Expert View

Introducing Global Citizenship in Schools Through Working on Sustainable Development Goals


By RIta Singh,Director, Indirapuram Public Schools/Indirapuram Group of Institutions, Ghaziabad
In the simplest of terms, a global citizen is one who deems himself or herself to be a part of humanity as a whole as his or her primary identity. Fostering the spirit of global citizenship education helps students develop their faculties in a manner which enables them to interact productively with the best in the world and enables them to contribute towards making development in the world sustainable.

Accepting the concept of global citizenship requires a realisation that the challenges humanity faces as a whole are interconnected.

Global citizenship education (GCED) is UNESCO‘s response to such interconnected challenges faced by humanity. Global citizenship education aims to impart knowledge, skills, attitudes and values which are essential to promote peace, equity and tolerance in the world. It promotes the acceptance of interdependence across the world and builds upon the interconnections between the local, regional, national and global issues.

The global citizenship education curriculum module includes issues like terrorism, government, migration, identity, rights and duties and violence. The curriculum for this has been developed by the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) New Delhi. The curriculum has been designed for adolescents aged 12- 14 years, keeping in mind our understanding of the neuroscience and psychology of how adolescents learn. The objective of these efforts is to develop interest not only in oneself but also in the well-being of others. Thus, the focus is on promoting pro-social behaviour. The UNESCO MGIEP framework look to develop Competencies of EMC2, ie, Empathy, Mindfulness, Compassion and Critical enquiry.

As violence continues to grow in the world, we need to address the root cause for the violence; a lack of common identity and sense of responsibility to collectively resolve human problems using a win – win and collaborative approach. The global citizenship program encourages learners to understand and appreciate the many identities that encompass the world, advocating for a world that thrives on peace and sustainable societies.

As neuroscience has developed, research indicates that the person’s brain needs to be socially connected and emotionally engaged In order to effect learning. The efforts at global citizenship education hinge upon social and emotional learning as well to develop good global citizens.

What does it look like in the classroom?

“Education is not a preparation for life, it is life itself.”

-John Dewey

Education for Global Citizenship deals with issues of global interdependence, diversity of identities and cultures, sustainable development, peace & conflict and inequities of power, resources & respect.

These issues are addressed in the classroom through a wide and evolving variety of participatory teaching and learning methodologies. Such active methods are now established as good practice in education, and are not unique to global citizenship. Curriculum for Excellence has at its core a commitment to improve student participation in order to develop the four capacities: ie to create successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.

It is crucial to be aware that, far from promoting one set of answers or values or attitudes, education for global citizenship encourages children and young people to explore, develop and express their own values and opinions; always requiring that they listen to and respect other people’s points of view. This is an important step towards children and young people making informed choices as to how they exercise their own rights and their responsibilities to others.

It is also vital that teachers at all levels do not approach education for global citizenship with the feeling that they must have all the answers – which anyway is impossible in such a fast changing world. The role of the teacher is to enable students to find out about their world for themselves and to support them as they learn to assess evidence, negotiate and work with others, solve problems and make informed decisions.

We need to take stock of what the aims of global citizenship education are.

Borders of states have been changing. Very many countries as they exist today did not have the same boundaries even one century ago as they have today. Considering that the earth has existed for millions of years, a five century time-span is but a blip. If you were to go back five centuries, there would be almost no country of today that has retained the same boundaries. Thus there is a larger overarching and underlying set of interests that actually define what unifies human beings. That define what is good for everyone on earth.

While not a legal construct, the spirit that global citizenship embodies is far far wider. In a sense it is a goal for the future. Today, it embodies a set of desirable objectives which we need to strive for and which is good for everyone. While there are certain values that have been given some legal sanctity at international level through the aegis of multinational bodies like the United Nations or other organisations, there lies some gap between desirability and universal implementation. For instance , there may be a rogue dictatorship that simply refuses to accept to implement. While those challenges remain, there is no reason to not work towards what is good for all mankind even under the present circumstances. Without a goal towards which to head, we would remain directionless.

