Global Education: What is it?

From the 13th to the 19th of November 2023, we're coming together to recognise the value of bringing the world into the classroom and celebrate international work happening in schools.

Last year's Global Education Week took place during COP27 in Egypt the UN's global climate change conference (check out our blog on COP26 and how it impacts education). COP is an international annual event where world leaders will discuss the future of climate action, with a focus on collaborating for a cleaner, greener future. This year, COP28 is due to start in the United Arab Emirates on the 1st of December - but you can keep tabs on the talks and events online.

One of the UK's national coordinators for Global Education Week has released a report on what needs to happen to Reboot the Future of Education. Check it out here. We highly recommend making it part of your involvement in Global Education Week - small steps like educating ourselves on the main challenges and theorising on what may need to change are valuable ways of working towards a more sustainable future.

Global Education Week is an annual initiative grounded in promoting worldwide awareness of using global education systems as a tool for solidarity and meaningful change in different areas. The goal is to create a more sustainable, peaceful and equitable world. The theme this year focuses on "Peace for the Planet: A Planet for Peace". You can read more about how to get involved on their website here.

What is the definition of Global Education?

Global education is a process of individual and collective growth which allows for transformation and self-transformation. It is a social practice, a permanent preparation for life, in which the acquisition of operative and emotional competencies for analysing and thinking critically about reality, empowers educators and learners to become active social agents.

Global education is a pedagogical approach that fosters multiple perspectives and the deconstruction of stereotypes and builds on a learner-centred approach to foster critical awareness of global challenges and engagement for sustainable lifestyles. It builds on development education, human rights education, education for sustainability, education for peace and conflict prevention and intercultural education, all the global dimensions of education for citizenship.

Work for the development of global education started in 1991 with pioneer regional multistakeholder seminars on the issue. They led to the drafting of the Global Education Charter in 1997, which became the reference background document and was later consolidated by the recommendations from European global education multistakeholder congresses and regional seminars, as well as a capacity-building scheme for formal and non-formal educators.

The UK education system is one of its greatest assets. It's strong, vibrant and diverse, attracting over 500,000 international students per year who come to the UK to study, either at a university or a wide range of international schools.

The themes that are discussed during the week include:

  • A call to share solutions and rethink habits around our lifestyle, spending and consumption.
  • Discovering and researching new innovative ways.

There are a whole bunch of events running throughout the week, including:

  • Live debates and talks
  • Short-move festivals
  • Competitions (Rumours of a Sherpa giveaway competition)
  • Worldwide lectures and workshops
  • Social media campaigns to raise awareness

The shifting effects of Globalisation

Globalisation is complex and ambivalent, and its effects can be regarded as both positive and negative. Among the positive effects of globalisation are the widening of peoples’ horizons, access to knowledge and the products of science and technology, culturally diverse societies and intercultural views, increased opportunities, personal and social development and possibilities of sharing ideas and joint action towards solutions to common problems.

The negative effects are mainly at social, economic and environmental levels. There is increasing poverty in societies, a growing gap between rich and poor (developed and developing) countries and between privileged, non-privileged and excluded people, low standards of living, disease, forced migration and human rights violations, exploitation of weak social groups, the outcomes of international migration flows, the increasing poverty in many regions of the world, racism and xenophobia, armed conflicts, insecurity and growing individualism. In addition, there are many environmental repercussions such as the greenhouse effect, climate change, ecological imbalance, pollution and the exhaustion of natural resources.

As globalisation is a dynamic process, its effects are mutable and felt in societies differently. The intensification of tensions and conflicts with the consequent impoverishment of certain regions and the escalation of migration is seen as the most negative aspects of globalisation. Civil society and communities through their more or less structured organizations take action to combat them; policymakers cannot dissociate themselves from their important role in counteracting the negative effects of globalisation.

