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Global citizenship, learning, and sustainable development: making (new) connections

Tue, April 16, 10:00 to 11:30am, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Pacific Concourse (Level -1), Pacific J

Group Submission Type: Formal Panel Session


A considerable number of factors place unprecedented pressure on education and learning systems to change swiftly and profoundly. These include rapid advances in communications and information technology; growing urbanization; concerns for environmental sustainability; shifts in geopolitics, demographic patterns and labor markets; increasing unemployment, especially of young people; new waves of violent extremism; and the growing divide between rich and poor.
The emergence of the fourth industrial revolution is fully acknowledged as a formidable accelerant of change and complexity in the twenty-first century, and as having significant implications for education. Industry 4.0 is pressuring learners to develop a wider range of multifaceted, multidisciplinary, complex, and integrated competences, for which many education and learning systems are unprepared.
The rapid pace of change in the twenty-first century amplifies the pertinence of education and learning systems as foundations and key sources of lifelong learning and human resilience, and, by unleashing the potential of the human mind, as foundations and key sources of development.
While policies that address the role of education in development are commonplace, specific and concrete instruments for enacting these policies remain both scarce and ineffective. In today’s world, the perception of education’s heightened role in human and societal development coexists with heightened frustration about the irrelevance of educational practices to modern challenges and opportunities. Evidence for this frustration includes young graduates’ functional illiteracy, their lack of digital skills required by their labor markets, their alienation from their cultures, and so on.
A growing threat is posed by terrorism and violent extremism. With its increasing intensity and global spread, violent extremism activity threatens the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and violates the universal standards of justice enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other agreements. Its effects can spill over regionally, nationally and globally, impacting economic performance, creating pressures in the form of displaced populations, both internally and as refugees, and diverting resources toward containing violence and thus away from development. This, in turn, “reduces the sustainability of economic growth, weakens social cohesion and security, encourages inequitable access to and use of global commons, undermines our democracies, and cripples our hopes for sustainable development and peaceful societies” (Mohammed 2015, p. 1). In the long run, all such activities undermine development.
Addressing these issues requires a unified response and an integrated agenda that looks at the problem across the social, economic, cultural, and environmental dimensions, including access to education, healthcare and resources.
Central to these efforts is education. Promoting equitable, inclusive and quality education is “the way to disarm the processes that may lead to violent extremism, by undermining prejudice, by fighting ignorance and indifference” (former UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, at the 18th Commonwealth Lecture in London, 25 February 2016). The process, which requires concerted action at all levels, from local to national, and regional to global, involves engaging children, youth and adults in strengthening the narrative of a single humanity and empowering them as agents of change.

The International Bureau of Education (IBE) UNESCO is deeply involved with these issues. The IBE’s work highlights the crucial role of curriculum in enabling learners (young and old) to acquire competences for effective uptake of opportunities and for the effective addressing of challenges across fast-changing, and sometimes disruptive, twenty-first century development contexts. In this setting, the IBE also aims to improve access to the evidence-based knowledge needed to guide curriculum design and development as well as to guide teaching, learning, and assessment. The IBE’s work is a natural continuation of the Global Citizenship Education (GCED) initiative, one of UNESCO’s strategic areas of work, a target of the global Education 2030 Agenda, and underlined in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.7: “By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development”. The GCED, which aims to build values, soft skills, and attitudes among learners to promote social transformation and facilitate international cooperation, can serve as a framework to operationalize universal values, and to directly engage with many of the related issues, such as social justice, human rights, inclusion, diversity, gender equality, environmental sustainability, etc.
This is, therefore, a particularly opportune time for the IBE to discuss the links between global citizenship, learning, and development, and to stress the need to re-evaluate education and learning and to prepare learners for an unknown future.
This panel brings together leading scholars and practitioners, whose work and thinking reflect a genuine belief in the urgent need to learn to live and work together, to improve the human condition.

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