Global citizenship: 'danger' of being overlooked

6th May 2011 at 01:00
Fears grow that scheme `addressing big issues' could slip down the agenda

"Vital" lessons on citizenship and sustainability could be overlooked in the drive to improve school standards in Wales, educationalists have warned.

Education for sustainable development and global citizenship (ESDGC) has been at the top of the Assembly government's learning agenda for much of the past decade, and since 2004 Estyn has been required to inspect how it is delivered in schools.

At its most basic, it looks at the links between society, economy and the environment and between the lives of different people globally.

However, there is no specific funding to deliver the initiative and Scott Sinclair, programme manager for the ESDGC Schools Networks for Wales, said there are fears it could slide as a political priority.

He said: "Wales is at a pivotal point on this agenda. Ten years ago it was seen as peripheral, but now there's a greater appreciation that pupils really need to understand what's going on in the world.

"More schools are now seeing it as part of their core function, and some are doing extremely impressive work. We don't want to lose the progress we have made, but there is a real danger it may be overlooked as we focus on improving results."

At a recent seminar in Cardiff, members of the network discussed how ESDGC could play a key role in improving standards in the aftermath of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) results.

Mr Sinclair said there was a consensus that ESDGC was a "powerful tool" with "distinct advantages" for schools. "It provides a range of opportunities to develop higher-level skills, such as those highlighted by Pisa, for example through exploring complex issues," he said.

"We need to link it in more strongly with other educational objectives and seek ways to strengthen the debate about its importance and the opportunities it could offer."

David Egan, professor of education at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, who spoke at the conference, said ESDGC was a good way to engage pupils.

"If pupils think that the things they learn only apply in school, then they won't see it as interesting," he said.

"We need to think of different ways of making learning exciting and authentic, because the one-size-fits-all approach is not going to work."

Mr Sinclair urged teachers to think more creatively about using current affairs and events to motivate pupils and help them improve their thinking skills across subjects.

"A simple article from a newspaper can generate a lot of questions that can lead to further investigation," he said.

The network is holding a conference in July focusing on how schools can work together to further the agenda and plans to raise its concerns with the new Assembly government.

Jonathan Rigby, head of Coedpenmaen Primary in Pontypridd, who spoke at the conference, said: "It would be a great shame if ESDGC was sidelined because it can motivate learners and staff by providing genuine context for learning.

"It addresses the big issues of the day and if those opportunities are missed, then we are failing to properly prepare our children for the future."

Original headline: Global citizenship in `real danger' of being overlooked

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