Member states:


Since 22/06/2017


Since 15/04/2013


Since 01/08/2010

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Since 12/01/2017


Since 01/01/2016

Cape Verde

Since 01/03/2010


Since 18/02/2015


Since 16/11/1989


Since 04/07/1995

Holy See (Vatican City)

Since 04/06/1998


Since 01/01/1991


Since 16/11/1989


Since 16/11/1989


Since 01/03/2008


Since 01/07/2009


Since 16/11/1989


Since 07/09/2016

San Marino

Since 16/11/1989


Since 01/03/2009


Since 16/11/1989


Since 16/12/2016

Fundamental pillars of Global Education

1. Human Rights Education

2. Personal and Social Values Education

3. Peace Education

4. Citizenship Education

5. Environmental Education

6. Law Related Education

7. Development Education

8. Intercultural Anti-racist Education

Global education explores the four pillars of education. Learning to know, learning to do, learning to live and learning to be. The challenge is to focus on the concept of community, which embraces local, national, regional and international contexts where individual lives in and share a common destiny, rather than restricted to the concept of the nation-state. This involves issues relating to rights and duties as well as notions of equality, diversity and social justice.

There is a growing concern to include global issues in formal education curricula, with an increasing range of initiatives in intercultural education, aboriginal studies, inter-religious education and pastoral care, and human rights education.

Why Global Education?

In an increasingly interdependent world, it is essential that young people develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to enable them to become responsible global citizens. Global citizenship education (GCE) helps young people to become informed about the world around them and understand the interconnectedness of societies. It also develops their critical thinking and problem-solving skills so that they can play an active role in finding solutions to global challenges.

GCE is important not only because of the growing internationalisation of economies, cultures and societies but also because it helps to promote peace and understanding between peoples. In a world where conflicts often have their roots in misunderstanding and mistrust, GCE can help to build bridges between different cultures.

  • Integration of formal, non-formal and informal education. Policy-making in education is oftentimes directed only to the formal education system. In global education, it is argued that formal education needs to be synchronised with informal and non-formal educational practices such as socialisation.

  • Equal education opportunity. The principle of equal educational opportunity is basic to social mobility. Social mobility implies a fair chance for all learners regardless of gender, cultural affiliations, religion, social class, ethnicity and community in order to develop competencies enabling them to pursue their chosen professional careers.

Fostering Participation

How can we foster participation in this initiative though? The first is garnering attention through a joint mission statement across all participants. This year's theme: "It's our world. Let's TAKE ACTION!"

The impact of global education can be measured by the level of awareness, engagement and participation of people in society and their ability to leverage power relations at different levels in favour of common goods.

Global education should help to build participatory and realistic visions of diverse futures in a world in which diversity and plurality can be celebrated with confidence and enthusiasm. Global education should support the development of negotiated common road maps where different communities set their specific objectives to reach the SDG’s common goals as defined in the Agenda 2030.

No diagnosis, no vision and no road map would be sufficient if all of this reflection is not developed with education planning and the combination of reflection and action over the themes and subjects. Global education would end up in verbalism and theoretical concepts without a realistic link with social needs and world problems.

Global education competencies raise learners’ consciousness of the need to construct alternative futures and prepare them to take action for change. It aims at developing awareness of social and political responsibilities, guiding and challenging people to be resilient and constructing their own learning. It encourages them to explore possibilities for their self-contribution to resolving problems and achieve better conditions for living their lives by themselves and with others.

How Can You Get Involved?

Contact your national organiser, shown on the UNESCO Global Education Week Website, to see what events or initiatives are available to join in your area. In the UK, "Rebooting the future" is the place to go to read up on what the state of education is and the biggest problems we face.

They provide an annual report to help lay out some guidelines to educators to steer their methods in the best direction to help keep sustainability and world issues at the forefront of learning. As a student, have a chat with your teacher if they can help you organise an event that will help bring the ideas of Global Education Week into the classroom.

Author's profile picture

James Gurnett

21st November

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