Global warming;Leading Article;Opinion;News amp; Opinion

12th November 1999 at 00:00
"GLOBAL citizenship" is a phrase to make most teachers sigh wearily, as they contemplate shoehorning yet another demand into a tightly-packed curriculum.

What are global citizens anyhow - and how can they be developed?

Some answers to these questions emerged last week at the Central Bureau's conference on "raising standards through international experience" (News, page 12). Perhaps aware that teachers are suspicious of pious rhetoric, the framework for schools in England which was launched at the conference concentrates on the practical. In particular, it focuses on how a global dimension can sharpen up in a whole range of curriculum subjects - from using the international language of maths as a medium of communication among students around the world, to exploring the music and art of different cultures.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of England's revised national curriculum is its efforts to see the curriculum as a whole, rather than as a collection of subjects. In the past, cross-curricular work has been hard to achieve; academic subjects have their individual cultures, and most secondary schools reflect this in their organisation. The "language across the curriculum" movement in the 1970s came to nothing, and most of the cross-curricular themes in England's first version of a national curriculum withered untended on the vine. But other pressures are now pushing towards a more integrated curriculum - the most important being information and communications technology, which will have to be taught across all subjects.

And, crucially, young people themselves are making the running. In a MORI poll last year, most of the young respondents said that they thought it was important to learn to understand global issues at school in order to make choices about how to lead their adult lives.

Perhaps the younger generation know instinctively what it is to be a global citizen, because that is what they are. Schools need to foster their knowledge and understanding of other countries throughout the curriculum - always remembering that the young can teach their elders too.

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