Policy & Practice - A Development Education Review



Anti-Oppressive Global Citizenship Education Theory and Practice in Pre-Service Teacher Education


Shawna M. Carroll

Abstract: Pre-service teacher-educators are tasked with teaching not only important content, but also the realities of complex local and global social justice issues that impact their students and those students’ future students.  To address the colonial roots of development (Arshad-Ayaz, Andreotti, and Sutherland, 2017; Pashby, 2015), which promotes a lens of ‘helping’ and projects aiming to civilise the ‘Other’ (Andreotti, 2006), I share the theory and practice of an anti-oppressive global citizenship education (GCE), which I utilise in a teacher-education programme in Japan.  I borrow Andreotti’s theorisations and combine terminology from Sensoy and DiAngelo (2017) to understand an anti-oppressive GCE, which not only understands the complexities and fluidity of societies, but also uncovers the systemic oppression that organises societies.  Foundational terminology is explained to understand systemic oppression and constitutive subjectivities (Coloma, 2008), and this theory is used to explain several anti-oppressive GCE practices which promote self-reflexivity and go beyond inclusion for pre-service teacher-educators.  In this new COVID-19 era where injustices are magnified, this anti-oppressive GCE encourages teacher-educators to go back to the basics to understand their role in systemic oppression, as well as their role in dismantling it.

Key words: Anti-oppression; Global Citizenship Education; Pre-service Education; Constitutive Subjectivities; Theory and Practice.

Introduction and context

Although I have been committed to helping resolve social justice issues for decades, the understanding of my own role in contributing to these issues did not come until much later in my education journey.  Although aiming to help those that were marginalised, I was actually contributing to their oppression with individualising, liberal multicultural beliefs (Thobani, 2007) and was ignorant of the systems of oppression we are all navigating.  It was not until my graduate studies that I realised that although my aim was to help, when individualising struggles and viewing ‘the Other’ in opposition to myself, a binary and hierarchy were reinforced.  This understanding that injustice can be resolved by preventing individual unjust actions and a focus on meritocracy are part of liberal multiculturalism that aims to keep those in dominant positions dominant, and ‘allows’ Others to be ‘included’ in the unjust system ‘on the nation’s terms’ (Ibid.: 159).  The anti-oppressive framework explained in this article aims to put into question these individualising discourses that reproduce inequitable power hierarchies.

I am a queer, white woman who was born and educated in Canada and now teach students in a pre-service English teacher-education programme at a national university in Japan.  After arriving in Japan, it was necessary to adjust the anti-oppressive framework learned during my doctoral studies in Canada, and I quickly realised my western-centric understanding needed to be adapted.  The way systemic oppression works in Japan is much different than in Canada, and would be different in Pakistan, Ireland, or Brazil.  Although systemic oppression is present in all countries and across countries through global hierarchies of privilege and oppression, systemic oppression is contextual and is based on the history and society of each country.  Learning more about the intricacies between Japan and Canada has helped to develop an understanding that context is key to this anti-oppressive GCE framework. 

Coming from Canada which is often described as ‘multicultural’, I landed into discourses from both Japanese and foreigners’ perspectives that diversity was not an issue here, as Japan is a monoethnic and monolingual country.  Living and working in Japan, it is not uncommon to be in countless situations where Japan as a whole, and classrooms in Japan in particular, are described as monocultural or homogenous.  Perhaps on a superficial level Japan is less ‘multicultural’ compared to countries such as Canada; however, Japan has a history of colonisation of Indigenous peoples (Ainu and Ryukyuan peoples), Koreans, and Taiwanese, as well as rich diversity from food, music, and clothing, to important cultural differences of language, genders, races, and abilities, an increase of immigration, and so on, throughout the geographically diverse island nation.  The discourse of monoculturalism that aims to erase this diversity is part of systemic oppression in Japan, which invisibilises differences with the aim of creating national unity.

