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Why global citizenship is more important than ever – and how to teach it (Sponsored)

The principal of one secondary school explains how giving students critical-thinking skills and a global outlook has become central to this school's ethos

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As the UK moves closer to leaving the EU in 2019, the necessity for schools to anchor their outlook in global citizenship becomes more apparent for meaningful education of our young people.

Global citizenship isn’t something that needs to be artificially created and imposed on schools. We already celebrate the rich, diverse and different cultures in our communities, and through looking at local identity and its relationship nationally and globally.

But, in these days of Brexit, "post-truth" politics, alternative facts, fake news, social media echo chambers and the threat of extremism, global citizenship is more important than ever, and should develop relationships as well as subject knowledge and skills.

Increasing individual critical faculties and encouraging the innate curiosity young people have to look beyond themselves ensures they develop the means to critically assess, participate actively in, shape and positively influence their world. Global citizenship is about a positive view of the world, society and diversity, and must counteract the binary, zero-sum approach of much current debate and discussion on a range of issues, including immigration, refugees, race, class and religion. It helps young people to understand the complex issues the world faces, applying and deepening their knowledge.

Global citizenship is also about continuing to develop a world-class education for every student, not only in terms of universal human rights and values, but also as a lifelong learner and as a global citizen. 

The referendum vote on EU membership in 2016 and the aftermath doesn’t change this vision. In fact, it strengthens the need for all of us as educators, parents and citizens to ensure our young people are exposed to, participate in and integrate with the wider world as part of their education.

Global citizenship is also a way of maintaining breadth and balance in the curriculum, and educating young people in a less abstract way: engaging them in their national and global societies as future leaders who will shape and influence for the common good. Global citizenship should run through and across the curriculum at all key stages, enabling students to relate their studies in maths, science, humanities, languages, arts, sports and literature to the wider concept of being a global citizen and to their personal place in the local and wider society.

Global citizenship opportunities in schools should provide and develop skills such as critical thinking and self-management for our young people in education systems across the world. They are fundamental in enabling young people to access and participate in shaping modern society.

Broadening pupils' horizons

At Wyedean School, our recent Ofsted report in January 2018 praised the “rich curriculum” and our approach to the wider engagement of all students through programmes like teaching Mandarin. Wyedean School is at the southern tip of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, and one of our initiatives has been to link with Forest Gate School in Newham, East London, allowing Year 10 students to visit London and the local mosque, working with the students of Forest Gate on issues such as youth radicalisation and promoting greater understanding of cultural diversity in the UK.

Technology plays a key role in developing global citizenship opportunities and, through my role as a British Council ambassador and Microsoft-Skype-Classroom educator, we engage weekly with teachers, students and schools around the world, discussing diverse and eclectic topics with participants from countries ranging from Canada and Belarus, to India and Indonesia. It truly does bring the world into the school community and connects classrooms.

Students are very engaged, and this is the compelling learning we want them to take home; discussing the complexities of access to clean water with students in Delhi, for example. We have worked extensively through eTwinning with our partner school, Heritage International School in Chisinau, Moldova, through a Year 10 literature and poetry project, and thanks to the British Council, their teacher, Tatiana Popa, came to Wyedean to work with students in November last year. Our annual Eisteddfod in the spring and Creativity Festival in the summer will highlight this international collaborative work.

There remains a strong place for face-to-face visits and exchanges, and in the past 12 months alone we have hosted schools from Japan, Italy, Spain and France, as well as visiting professionals on teacher CPD programmes to observe and work with colleagues on joint learning and curriculum opportunities.

Language learning is thriving at Wyedean, as we believe in students benefiting from speaking more than one language as a key part of "Global Britain" for the 2020s and beyond. The British Council offers a number of schemes that facilitate these opportunities for schools. Its support of Wyedean School has been invaluable in our development of a rich curriculum for students which highlights the importance of global citizenship.

The British Council’s International School Award (ISA) is the gold standard recognition of the work a school is already doing in its curriculum but it also provides a road map for future development of global learning. Wyedean School was invited to become a pilot for the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IB) in 2018 to introduce its Career Programme, aimed at vocational learners. Global citizenship is a fundamental concept in our education system in the UK and this is an exciting time to define and develop the wider curriculum for our young people.

Rob Ford is principal of Wyedean School in Gloucestershire and an eTwinning and British Council ambassador

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