As part of the Schools for Future Youth Project, a report was published in January on a youth participatory approach to global citizenship education across Europe.
The report by Doug Bourn, Director of the Development Education Research Centre, at UCL, reviews current literature, policy and practice across Europe on how educational institutions are addressing the engagement of young people in global issues. It looks in depth at the evidence from the four partner countries in the Schools for Future Youth Project: Cyprus, Italy, Poland and the UK.
A theme of the report is that policy-makers and civil society organisations should recognise the different ways in which young people wish to engage in learning and taking action on global issues. The report says that whilst there has been activity across Europe encouraging youth engagement in democratic institutions, insufficient attention has been given to the linkages young people themselves make between their outlook on the world, their personal and social identity, and the ways they use areas such as social networking to engage in societies.
The report also suggests that teachers need to address and respond to the interests of young people in issues such as refugees, migration, climate change and global terrorism by equipping them with the knowledge and skills to effectively engage in these debates. To accompany the report, there are three briefing papers aimed at [i] teachers, [ii] civil society organisations, and [iii] policy-makers. These provide a series of group-specific recommendations.
There's a very brief mention in the report of ESD. Here it is:
Whilst sustainable development is included within the North-South Centre’s definition of Global Education, there is evidence that in a number of countries if one emphasises the participatory and engagement aspects of learning, ESD becomes a key vehicle for Global Citizenship. Both the ESD and GCE it could be argued aim to equip students with values, knowledge and skills that are based on respect for human rights, social justice, diversity, gender equality and environmental sustainability.
In Wales the two terms ESD and GC are brought together as a cross curricula theme linking people, the economy and the environment. Elsewhere in the UK whilst there is still interest and support for ESD, notably in England through the Sustainable Schools initiative (formerly a government led programme) it is now promoted only by civil society organisations.
In Italy, environmental and sustainable development education plays a very important role in the process of empowering citizens and, in particular, students. In this regard, the Education and environment ministries have produced “Guidelines for environmental and sustainable development education (ESDE).” These guidelines suggest linkages to Citizenship.
In Cyprus, the Education Ministry has a policy on environmental education and sustainable development. For 2015 one of its national targets for education is learning about and protecting the natural environment. Each school unit is expected to set up and implement its own action plan to promote education for sustainable development.
Also in Cyprus, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has recently been integrated in pre-primary and primary education and it is expected to be integrated in secondary education at a later stage. Topics covered in ESD include nutrition (agricultural production, land use, food handling), energy issues, the lack of water, deforestation, climate change, waste, production and consumption, the use of natural resources, sustainable tourism, and urban development.
Research on ESD and Global Citizenship in Spain by Fernandez (2015) supports this linkage between environmental concerns and active participation by young people that can help to promote a “worldview”.
This evidence suggests that education for sustainable development can be an important opportunity for promoting Global Citizenship if the emphasis is on participation, engagement and social action. It is perhaps the focus tends just to be on a series of topics that global themes can be reduced to being one amongst a number, alongside themes such as waste, pollution and climate change. [sic]
Well, after all this, there still seems little conceptual clarity about the relationships between ESD / GCE / etc. Another missed opportunity, then? Or perhaps it just doesn't exist. Maybe it's time to stop writing reports like this, and to abandon adjectives altogether, and just talk about education and learning. What a radical thought.