It was not until after the Second World War that the Japanese government increased their efforts to change the discourse that explained Japan as a homogenous nation (Ueno, 2004).  Before the Second World War, the government used discourses of heterogeneity to justify ‘expansionism’, or the brutal colonisation of Korea and Taiwan (Ibid.: 7).  After the Second World War, to advance patriarchal, colonial, and nationalist policies which created strict boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, the Japanese government constructed a new understanding of the Japanese as homogenous (Ibid, 2004).  It is within this context, where many pre-service educators believe that Japan is homogenous and diversity exists in other countries but not within Japan, that I re-worked my understanding of systemic oppression and multiculturalism within an ‘Eastern’ context teaching through this anti-oppressive GCE framework.  

Background of global citizenship education 

According to UNESCO (2015: 15), the goal of GCE is broad as it ‘aims to be transformative, building the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes… [for] a more inclusive, just and peaceful world’.  Three foundational documents by Global Education First Initiative (2012) and UNESCO (2014; 2015) help to understand the broad field of GCE; however, they each have different understandings of GCE (Toukan, 2018).  Much research has shown that GCE has many strands and political commitments (Dill, 2013; Franch, 2020; Veugelers, 2011), which is important because the vagueness of GCE allows for many differing politics and values, and GCE has been critiqued for reproducing western bias, assuming liberal individualism for all (Estellés and Fischman, 2021).

There are many issues within the broad field of GCE, starting with its colonial roots of development (Andreotti, 2011; Arshad-Ayaz, Andreotti, and Sutherland, 2017; Pashby, 2015).  This lens of development or ‘helping’ the Other through projects of civilising ‘them’ are seen in common, soft forms of GCE (Andreotti, 2006).  Within these soft forms of GCE, the focus remains on helping the Other because they ‘lack’ the skills to help themselves, individualising complex issues, without uncovering the deeply systemic roots of inequality (Ibid.).  

So where is the hope in GCE and is there a way to move beyond these colonial beginnings and continuation in the field?  With authors such as Andreotti, Pashby, and Stein, critical GCE is a space to speak against and build understandings of GCE that critique soft forms of GCE and focus on critical conversations within the field.  Building on Stein’s (2015) understandings of an anti-oppressive GCE, the framework explained in this article aims not only to understand the complexities and fluidity of societies, but also to uncover the systemic oppression that organises societies.

Teaching soft forms of GCE could mean the depoliticisation and individualisation of citizenship education through neoliberal discourses (Pashby, 2015).  This neoliberal and liberal multiculturalism education aim to include the ‘Other’ into the dominant system, ignoring systemic oppression and the ways that these inclusive policies reproduce unequal power relationships.  Answering Pashby’s (2015: 361) call for a critical GCE that, ‘can open up dynamic and critical spaces for students to both understand and challenge systemic inequalities’, this anti-oppressive GCE framework aims to continue a conversation about how teacher-educators and their students can understand oppression as systemic and their role in dismantling it within their teaching practice.  It encourages teacher-educators and their students to: 1) understand systemic oppression, 2) go beyond inclusionary policies based on liberal multicultural frameworks, and 3) be reflexive of their constitutive subjectivities, or the ways in which their subject positions are fluid, multiple, and dependent on different contexts. 

Understanding systemic oppression, individual discrimination, and prejudice

There is no simple way to solve local and global issues of inequality and there is no ‘right’ way to have these conversations within pre-service education.  This article explains only one way that educators in pre-service teacher-education can bring a critical GCE perspective into their practice with an anti-oppressive lens.  The focus on anti-oppression to teach GCE is to answer Andreotti’s (2016) call for acknowledging the complex and incommensurable conversations within GCE through a critical lens.  It also takes up Mignolo’s (2000) call for an examination ‘of our own complicity with patterns of domination’ (Andreotti, 2011: 393).  This is crucial for teacher-educators and their students, as they are part of these systems which oppress non-dominant groups. 

To explain this anti-oppressive framework, I will define the concepts of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression.  As a foundational text, Sensoy and DiAngelo (2017) explain these three terms well, which is why I start most of my courses with the text to ensure students’ understanding of the terms. 

