If young people are to change the world they need the knowledge, the global skills and the belief they can do it


Douglas Bourn. 

The impact of globalisation on economies, societies and communities is one of the major issues of today. It can be seen in Trump’s emphasis on “America first”, the rationale behind Brexit and recent social events in France.

There are a range of educational initiatives in the UK and internationally to equip learners with the knowledge and skills to respond to these challenges. These include the new UK government funded programme on Connecting Classrooms Through Global Learning, the OECD PISA initiative on global competencies and UNESCO’s programme on Global Citizenship  Education.

As someone who has promoted learning about global issues for over 25 years, for the last decade at IOE (see the Professorial Lecture I gave this week here), I am however conscious that what has been missing from these initiatives has been an understanding of what the local means in the global.

Phrases such as ‘think globally, act locally’ are well known. In my view, they are phrases that need to be adapted for today’s times. Global Skills is to me an essential part of this re-phrasing but alongside it, there needs to be an inclusion of equipping the learner to be able to articulate their local voice to the impact of the global forces that are affecting them.

I have developed my thinking on this in my latest book Understanding Global Skills for 21st Century Professions. Here I suggest that learners of all ages need to have the opportunity to develop the skills to articulate their own voices about what globalisation means to them. In this volume I suggest that key global skills that need to be developed are:

  • an ability to see the connections between what is happening in your own community with those of people elsewhere in the world
  • ability to work with others who may well have different viewpoints and perspectives than yourself, be prepared to change your own opinions as a result of working with others and to seek ways of working that are co-operative and participatory in nature.

This is where education, be it in school, college or the university needs to consider how we equip the learner to be able to have a voice, to ensure they do not feel marginalised and ignored, but have a right for their perspectives to be heard about what globalisation means to them. Education can play an important role in promoting positive visions of the future in which all voices and views can be heard.  One excellent example of this is the Rights and Respecting Schools Award from UNICEF.

This programme has engaged nearly 5,000 schools throughout the UK in promoting the importance of children’s rights, equipping young people with the skills to have a voice to improve the quality of life for them and societies more generally.

Another is a project in the London Borough of Tower led by the Humanities Education Centre that involves young people in dialogue with local policy-makers, educationalists and community activists. It is called Tafahum, an Arabic word which means mutual understanding. This project takes the term further to mean ‘mutual understanding which leads to a change of mind and change of heart’. They chose this Arabic word to best represent what they feel is close to the hearts of new arrivals to Tower Hamlets – to be heard and to belong.see

A recent report by Global Education Network Europe noted the new challenges that many societies across Europe are facing. It notes the importance of critical global education and learning to equip learners of all ages with the skills, knowledge and above all value base of a sense of common humanity and social justice.

Whilst there are always dangers of education being seen as the answer to all of the ills of the world, it is people who change the world. But people need the knowledge, the skills and above all the belief they can do this.

Photo by Frank Balsinger via Flickr Creative Commons 

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Posted in International development, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment, young people
2 comments on “If young people are to change the world they need the knowledge, the global skills and the belief they can do it
  1. Emeritus Profesor Rosemary Davis CBE says:

    Agree 100% – How?

  2. […] they can do it says Doug Bourne in a recent London Institute of Education blog.  You can read it here.  And here, you can watch his recent inaugural lecture as […]

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This blog was written by academics at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE), for anyone interested in current issues in education and related social sciences.
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