Learning objectives defined by global citizenship education project of UNESCO

This project looks for learners to be able to achieve the following:-

  1. Understanding the process of critical enquiry and using the process to develop global citizenship.
  2. Developing an understanding of mindfulness, empathy and compassion and use these to enhance one’s emotional well-being and social relationships.
  3. Developing pro-social behaviour towards people of different ethnic backgrounds, colour, cultures, races, gender and nationality.
  4. Developing an understanding of global citizenship.

GCED project targets ages 12–14 years across the world and is designed so that it can be taken by individual learners. The curriculum relies on self learning and is designed in a manner that can be taken at one’s own pace.

Design using the libre process which adopts a “problem based” approach to education to enable students to build “critical consciousness“. It helps in Understanding the systematic, cultural and physical causes and manifestations of exclusion and marginalisation. Fever is problem posing approach in the classroom news travelled by the learners enquiry and discredit me every day words that have a direct connection to students lives.

The GCED Curriculum based on the delivery process integrates five pedagogies which include storytelling, reflection, games, enquiry and dialogue. The aim is to approach the teaching learning process through multiple senses, making the learning rewarding, intense, and interactive.


This is a simplified approach to teaching complex concepts through examples by way of a storyline.


This involves facilitating students to reflect on their On actions with a view to help them identify and evaluate connections between classroom learning and real-world practical experiences.


Games provide an excellent method to keep students minds active and keep them engaged through interactive experiences.


This methodology encourages students to find answers to the questions themselves or through a group, using their observations, thinking and reasoning.


Involving students in discussions, treating all students and teachers as equals helps develop the shop collective growth in knowledge and understanding of concepts and ideas, recognising the strengths of different perspectives and values. There are several other tools available to be employed along with this pedagogical process; e.g., “6 thinking hats” and other creative thinking techniques and so on.

What we can do in schools towards building global citizens

Train the trainers. To empower them to prepare our students to be global citizens. Workout models for creating knowledge, attitude and skills for working towards global citizenship goals.

Identify goals to be achieved towards global citizenship. These could include sustainable development goals, multilateral issues which need to be addressed and so on.

Identify a multipronged approach. To sensitise students and develop activity, e.g., through the sciences, arts, music, drawing, physical activity, hobby clubs and so on.

Fuse with other regular activity. Analyse and identify how the goals to be achieved for heading towards global citizenship can be welded into every day school activity like school assemblies, sports, competitions, curriculum, hobby clubs and so on. In curricular or non-curricular activity, include issues that are common to all of mankind. In doing so also help to prioritise those issues that need to be addressed on priority considering local circumstances.

Advocacy. Prepare students to propagate the concept of global citizenship.

Celebrate diversity.  Train teachers and in turn,  students to tolerate, accept and celebrate differences. Sensitise teachers and in turn, students towards different cultures having different approaches and points of view. Encourage interaction with students in schools with different cultures or religions and students in different countries. This could be done either through physical interaction or using the internet.

Encourage ownership of projects. Having helped teachers and student community to identify issues requiring to be addressed on priority, facilitate their implementation. Encourage students to take ownership of their projects, through the entire life cycle of the project ranging from identification of objectives, implementation methodology, target groups, structure of the activity, collaboration and partnerships; through working out finance models, seeking feedback, refining the activity or goal and further implementation.

Sustainable Development Goals: Taking a Universal approach to Identification of Issues to Tackle

The Sustainable Development Goals provide us with the ready platform, which meets all the requirements of the broad process towards creating global citizens of tomorrow. While these may not have been included in the earlier set of issues included in the GCED, The Sustainable Development Goals lend themselves to ready adaptation for inclusion in any program for creating global citizens for tomorrow.