First, prejudice is an individual person’s pre-judgement of groups.  These pre-judgements are internal and biased thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and assumptions which are often based on stereotypes of groups that the person is not familiar with (Sensoy and DiAngelo, 2017).  It is important to note that all people, including teacher-educators and their students, have prejudices and these are both conscious and unconscious (Ibid.).  Of course, this means that these prejudices can affect classroom environments, relationships, student outcomes, and so on. 

Prejudices need to be uncovered within teacher-education because a person’s actions or inactions are produced by these prejudices.  Because our thoughts determine our actions (Greenwald, Banaji, and Nosek, 2015), it is important to spend time uncovering our prejudices in teacher-education to reduce conscious and unconscious discriminatory actions (Sensoy and DiAngelo, 2017).  Creating a space where this is achievable is where the understanding of anti-oppressive practices come into play, explained later.

If we do not move beyond understandings of prejudice and discrimination, we will continue to teach within soft forms of GCE.  Soft forms of GCE assume that if we individually do not discriminate against others, then we will eventually achieve equality.  The issue here is the focus on an individual’s actions, which do not consider the systems of oppression that students and teachers are navigating.  Moving to a form of GCE which goes ‘beyond an emphasis on the rights and responsibilities of individuals, and towards an educational recognition of the need for alternative forms of existence that do not rely on a violent and unsustainable (dominant) system’ (Arshad-Ayaz, Andreotti, and Sutherland, 2017: 33), is what this anti-oppressive framework calls for.

Oppression is not individual, but rather a series of systems that empower a dominant group to enforce prejudice and discrimination against a minoritised group through institutional power.  Dominant groups gain power over a long history, create and reproduce power-hierarchies that privilege dominant groups and minoritise others, and impose their beliefs and cultures as what they deem ‘normal’, and individual prejudice ‘becomes automatic, normalized and taken for granted’ (Sensoy and DiAngelo, 2017: 62).  Systemic oppression is embedded throughout institutions, such as education, government, health care, law, media, and so on.  This means that even if an individual discriminatory act does not occur, the oppressive system still exists and often goes unnoticed by the dominant group (Sensoy and DiAngelo, 2017).  So, even if a teacher consciously aims to create an anti-oppressive classroom space, the teacher still holds power in that space and can use that power to oppress the students, so the students may not question the teacher.

It is difficult for those who come from a dominant group to see oppressive systems or individual acts of discrimination, which is why it is important for those in dominant groups to listen in order to try and understand minoritised people’s experiences (Ibid.).  This is important in classrooms, as it is not only teacher-student relationships that exist, but a variety of dynamics based on subject positions like the students’ and teachers’ race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, and so on.  This is also why context is important, as a person’s subject positions will have more or less power, according to the context.  For example, as a queer, white woman, I have a lot of privilege as a professor in Japan or Canada; however, as a queer woman in Japan, I face more systemic barriers than in Canada (World Economic Forum, 2021), but as a white person, I hold a lot of privilege in both contexts.  Those in dominant groups in any country should understand their privileges and role in dismantling systemic oppression, as those with power tend to be gatekeepers.  For example, a student who is minoritised due to their race or ethnicity may feel unfairly assessed.  The student could use their agency to ask the teacher to re-assess the assignment, but ultimately it is the decision of the teacher and/or administration to take the issue seriously as they hold the power.    

These oppressive systems throughout all societies endorse a kind of 'ranking' or valuing different groups, which not only position the dominant group as more valuable and powerful and the minoritised group as less valuable and less powerful, but it also creates binaries of complex, constitutive subjectivities.  Building on Crenshaw’s (1991) foundational theory of intersectionality, Coloma (2008) developed a theory of constitutive subjectivities, which pays attention not only to the multiple subject positions each person negotiates, but also their fluid, contextual, and dialectical nature.  Constitutive subjectivities are how we see our own subject positions and how we are seen by others in a ‘dialectical process of self-making and being made’ (Ibid.: 20).  These complex, constitutive subjectivities are not only simplified through stratification/hierarchisation, but they are also simplified as binaries (i.e., white versus Black, man versus woman, etc.).  This ignores the multiple and fluid realities of people who are mixed-race, Trans and gender non-binary, and so on. 

