Policy & Practice - A Development Education Review



Inspiring Global Citizens: An Educator’s Guide

Development Education and Climate Change
Spring 2020

Maeva Ceau

Inspiring Global Citizens: An Educator’s Guide (2017) Canada: Aga Khan Foundation.

Inspiring Global Citizens: An Educator’s Guide gathers a number of activities that teachers can use in intermediate and secondary levels in order to help students relate key concepts of Global Citizenship Education (GCE) to real world examples across the curriculum (Social Studies, Geography, History, Arts).  As all provinces in Canada have included forms of citizenship education in the core curriculum (Evans et al., 2009), such a resource can be particularly useful to teachers.  According to the guide, global citizenship is the ‘awareness of the world as a global community and recognizing the rights and responsibilities of citizens to take action with a global consciousness’ (65).  Such a definition strongly relates to notions of global outlook, local and global responsibility, and engagement against inequalities (Oxfam, 2006; Pashby, 2015).  However, GCE is also concerned with celebrating diversity, self-reflecting and critically assessing the historical causes of global inequalities and the systems that maintain imbalanced power relations (Andreotti, 2006a).  Therefore, this review will assess the extent to which An Educator’s Guide promotes a global outlook, recognises diversity, understands the importance of historical events, and critically assesses power relations for social justice.

Promoting a global outlook

Under the theme ‘One World’, great emphasis is put on the notion of a single global community and international cooperation through the video ‘Home’ (5), statements on global interconnectedness (7) and the United Nations (UN) Global Goals (8-9).  Learners are provided with several opportunities to understand how they fit in this globalised world, how interconnected people are and the extent to which everyone’s actions impact others across locations.  The game Globingo (5) and a Mind Map (6) allow learners to establish connections between them and others by tracking their links to other regions of the world through tourism, trade, music, family, etc.  However, such connections can remain quite superficial and limit the creation of a Third Space where a mixture of various cultural perspectives produce hybrid viewpoints (Bhabha in Martin and Wyness, 2013).

Indeed, a major challenge for Development Education (DE) and Global Citizenship Education is encouraging students to establish interconnections on a social and cultural level and to analyse their own perspectives to question and possibly change their perceptions through self-reflection (Bourn, 2014b).  DE and GCE go beyond learning about and coexisting with others in order to get to know others by sharing ‘the burden of the unfamiliar’ and reaching ‘mutual vulnerability’ to achieve ‘reciprocity in community’ (Odora Hoppers, 2015: 99).  They bring various sources of knowledge and perspectives together to elaborate new viewpoints (Bourn, 2014a, 2014b).  The Fact or Fiction quiz (21-22) is a great attempt at questioning perceptions and addressing misconceptions in order to improve people’s knowledge of each other.  However, little emphasis is put on the social, historical and cultural forces that situate the self in the world and construct the image of the ‘other’ (Young, 2010).

Recognising the complexity of diversity

The recognition of global and national economic diversity is relatively successfully expressed in the resource with references to differing socio-economic backgrounds within a single country and varying levels of economic development between countries.  However, there is little reference to the similarities that internal economic diversity can cause between similar socio-economic segments across borders.  Indeed, although the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) interactive map (21) illustrates various differences and similarities between countries, it does not take the opportunity to point out that elitism and extreme wealth exist in countries of the global North and South, while economically vulnerable social segments share common struggles across borders.  It is important to highlight national socio-economic differences while recognising global socio-economic similarities (Spivak, 2004; Caruana, 2014).

Likewise, although various indicators are presented on the map, the categorisation and ranking of countries according to quantitative measures such as the Human Development Index risk emphasising binary understandings of development in an oversimplified ‘successful versus unsuccessful’ manner.  Students would benefit from learning about diverse living conditions, lifestyles and practices through numerous channels beyond numerical binaries (Andreotti, 2006a, Andreotti and De Souza, 2008; Pashby, 2011, 2012).  This could potentially be achieved by favouring the use of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD’s) interactive map (21) that offers different perceptions of what matters to people across countries according to a variety of factors.  Similarly, initiatives like Mystery Skype or the Google Connected Classrooms (12) can encourage students to compare common daily activities like going to school or playing with friends from different perspectives (Scheunpflug, 2010).

The idea of shared cultures across borders and the resulting cultural diversity within countries is not clearly referenced.  It is necessary to recognise that in 2016 in Canada, 21.9 per cent of the population were foreign-born, 200 languages were spoken, 250 ethnic origins were represented and 37.5 per cent of Canadian children had a foreign background (Statistics Canada, 2017).  Highlighting cultural diversity within a country could encourage learners to move away from the homogenisation of cultural practices and knowledge to fully internationalise the global character of increasingly heterogeneous societies.

