society.

The Asia Society has, for instance, worked with partners such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to identify the core competencies needed to meet today’s challenges. This training has been deployed in more than 35 high schools across the United States, most serving disadvantaged communities for over a decade now. And the results are in — students in these schools develop global competence by studying math, science, and history using global issues studied through an interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum.

Education systems and NGOs worldwide are finding creative ways to transform teaching and learning to develop youth capable of prospering in a globalizing world — we must do everything to support them.

This calls for new partnerships for innovation, such as that between UNESCO and Asia Society. This is the importance also of the newly launched Asia Society Centre for Global Education, to build new global networks, to take forward new guidelines and curricula, to train teachers, and to advance new global competences.

We live in a rapidly changing world where issues from climate change to cyber security to terrorism require not just politicians, but all individuals, to think globally and in solidarity. In the words of Queen Rania of Jordan: “whereas national citizenship is an accident of birth, global citizenship is an act of will.”

Irina Bokova and Josette Sheeran
Irina Bokova has been the Director-General of UNESCO since November 2009, and was successfully reelected for a second term in 2013. Josette Sheeran is president and CEO of Asia Society.
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