As oppression is systemic, it is impossible for someone in the dominant group to experience ‘reverse-racism’, ‘reverse-sexism’, ‘reverse-heterosexism’, ‘reverse-classism’, and so on.  Someone in the dominant group could experience an act of discrimination; however, they do not face the systemic barriers which create racism, sexism, heterosexism, and so on.  For this reason, it is important to differentiate the terms discrimination and oppression: ‘All people have prejudice and discriminate, but only the dominant group has the social, historical, and institutional power to back their prejudice and infuse it throughout the entire society’ (Sensoy and DiAngelo, 2017: 66).  When understanding their own role in systems of oppression, it is important for teacher-educators and their students to understand the multiple ways they could experience privilege and oppression, depending on the context.

This conversation of complex, fluid subject positions is connected to the next part of this framework, which is the importance of self-reflexivity.  The foundation of this framework is for teachers and students to understand systemic oppression, but this cannot be separated from their own investments in systemic oppression.  Self-reflexivity moves beyond self-reflection to understand one’s own complicities and negotiations of systemic oppression (Vadeboncoeur, Bopp, and Singer, 2020).  Self-reflexivity is a life-long process, as language, culture, and power-hierarchies continue to shift throughout histories and contexts.

As mentioned earlier, it is very difficult for people in the dominant group to recognise oppressive systems because their experiences are so normalised.  These complex oppressive systems are individualised and become recognised as exceptional, discriminatory acts (Sensoy and DiAngelo, 2017).  For example, a minoritised student being bullied may not be linked to its root cause or systemic oppression, but seen as an individual example of bullying.  Because of this, it is necessary to recognise that there are important differences between equity and equality.  Equity calls attention to the unequal starting points and long histories of inequality, which recognises that the same measures are not appropriate for everyone (Alexander, 2008).  Equity practices pay attention to differing needs and circumstances, which are based on systemic oppression and historical injustices.  Educators often practice this by providing students with ‘special needs’ extra support so that they can achieve success.  These extra supports are necessary for some students, while unnecessary for others.  Practices based on equality, on the other hand, aim to treat everyone equally, regardless of their unequal starting point but expect the results will be the same (RMI, 2019).  Practices of equality could be not providing students with ‘special needs’ extra supports, with the understanding that this would be ‘unfair’ to the other students.  Through recognising that equality measures do not produce equal results because of unequal starting points and systemic barriers, this anti-oppressive framework aims to promote self-reflexivity through the examination of students’ and teachers’ role in systemic oppression using equity-based solutions based on an individual’s context.

An anti-oppressive GCE which goes beyond inclusive practices

An anti-oppressive GCE goes beyond inclusion, as inclusion can reproduce power imbalances and colonial relationships through assimilation policies (Arvin, Tuck, and Morrill, 2013; Thobani, 2007).  It is important to stop and ask, who is being included into what and on whose terms (Arvin, Tuck, and Morrill, 2013; Kumashiro, 2002)?  Arvin, Tuck, and Morrill (2013: 10) explain that liberal multicultural discourses, which could be seen as part of the ‘soft’ GCE canon, ‘assume that all minorities and ethnic groups are different though working toward inclusion and equality, each in its own similar and parallel way’.  On the other hand, ‘Indigenous communities’ concerns are often not about achieving formal equality or civil rights within a nation-state, but instead achieving substantial independence from a Western nation-state—independence decided on their own terms’ (Ibid.: 10).  Being included into a system which aims to erase your existence, through things like skewed historical narratives and policies, is counterintuitive.

It is not only Indigenous communities that seek alternatives from simplistic, inclusion policies, which are set on the dominant groups’ terms (Thobani, 2007).  In the context of Canada, Thobani (Ibid.: 145) explains the ways that Indigenous peoples have been invisibilised through inclusion polices, while non-white bodies are made to be hyper-visible through discourses of the ‘cultural stranger’.  When white narratives, histories, and discourses remain central, inclusion continues to not only remain superficial, but as a tool of the state to hierarchise and control minoritised groups.  This is similar in the context of Japan, where the Japanese government aims to dominate East Asia with its long history of colonial rule, including the assimilation and erasure of Indigenous nations, as well as anti-immigrant discourse and policies against non-‘pure’ Japanese (Horiguchi and Imoto, 2016).  Therefore, when inclusive practices in GCE do not question systemic oppression, they are superficially including ‘Others’ into a system that promotes colonisation, heteropatriarchy, and the erasure of Indigenous peoples (Arvin, Tuck, and Morrill, 2013; Ueno, 2007).