The Sustainable Development Goals meet all the criteria, are pro-social and develop a sense of responsibility towards the Community at large rather than only on the individuals well-being. Working on Sustainable Development Goals helps develop social and emotional strengths in students. Overall, these lend themselves to easy identification as powerful unifying objectives, as they are universally identified as cutting across national, regional, local boundaries and put the spotlight firmly upon humanity as a whole.

While there are 17 sustainable development goals, these can be approached in two different ways. The first could be to teach something about each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to the students; helping students obtain holistic overview of these UN defined goals.

It is relevant that the 17 goals can be layered into three broad types that is relating to the environment, relating to the society and relating to economic issues, and that for the latter goal is to be developed sustainably, the former need to be addressed also. Yet, While all 17 goals need to be addressed concurrently at the strategic/overall level, pragmatism would demand identifying those goals that can be addressed within the group of participants in a particular class/ program.

The other approach and which could perhaps follow the initial introduction could be to their identify those amongst the development goals that can be realistically addressed by the students for participants in the program in hand.

Suggested Method to be Adopted in Schools

The requirement is to create pedagogical processes we do not require enormous amounts of resources. This would then help us create an inclusive program capable of being implemented universally including in areas where resources are scarce. It merits attention that some of the most intensely populated regions of the world have fewer resources and would be the ones to gain the most from an approach which takes their lack of resources into cognizance.

It would help to create a range of Pedagogical processes from amongst which educators can choose what best suits their local conditions.

Ages to target. Rather than restrict the pedagogy to ages 12–14, greater results maybe achieved if we were to keep it as a gradually escalating process beginning with early school years. This need not be by way of curriculum/ formal education alone. There are distinct advantages of including activities targeting SGDs were to be included into everyday activities in school; for example in assemblies, plays,  school design (eg, Water conservation), interactions with the local community (for example teaching of underprivileged children) and so on.

What We Can Do in Schools. The pedagogical processes which could be included in Schools with respect to global citizenship education based around sustainable development goals could include the following:

  1. Review and Audit of Systems/ Processes in the School. For instance, water, sanitation and energy. This would serve several purposes, including fostering of collaboration amongst students, developing critical thinking, developing problem-solving skills and taking ownership for immediate surroundings.
  2. Group thinking Sessions. This could be by way of dividing students into various groups working on different SDGs. Sitting together and thinking will develop collaboration, problem-solving skills, Developing action plans, improve critical thinking and foster social and emotional interactions.
  3. Organising Interactions with Local Communities. Students’ families often live around the school itself. Forming students into smaller groups independently or under the tutelage of teachers and facilitating their interactions with the local community will help develop clear linkages between strategic/ worldwide issues and best practises/ solutions fitting local conditions. It will help sensitise students towards the reality and real magnitude of several issues being addressed in the SDGs, to include hunger, poverty, water, energy, hygiene and sanitation, entrepreneurship and industry and so on. Having completed these interactions, students could then sit and discuss these to arrive at solutions of what can be done to alleviate problems. They could then go back and implement what they possibly can.
  4. Exposing Children to Diversity. Students be encouraged to understand and accept differences. Exposure to different cultures, religions, races, economic backgrounds, languages etc be done through physical interaction with schools with widely varying backgrounds, encouraging acceptance of differences and sensitising students about the advantages of diversity. It could also help to have students interact with Schools far away through either physical interaction (which may be expensive) or through the Internet including through Video or audio conferencing. Towards the latter end, enormous advantages have accrued during this period of the Covid pandemic. With the proliferation of the internet and communication devices (including cell phones), distances have become irrelevant and affordability has got much better. The advantages so accrued need to be harvested.

We presently live in interesting times. Enormous changes have occurred during the Covid pandemic. The gains in information technology and communications that have accrued present opportunities to work towards Global Citizenship; even as many in the world believes that the pandemic will be a dampener on globalisation.

Fostering the spirit of global citizenship can only help build a better world. Sustainable Development Goals provide us ready set of objectives towards which to work. In view of the congruence in larger objectives, there is much merit in working on Sustainable Development Goals  as part of Global Citizenship Education.

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