Understanding the importance of history

Many activities encourage students to reflect on and address the causes of poverty and inequalities as well as understand the interconnections between different global challenges (health, education, food security, climate change, etc.).  However, little information is provided about the impact of historical events such as colonisation on inequalities.  The most successful attempt at relating global inequalities to history lies in the video ‘Two Hundred Years That Changed the World’ by Hans Rosling (2009) (16) with an extremely quick and implicit reference to colonisation while discussing the global evolution of life expectancy and income.  Along similar lines, the ‘inequality game’ (15) or the video ‘What is privilege?’ successfully illustrate notions of inequality, racism and discrimination but fail to highlight the causes of unequal access to comfortable living conditions and fulfilling life choices.

The examples cited above fail to recognise the economic, social and cultural impacts of events such as colonisation and slavery (Escobar, 1995).  A lack of historical context can easily lead to portraying poor countries and vulnerable populations as inherently weak and incapable of achieving what wealthy populations did (Andreotti, 2006b, Kumar, 2008; Biccum, 2010).  It risks depicting poverty as a ‘new’ phenomenon that dissociates the harm done during colonisation from the poverty and alienation found in certain locations or within specific social, economic and cultural segments of the population (Odora Hoppers, 2015).

Critically reflecting on power relations for social justice

Besides understanding the impact of historical events, learners should be encouraged to recognise the subjectivity of what is perceived as developed and underdeveloped or successful and unsuccessful.  Power is often exercised through dominant and hegemonic knowledge that has been defined and accepted as legitimate by both the dominating and dominated entities (Sharp, 2008).  This approach can reduce the importance of ‘real freedoms that people enjoy’ such as freedom of speech, movement or life choices, and social opportunities and safety (Sen, 1999: 36).  Indeed, learners should realise that economic growth, the acquisition of technology or other objectives set by international agreements do not necessarily represent the most effective and viable forms of development (Sumner, 2010; Storey, 2015; Odora Hoppers, 2015).  Current issues such as climate change can highlight the value of different traditions and practices that adopt a more sustainable approach to living than typically Western and capitalist models.

The Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC) guide makes several references to the importance of recognising different understandings of what quality of life is (17-19, 21) or the limitations of quantitative measurements of development (19).  It also warns against potentially harmful stereotypes derived from rigid representations and simplified categorisations (15, 22-23) and encourages learners to conduct extensive research on other locations and populations to resist hegemonic, inaccurate or incomplete information.  However, several activities positively emphasise the current, and often hegemonic, methods used to assess development and progress.

The resource clearly distinguishes charity from cooperation with local populations throughout the themes ‘What is Sustainable Development?’ and ‘Making a Difference’.  It emphasises the disadvantages of charitable handouts and the advantages of a contextualised hand-up along with introducing learners to different types of global development initiatives such as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and foreign aid, and the main actors involved.  However, the implicit superiority of Western practices remains on some occasions.  Most activities can successfully encourage students to become agents of change and fight the ‘feeling of helplessness’ (Andreotti, 2006b: 48) when the task of addressing poverty seems too overwhelming.  However, stories like ‘The Star Thrower’ (47), for example, can also push learners to identify with the child throwing the helpless starfish stranded on the beach back into the water, thereby associating the starfish with powerless poor people dependent on the West.  Likewise, they might still perceive the level of development reached in Canada as the ultimate goal that developing countries should strive toward by reproducing the different phases of development of the West (Biccum, 2010).


Producing educational material that suitably fits within the framework of GCE is a challenging task.  Successfully teaching students about global issues through a holistic approach remains, until now, difficult to guarantee as the expected transformative process occurs within each individual on a personal level.  Despite some weaknesses, I believe the guide produced by the AKFC is a very useful baseline for teachers that wish to add elements of Development Education and Global Learning within the curriculum.

By linking existing theories and concepts of GCE to the activities suggested in the guide, this review has emphasised the ease with which teachers can unintentionally reproduce harmful beliefs and practices as well as the difficulty of finding suitable ways of teaching about global challenges and issues of inequalities.  Keeping in mind that educators need to constantly re-evaluate their own perspectives and beliefs (UNESCO, 2014), this review aims to contribute to improving teaching materials and practices in Development Education and Global Learning.


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Maeva Ceau is a non-resident Education Researcher and College Preparation Instructor at the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research in the United Arab Emirates.  She holds a Master’s in Development Education and Global Learning from University College London and is interested in assessing outcomes of Global Citizenship Education policies and practices.

Ceau, M (2020) ‘Inspiring Global Citizens: An Educator’s Guide’, Policy and Practice: A Development Education Review, Vol. 30, Spring, pp. 195-202.