In the GCE literature, Arshad-Ayaz, Andreotti, and Sutherland (2017: 28) also explain that ‘inclusion can so easily become a silencing act when it comes with the expectation of affirmation of those who have included, creating a debt for those who have been included’.  Going beyond inclusion means that we should uncover taken for granted notions of normalcy in the classroom.  This also includes deconstructing the idea of ‘who is generally considered to be a global citizen, who is not, and how come?’ (Arshad-Ayaz, Andreotti, and Sutherland, 2017: 30).  Moving beyond inclusion means questioning systemic barriers minoritised teacher-educators and their students face, and examining their own ‘complicity, self-implication, and self-reflexivity’ within these same systems (Ibid.: 31).

As teacher-educators and their students explore their own diversity and complicity within these complicated systems, they examine their own classrooms and communities and their links to systemic oppression, before venturing out into the world, which often creates ‘us versus them’ dichotomies.  When students and their teachers can examine the diversity within themselves and their communities, they can start to uncover and deconstruct the prejudices they carry.  Understanding their own constitutive subjectivities, as explained above, helps students and teachers understand that we are all implicated within these systems based on the various contextual privileges and disadvantages.

Anti-oppressive GCE practices within pre-service language education

Although the points above are important, there are many ways to ‘do’ anti-oppressive GCE.  The three main points for this framework, which frame my own teaching include: 1) understanding and teaching important terms connected to systemic oppression, 2) modelling what it means to go beyond inclusion, and 3) practicing and helping students practice reflexivity of their/our constitutive subjectivities or the ways their/our subject positions are contextual within different systems of oppression. 

Setting up the anti-oppressive space

Organising courses to start with an anti-oppressive foundation is key to creating the anti-oppressive space.  There are a few practices I will share which help to create an anti-oppressive space; however, it is important to note that systemic oppression will always exist within and outside the classroom.  First, post all materials online at least one week before each class.  This is important for accessibility, especially in an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) environment or when students are English language learners.  This empowers students to be accountable to their own learning, as the materials are available for them and can be accessible to them throughout the course for translation.  It also helps students know what to expect and gives those who need it, extra time.  Posting materials at least one week before class can also help balance power in the class, where as a professor, it is important to recognise that we hold a lot of power.   

Post the syllabus at least one week before the course begins.  The syllabus is also where we can build an anti-oppressive foundation.  The syllabus, which I translate into Japanese so that it is understandable for all, includes all information necessary for students to begin the course, including the weekly topics, readings, and assignment deadlines and instructions.  In addition to sharing information about plagiarism, late assignments/extension requests, and so on, in a ‘course guidelines’ section, I ensure students are made aware of gender-neutral pronoun usage, non-tolerance of discrimination, mental health resources available on campus, and accessibility resources on campus.  In addition to being a roadmap for the course, the syllabus acts as a tool to overcome some systemic barriers within the university context, sharing important resources for the students’ self-care and success.  It also helps students to start thinking about what we deem as ‘normal’ information to be included in a syllabus, as mental health and gender diversity can be seen as taboo subjects in Japan.

To promote self-reflexivity, as well as an anti-oppressive space, ask students to complete a ‘welcome survey’ at the beginning of the course.  I answer the same welcome survey I assign, so that the students can get to know me and not feel as though I am just extracting information from them.  The survey asks students personal questions which help get to know them, without making assumptions due to my previous experiences, and gives space for practices of genuine inclusion.  Ask students questions such as:

  • What is your preferred name (what should I call you)?
  • What gender pronoun(s) should I use when I refer to you?
  • Do you have access to a computer and Wi-Fi?
  • Tell me three things about yourself.
  • Where were you born?
  • Who do you live with?
  • What culture(s) do you identify with?
  • How has COVID-19 affected you?
  • What do you want to learn in this course?
  • What is your biggest worry about this course?
  • Do you have any allergies or medical concerns I should know about?
  • How can I help you learn best?  Please share any learning challenges or disabilities you have.  Feel free to discuss this with me in person or through email instead.

These questions, and others I include, cover a variety of topics and give students the opportunity to disclose minoritised subject positions, mental health concerns, worries, and experiences that help me be a better educator and go beyond inclusion to make the space accessible for all.  With this information, we can incorporate some of their subject positions, hobbies, and so on into classes, without revealing their individual experiences or subject positions.  Of course, students can choose to share or omit personal information, but the survey is a very important anti-oppressive practice that helps get to know the students and their needs and allows the teacher to provide more support to those who need it.

The first class is important for building an anti-oppressive community, so ask students to do self-introductions.  Before this activity, explain the use of pronouns and normalise sharing pronouns in order not to make assumptions about other peoples’ genders (but never force students to state their pronouns).  Students can also share their hometowns and an interesting fact about themselves.  This means that the first class is usually consumed by introducing the course and syllabus, as well as these introductions.  Although it takes time, it is very important in developing the anti-oppressive community, online or face-to-face.    

Another practice which assists students and teachers with self-reflexivity is meditation.  At the beginning of each class, I introduce different two-minute meditations (i.e., counting breath, mantra, visualisation, body scan, etc.).  This is a chance for the teacher to become present in their teaching and helps students become present in the classroom, possibly with many other classes the same day.  Asking students to look inward is key to an anti-oppressive space.  By focusing on ourselves rather than ‘the Other,’ we can learn to ‘know, understand, and challenge [our] own investment in colonial dominance and self-identification’ (Cannon, 2012: 24).  Even though the practice of meditation is only two minutes, we can encourage students to bring any of the meditations that resonate with them into their everyday practice and/or future classrooms.  Taking care of ourselves and acknowledging not only our mind, but our bodies and spirits can help create a deeply aware anti-oppressive practice (Ng, 2012).

Modelling anti-oppressive teaching methods

As a pre-service teacher-educator, it is important to model the kind of teaching we hope our students will practice and build on.  In order to be a good model of anti-oppressive education, there are several things we can aim to achieve in our classrooms.  In addition to the strategies explained above and teaching the important terms explained earlier, strive to be accountable to the language you use.  This is especially important in my line of work, as a language teacher-educator.  I work hard to make the language I use anti-oppressive, although this will be a life-long task as language and culture continues to change.  It is important to use gender-neutral language, and not to assume a student’s gender, sexuality, ethnicity, family structure, and so on.  When introducing literature for students to use in their future classrooms, carefully select texts that do not reproduce stereotypes or tokenism.  When sharing example sentences or images with the class, ensure to be conscious of which subject positions are represented (or not).  It is also important to include student-centred activities that students can bring into their future classrooms, where they are in charge of their own learning, such as think-pair-share, small and large group discussions, jigsaw activities, quick writes, and so on.  In an EFL environment, these activities also promote the use of Japanese when students are engaging with difficult readings and content.  Modelling is both implicit and explicit through the course, and it is important to encourage students to be purposeful and accountable to all the choices they make in their future classrooms. 

Self-reflexive activities

Through the content of each course, I connect all topics to the students and their constitutive subjectivities, which we simplify as ‘identities’ for the purposes of students’ understanding.  Students have a difficult time speaking about their own constitutive subjectivities, especially those with subject positions from dominant groups, so ask students to do self-reflexive activities.  In one of the first activities of any course, I ask the students to take three minutes to draw a ‘Japanese person’.  I have done this in many classes and in all classes, almost all male-identified students draw male characters, and most females draw female characters, but some draw male characters instead.  Many of the students can quickly understand that their own gender and the patriarchal system influences their drawings, as well as the media, their education, and other systems where oppression is reproduced.  In addition to this activity which can be adapted according to your own context, we can ask students to explore their constitutive subjectivities and their links to language and culture through different arts-based activities like self-reflexive poetry (Burton, Wong, and Rajendram, 2020) and plurilingual portraits (Busch, 2006), as arts-based teaching practices can have a large impact in self-reflexivity and students’ understandings of themselves (Ibid.).

In addition to understanding the key terms explained earlier (prejudice, discrimination, oppression, and equity), students also explore how their own constitutive subjectivities are linked to systems of oppression through the readings and activities.  Students first start with examining their subject positions.  Exploring their subject positions and eventually their constitutive subjectivities through activities such as the ones explained above, as well as others like the ‘power flower’ activity (Access to Media Education Society, 2002), supports them in exploring their dominant and minoritised subject positions.  In all instances, it is important to first model the activities and share your own identities to make explicit the different subject positions we all hold, including minoritised subject positions.  Sharing my own subject positions, such as my queer sexuality, helps students reflect on their own and helps to develop trust.  However, ensure that students feel safe and comfortable – meaning that many activities they complete should be done individually or with a partner (where they only share subject positions they are comfortable sharing and in general, are never forced to share).  In all activities, students continue to develop their critical thinking skills and understanding of the relevance of the content in their lives. 

Closing thoughts

The anti-oppressive GCE framework shared in this article is one way of bringing an anti-oppressive perspective into global citizenship education within pre-service education, which will continue to shift and grow.  The key focus of this framework is on 1) the understanding of systemic oppression, 2) moving beyond inclusion, and 3) understanding and being reflexive of our constitutive subjectivities and their connections to systems of oppression.  By going back to the basics to understand that individual experiences are based on these interconnected systems of oppression and are always contextual, teachers and students can better understand their role in a critical, anti-oppressive GCE that does not reproduce these local and global inequitable power relations.  Of course, as explained by Andreotti (2011), every theory is partial and limited.  This framework is building on previous work and will continue to change as it aims to share complex understandings with students in an EFL, pre-service teacher-education environment. 

Bringing critical conversations into global citizenship education within pre-service teacher-education contexts is important as countries aim to include the Sustainable Development Goals (UNESCO, 2017) into their programmes and become marketable in an ever-increasingly globalised context.  In order not to fall back on soft forms of GCE, it is important to address the colonial roots of development (Andreotti, 2011; Arshad-Ayaz, Andreotti, and Sutherland, 2017; Pashby, 2015), which this anti-oppressive framework can assist with.  As systemic oppression is amplified with inequitable distribution or resources and power in the new age of COVID-19, we should understand the ways in which these inequities are not new but based on contextual histories of oppressive systems with regards to many subject positions in each country (i.e., race, nationality, gender, sexuality, class, ability, religion, etc.).  This is no easy task, as explained by Martin Cannon (2012: 25) in the context of Canada:

“The doing of anti-oppressive pedagogy is time consuming, difficult, and challenging… It requires great care in linking diverse communities, and providing for a united front against the racism and colonialism aimed at Indigenous peoples in Canada.  But the most urgent challenge is in finding common ground.  To find where this common ground lies, we need to think seriously about privileged learners”. 

This framework, which I hope others and myself will continue to build on, helps to understand the interconnections of privilege and oppression, both on a local and global scale.


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Shawna M. Carroll is a Senior Assistant Professor at Okayama University in the Graduate School of Education.  Before arriving in Japan, Shawna completed her teacher training from Kindergarten to Grade 12 in Ontario, Canada, and also taught at the postsecondary level within education and women and gender studies departments.  Her research expertise focuses on anti-oppressive and anti-colonial English teaching and research methods.  Most recently, Shawna is the author of Anti-Colonial Book Clubs: Creating a Different Kind of Language for a New Consciousness (2021) and co-author of How Discomfort Reproduces Settler Structures: Moving Beyond Fear and Becoming Imperfect Accomplices (2020). 



Carroll, S M (2021) ‘Anti-Oppressive Global Citizenship Education Theory and Practice in Pre-Service Teacher Education’, Policy and Practice: A Development Education Review, Vol. 33, Autumn, pp. 7-27.