Empower youth through global citizenship education

Empower youth through global citizenship education

This calls for an academic engagement with the ideas that are global in nature

Representative image. Credit: iStock Images

With life disrupted due to the pandemic, it is only apt that the International Youth Day (IYD), which is observed on August 12, has its focus on transforming food systems: Youth Innovation for human and planetary health. Designated by the United Nations in 1999, IYD is being observed since the year 2000 to involve youth in global development and ensure the attention of the States to the wellbeing of their youth and their participation in the collective progress of humanity.

Though the younger generation remains active and volatile, responding to social and economic developments not only in their own locales or regions but much beyond and express solidarity when it comes to movements against racial discrimination, it is important to provide platforms for them to voice their opinion in a peaceful manner and register their response. This calls for an academic engagement with the ideas that are global in nature and need policy architecture through which education can unify the youth and involve them in the global development process. 

Global Citizenship Education (GCED) holds hope in this direction. Unesco’s GCED is a form of civic learning, which aims to impart knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes necessary to help promote tolerance, equity and peace in the world.

This idea of global citizenship is aimed at creating global consciousness, interconnections among local, national and global aspirations and focusing on social, political, economic and cultural interdependence. It is based on the three domains of learning as defined in GCED (Unesco 2015):

Cognitive: Acquiring knowledge with critical thinking about global issues and the interconnectedness/interdependency of countries and different populations.

Socio-emotional: To have a sense of belonging to common humanity, sharing values, responsibilities, empathy, solidarity and respect for differences and diversity

Behavioural: To act responsibly at the very local, national and global levels for a more peaceful and sustainable world. 

These well-articulated ideas are planned for implementation from the school level to tertiary levels of education. However, the inclusion of these ideas into the education framework needs a vision at both the national and institutional levels. It is not the same as internationalising higher education, though that can also be one of the means to achieve global citizenship attributes for participating students. 

Despite all debates, international education remains accessible only to 1-3% of the student population thus making it elitist. However, there are options of including GCED in the curriculum thus making it accessible to a larger number of students. Nevertheless, a careful examination of the idea is needed.

It has also clearly defined attributes in graduates in terms of them being informed and critically literate (cognitive dimension) by knowing about local, national and global issues. It also speaks in terms of students emerging as socially connected and respectful of diversity (socio-emotional dimension) by cultivating and managing identities, relationships and feelings of belongingness and sharing values and responsibilities based on human rights apart from developing attitudes to appreciate and respect differences and diversity. It now depends on how these attributes are achieved through a carefully planned curriculum. Those designing curricula at university levels must examine these and infuse them into their respective curriculum while ensuring the local aspirations and expectations from education are met alongside. 

On IYD it is pertinent to examine how to inculcate these values and attributes in our youngsters to build a better world. It needs policy interventions and interestingly, we had two major initiatives in India in 2020; National Education Policy (NEP) and draft Science Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP). Compared to NEP, there is a lot more discussion on global competitiveness in the STIP document and India’s possible response and participation within it. Though these recent policies reflect global aspirations and alignments with GCED, it is important to note that outcomes would largely depend on the institutional responses. It is only then that the ideas would percolate down to students.

Let us be hopeful that these ideas of global citizenship make the youth of the country more cosmopolitan, more tolerant of differences of others, of challenges that lay ahead which is possible only if the larger environment around and the society, in general, resonate with similar ideals.

(The writer is a Jean Monnet Professor and Head of Manipal Centre for European Studies, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal)