“Language Learning & Global Citizenship” (12) – Global Citizenship Education (1) (by J. Weigelmann)

Academic Research, All Posts, Global Citizenship

Editor’s note: Jessica Weigelmann is a student of English and Art in the Bachelor’s Degree for secondary school and currently in her 6th semester at the University of Education Karlsruhe. She enrolled in my seminar “Global English(es,) Global TEFL & Global Citizenship Education” in the digital winter semester 2020/21 and signed up for the topic “Global Citizenship Education” because this topic has gained  promincence in teacher education recently. It moved more sharply into focus this summer following the drastic effects of climate change all around the world. Striving to meet the goals of the Agenda 2030 will require a generation that abandons nation-state perspectives for global citizenship practices. My course and this article are supposed to contribute to this development.
Ms Weigelmann’s article is Part I of a tandem-article authored jointly with Leya Hoenicke, who chose the same topic in my course one year before. The two of them started discussing this in June 2021.
Ms Weigelmann has traveled through Central and South America, Europe, and parts of Asia. She lived in Portugal for a year and taught English and German in Morocco. I hope to meet her in person next semester when we resume campus life and (hopefully) get back to live classrooms.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Why Global Citizenship?

2.3 What is a Global Citizen?

2.2 Conceptions of Global Citizenship defined by Light and Streitwieser

3. What is Global Citizenship Education?

3.1 Definition by Osler and Vincent

3.2 Goals of GCE

3.3 Key Learning Outcomes by UNESCO

3.4 Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship

4. Two different Approaches to GCE: The Soft Approach vs. the Critical Approach by Andreotti

4.1 What is the Soft Approach?

4.2 What is the Critical Approach?

5. Global Citizenship Education in the EFl Classroom

5.1 Opportunities in the EFL Classroom

5.2 Concrete Implementations

6. Conclusion


1. Introduction

This article presents an overview of how the “English as a Foreign Language” (EFL) classroom can contribute to the development of Global Citizenship (GC). I chose the topic due to its importance in the context of teacher education, especially for foreign language teachers. As English is mainly used for international communication as one of the results of globalization processes, users of English need to be aware of how to cope and communicate with different cultures. This is especially important for students because the trend towards an increased international work enviroment will influence their later careers. Additionally, having a mixed heritage or experiencing life in a new environment as a migrant is common in today’s globalized world – so future teachers have to learn to deal with students with diverse cultural backgrounds.

My personal interest in this field stems from my own experience of a mixed cultural background, because my parents were born in Kazakhstan and moved to Germany 30 years ago. Unfortunately, they experienced racist behavior towards them by some Western citizens because of the perceptions and stereotypes of Eastern cultures.

Being unaware of contemporary problems such as the spread of racial ideas through right-wing parties, which focus mainly on a national dimension, and the increasing economic and political inequality among countries might exacerbate those severe issues. Education for Global Citizenship tries to tackle such issues on a global dimension instead of focusing only on a nation-bound solution.

The reader will be introduced to the concept of Global Citizenship and its different conceptions. The article will continue with examining the term Global Citizenship Education (GCE), its goals, key learning outcomes, and its function in the Sustainable Development Goals. The third section will discuss two different approaches to GCE, namely the soft approach and the critical approach. The main point will be covered in the last section, which focuses on the EFL classroom and its opportunities to establish GC. It will also provide a concrete implementation method for teachers.


2. Why Global Citizenship?

Globalization has affected contemporary cultures tremendously. The 21st century is undoubtedly characterized by a “dramatic expansion of airline travel and telecommunications technologies, tourism and student exchanges, immigration policies and trade agreements” (Slimbach 2005, p. 205). Even though globalization is affecting today’s societies in many positive manners, it also leads to a major crisis of increasing economic inequality. Consequently, this problem needs to be addressed through solutions that focus on a global dimension, as the increasing economic division partly derives from urbanization processes, hence migratory processes (cf. Slimbach 2005). Therefore, GC aims to solve problems caused by globalization.

Gaudelli understands “[…] global citizenship as part of the logical progression” (Gaudelli 2016, p. 17) of urbanization processes. Particularly world cities are crowded with diverse people having different cultural backgrounds, “[…] they are no longer ‘out there’ but nestled together ‘right here’ in all the world’s urban areas” (McGrew 2000 cited in Shultz 2007, p. 249). Nation-states with world cities like London, Hong Kong or New York City must face the difficult challenge to unite diverse people, no matter which community or culture they belong to. Additionally, it is essential to reduce the economic imbalance between them to prevent an increasing socially divided society (cf. Slimbach 2005). This political as well as economic challenge can only be faced

“[…] through persons and policies that recognize that our destinies are intertwined, and that choices to harm our neighbor actually end up harming ourselves. Transcultural learners […] [need] clarified identifications, not only as members of particular cultural and national communities, but also as global citizens who understand that their neighbor is everyone alive” (Slimbach 2005, p. 218).

The concept of global citizenship replaces the traditional understanding of citizenship bounded to a certain nation-state with the more contemporary notion of fluid citizenship beyond national borders (cf. UNESCO 2014 in Suša 2019). Therefore, the following sub-chapters will examine the term Global Citizen and different conceptions of GC.


2.1 What is a Global Citizen?

Against this background, the term “global citizen” holds a vastly different meaning for educators. While the general global citizen definitions have overarching themes in common, they differ in some aspects. For instance, the non-governmental organization Oxfam defines a global citizen as “someone who is aware of and understands the wider world– and their place in it. [A global citizen] take[s] an active role in their community and work[s] with others to make our planet more peaceful, sustainable and fairer” (Oxfam 2020, 1).
By comparison, UNESCO states in their self-developed program of GCE that “Global citizenship is marked by an understanding of global interconnectedness and a commitment to the collective good” (Torres 2014 cited in UNESCO 2014, 14). For Gaudelli, a global citizen can be characterized by “being aware of diversity in your community, learning to live at peace with one’s neighbors and to appreciate the diversity that exists with people around you and being concerned about the biosphere and the way in which we interact with the earth and its resources coupled with an awareness of how power operates on the planet” (Gaudelli 2018 in Bosio 2018, 00:00- 1:30).


2.2 Conceptions of Global Citizenship defined by Light and Streitwieser

Streitwieser and Light distinguished between hierarchical stages or categories of global citizenship, reaching from the lowest possible category defined as global openness to the highest one characterized by global commitment (see Table 1). To keep it brief, those stages or categories build upon each other and represent distinguished conceptions of GC.

Conceptions of GCE (Domain of Northwestern University)


Firstly, “Global Existence” (type 1) is related to the assumption that “[…] because we are all born as human being on this earth, we are all by default Global Citizens” (Light & Streitwieser 2009, 12). For the second type, “Global Citizenship as Global Acquaintance”, “[…] what matters is that the student [or person] can claim a connection with one or more other countries” (Light & Streitwieser 2009, p. 13).
The third stage, “Global Citizenship as Global Openness”, supports the idea that a person is willing to be open-minded towards learning from others, especially from different nations and cultures. Here, the world is understood as a “functioning unit.” However, to adopt a more radical sense of GC, “Global Participation” (type 4) includes the notion of “active engagement with the cultural practices of people in […] other countries” (Light & Streitwieser 2009, p. 14).
As the final and most radical conception of GC, “Global Commitment” (type 5) makes the crucial distinction between the sense of simply being open-minded and feeling committed to take action to enable societies to adequately face today’s challenges such as climate change. Here, type 5 emphasizes feeling the responsibility and commitment to action (cf. Light & Streitwieser 2009).


3. What is Global Citizenship Education?

Several nations include a global orientation in their curricular content, often under the umbrella terms of “global citizenship education”, “global education”, or “global learning”. Those concepts are often synonymously used because they share most of their themes and methods (cf. Suša 2019). While dealing with the topic of GC, one question that indeed arises is why contemporary societies and individuals require global citizenship education. The following quote expressed by Hayden explains this issue precisely:

“Even for those school-age students today who will never in adulthood leave their native shores, the future is certain to be heavily influenced by international developments and their lives within national boundaries so affected by factors emanating from outside those boundaries that they will be hugely disadvantaged by an education that has not raised their awareness of, sensitivity to and facility with issues arising from beyond a national ‘home’ context” (Hayden 2011 cited in Gaudelli 2016, 31).

Considering this issue, the trend towards increased international developments is one of the main characteristics of the 21st Century. Present-day civilizations must adapt somehow to that notion; otherwise, they will be disadvantaged in terms of, e.g., international trade ties.

Therefore, GCE is often viewed as a reaction by education systems to the globally connected workforce or social changes caused by globalization. Multiple educators of the formal and non-formal sectors such as Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) nowadays focus on GCE (cf. Shultz 2007).  The following section will closely examine the term GCE and its goals, key learning outcomes as well as its function within the Sustainable Development Goals.


3.1 Definition by Osler and Vincent

Osler and Vincent also understand the term “global education” as a reaction to the trend towards an increased interdependent world; they define it as follows:

“Global education encompasses the strategies, policies and plans that prepare young people and adults for living together in an interdependent world. It is based on the principles of co-operation, non-violence, respect for human rights and cultural diversity, democracy and tolerance. It is characterized by pedagogical approaches based on human rights and a concern for social justice which encourage critical thinking and responsible participation. Learners are encouraged to make links between local, regional and world wide issues and to address inequality” (Osler& Vincent 2002, p. 2).

Here, Osler and Vincent illustrate the basic principles of Global Education, such as non-violence, democracy and cultural diversity. They stress responsible participation as a fundamental aspect of Global Education in order to adress inequality. However, when it comes to educating for GC, educators and organizations have different goals and intentions in mind. For instance, communist states who also have global education do not include democracy as a principle of GCE. Compared to democratic political systems, communist political systems are based on other ideological principles than democracy.


3.2 Goals of GCE

Due to the distinguished conceptions of GCE, this sub-chapter will focus on the goals of GCE as expressed by Oxfam, UNESCO, and The Maastrich Global Education Declaration. Oxfam, an NGO, has been one of the outspoken advocates in the field of global learning for more than two decades. Its goals include empowering communities to help themselves, eradicating poverty, civic engagement, saving lives in emergencies, promoting food security and economic justice, increasing funding for basic services, and equal rights for women (cf. Oxfam 2015 cited in Gaudelli 2016).

The popular organization UNESCO aims to empower students to actively engage in global and local challenges, to take a proactive role and hence to contribute to a “[…] more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable world” (UNESCO 2018 cited in Suša 2019, 6). The Maastricht Declaration served as a basis for developing the European policy framework in GE (cf. Symeonidis 2015). According to Gaudelli, The Maastricht Global Education Declaration focuses on “eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, providing universal primary education, promoting gender quality, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health” (The Maastricht Global Education Declaration 2015 cited in Gaudelli 2016, 44).


3.3 Key Learning Outcomes by UNESCO

In 2014, UNESCO defined several key learning outcomes of GCE, which the organization separated into the categories of cognitive, socio-emotional, and behavioral outcomes. Regarding the cognitive key learning outcomes, UNESCO expects students to have knowledge and understanding of local, national, and global issues. Furthermore, they should recognize the interconnectedness and interdependency of nations and develop critical thinking and analysis skills. However, the development of critical thinking skills is not part of the syllabus of Communist states, and I am aware that this is a Western goal.

Given the socio-emotional key learning outcomes, students are asked to increase their awareness of belonging to common humanity while sharing values that are based on human rights. Here, students should extend their ability to understand the feelings of others, act in solidarity, and respect differences and diversity. On the behavioral level, UNESCO expects students to act responsibly at any level, whether it be local, national, or global, to create a more peaceful and sustainable world. Motivation and willingness to change preexisting conditions are – among other key learning aspects – the most important ones (cf. UNESCO 2014).


3.4 Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship

In 2015, all members of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to accomplish a sustainable future for all human beings. Luckily, we had the opportunity to listen to Hon.Prof. Dr. Thomas Hoffmann’s talk in our seminar “Global English(es), Global TEFL & Global Citizenship Education”. He is a member of the “SGG Expert Net“, co-author of the brochure “Teaching the Sustainable Development Goals“, and a teacher educator in Karlsruhe. He explained the Sustainable Development Goals to us in fascinating detail. (I would suggest reading the blog post of J. Hoffmann if you are interested in finding out more about this.)

In essence, those goals address global challenges such as “poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice” (United Nations 2015, 1). The fourth goal fosters worldwide quality education in order to reduce poverty and injustice, especially in terms of gender equality. Target 4.7 focuses on Global Citizenship Education which promotes “skills, values and knowledge to empower them as global citizens through the practice and promotion of tolerance, human rights, social justice and acceptance of diversity, allows people to co-exist within diverse spaces and [seek] to fulfill their individual and cultural interest and [achieve] their inalienable rights” (Scwab 2017 cited Bridge 47 2019, 7).


4. Two different Approaches to GCE: The Soft Approach vs. the Critical Approach by Andreotti

Due to the various discourses concerning GCE, different approaches to GCE have emerged. The following chapter will analyze the main approaches. Marshall (2009) highlights “key tension between the two dominant agendas: equipping pupils for work and life in a global society (arguably a neoliberal agenda) and developing commitment to a fairer and more sustainable world (arguably a socially-democratic agenda)” (Huckle 2015, p. 80). Johnson (2010) illustrates another conception of GC. She differentiates between eight types of global citizenship, the “political, moral, economic, cultural-aesthetic, critical, positional, environmental and spiritual” (Johnson 2010 cited in Symeonidis 2015, 24).

The first four mentioned here refer to “soft approaches” and the last four display rather “critical approaches” of GCE (cf. Symeonidis 2015). Andreotti (2006) draws a distinction between soft and critical versions of GCE. Her paper conceptualizing these two approaches has been cited by more than hundreds of scholars and gained overall recognition among different stakeholders of GCE. Taking that into account, the next two sub-chapters will analyze those two approaches in more detail.


4.1 What is the Soft Approach?

Many countries apply soft approaches to GCE to such an extent that the question arises whether soft versions seem justifiable in view of increasing economic inequality. Soft versions of GCE “generally characterize international GCE discourses” (Symeonidis 2015, 45). According to Niens and Reilly (2012), most schools do not include critical reflections but rather apply soft approaches, which supports students to adopt “universal” humanitarian values. However, engaging sufficiently with the context and critically reflecting on it is neglected (cf. Symeonidis 2015).
This unintentionally leads to widening income inequality. More precisely, it “reflects a humanitarian/moral framework for understanding our relationship to others, empowering individuals to act, raising awareness of global issues and promoting campaign” (Symeonidis 2015, 23).

However, soft versions do not tackle the “root causes of current global issues” (Suša 2019, 10). Promoting tolerance implies the assumption of an existing hierarchical structure “between the tolerant ones and those being tolerated” (Suša 2019, 7). Instead, those acts often reproduce unjust power relations by taking it for granted that the “global”, as discussed in political discourses, mirrors everyone’s interests alike (cf. Andreotti 2006).

In fact, it only represents a local interest “which has been globalized through the scope of its reach” (Shiva 1998 Andreotti 2006, 3). Hence, global culture is predominately defined by Western nations, which some scholars interpret as a type of cultural imperialism (cf. Carter 2015, 9).

Soft versions of GCE do not consider globalization as “an asymmetrical process” and thus that power is unequally distributed among nations (Dobson 2005 cited in Andreotti 2006, 3). Therefore, this approach encourages students to assume that Western nations are superior because of their economic wealth. This economic inequality recreates colonial structures (cf. Bhabha 2006).
It completely ignores history, particularly colonialism, which has led to the West’s economic wealth and thus its global influence (cf. Andreotti 2006). Indeed, it is not sufficient to cultivate moral values such as “tolerance and common humanity”, but discussions must “include critical reflection and discourse on local identities” (Symeonidis 2015, 75). Otherwise, it exacerbates the problem “that it is trying to resolve” (Suša 2019, 10).


4.2 What is the Critical Approach?

Critical versions of GCE adapt a post-colonial lens to acknowledge globalization as an uneven distribution of power among the Global South and Western nations. Here, a global citizen is aware of hegemonic practices and takes the initiative to challenge existing structures (cf. Shultz 2007).
The main foci are to approach inequality and oppression by comprehending knowledge production and the cultivation of “hyper-self-reflexivity”. Additionally, students should develop skills that enable them to master paradoxical and complex situations, which Andreotti names “dissensus” (cf. Goren & Yemini 2016).

Compared to the soft approach, the critical approach does not campaign for universal values. It supports learners to critically deal with the context before acting upon it instead of adopting a preconceived opinion. This approach of GCE strives for liberating GCE from “ethnocentrism and absolute relativism” (Andreotti 2011 in Symeonidis 2015, 22). It intends to increase awareness of students’ own cultural backgrounds and contexts by closely reflecting on them (cf. Pashby 2013 cited in Symeonidis 2015).

Todd (2009) states that the critical approach advocates open attitudes towards cultural differences, to negotiation of meaning and a doubtful view on “universal” values that might ignore opinions of minority groups (cf. Todd 2009 cited in Andreotti 2010). Here, the aim of GCE is not to establish universal outcomes, but rather to find the “appropriate lens” for each specific context (Andreotti 2010, 244). According to Lapayese, dominant ideologies, power structures and contemporary curricula, need to be questioned through critical approaches to GCE.

However, this approach does not neglect a person’s responsibility for their own action as an essential aspect of GCE (cf. Lapayese 2003). It emphazies that “knowledge, learning, reality and identities [are] […] socially constructed, fluid, open to negotiation and provisional” (Andreotti 2010, 239). As shown in Table 2, critical GCE (cf. Critical Approach) highlights causes instead of symptoms, such as complex structures and power relations instead of poverty or lack of development. It views meanings as not fixed, but rather as fluid and changeable when applied to various and diverse contexts (cf. Huckle 2015).


5. Global Citizenship Education in the EFl Classroom

Global Citizenship has become a central topic for language educators, as the development of linguistic skills is not the only goal of teaching English in schools (cf. Andreotti 2008). There are several reasons why the EFL classroom is an ideal space for education for GC. This chapter will provide an analysis of those reasons and will proceed with a concrete implementation method.


5.1 Opportunities in the EFL Classroom

Especially the “English as a Foreign Language” classroom holds many great opportunities for educators, which will be now be detailed. Just as a note, ideally, one would call it Global language instead of “Foreign” language due to the problem of Othering.

Firstly, Fisher (1990) points out that in order to become an open-minded and critically thinking person, these foundational thinking skills have to be established early in life during the formative years. Secondly, language classrooms in schools should be marked by a non-threatening atmosphere. Here, students can discuss issues without getting judged due to their opinion. This language classroom covers a variety of topics, including, for instance, human rights and gender equality, which raises students’ social awareness (cf. Green et al. 2005).

Thirdly, at the latest since the linguistic turn appeared in Western philosophy, most people agree that language does not only describe reality, but it shapes the representations one constructs of oneself and the world (cf. Gimenez 2008). Additionally, as Fogaça and Jordão argue, if “language is discourse [and] discourse constructs our meanings, then we may consider the foreign language classroom in our schools as the ideal space for discussing the procedures for ascribing meanings to the world” (Fogaça & Jordão 2008, p. 20).

Finally, due to globalization processes, the importance of the English language has drastically increased. Its spread is highly intertwined with globalization and thus has an important role in the global context. Learning English can help to cope with international issues, master international communication, and hence the development of GC (cf. Gimenez 2008).


5.2 Concrete Implementations

As examined in the prior sub-chapters, critical global citizenship education enables students to think critically, encounter meaningful experiences, and act responsibly. In turn, learners are equipped with the skills needed to understand power structures and relations. Moreover, it opens a space that welcomes diverse pupils and contexts without forcing them to act in a predefined way (cf. Lapayese 2003).

In this sense, the language classroom provides space for open dialogue, as explained by Andreotti. Open Spaces for Dialogue and Enquiry (OSDE) is an educational methodology that attempts to change preexisting structures. However, this method does not support learners to adopt a specific mode of action or opinion but rather provides space where students feel safe to observe other world views and understand how they are related to one another (cf. Andreotti 2008).
It encourages students to engage and act critically. Here, the word “critical” stands for tracing origins and implications regarding historical and cultural productions of power and knowledge. Students develop specific thinking skills that enable them to make well-informed decisions. Basic principles of OSDE include the notion that everybody’s knowledge is legitimate and valid in their context, that knowledge is always fragmentary and hence needs to be questioned.

A reading technique within OSDE supporting those principles is critical literacy, in which students “engage with [their] own and other perspectives to learn and transform our views/identities/relationships – to think otherwise” (Andreotti 2008, p. 43). The fundamental idea behind this is that language shapes reality, and students need to be aware of that language use.
Therefore, critical literacy demands students to critically scrutinize assumptions behind statements and the author’s understanding of the world. Moreover, it focuses questions like “who decides what ‘being somebody’ means, in whose name, for whose benefit then, and now, how do we come to think about the ways we do, who makes choices about understandings of reality, whose interests are represented in these choices, who benefits or loses with them, what choices are forgotten, how do people in different contexts understand the idea of ‘being somebody’?” (Andreotti 2014, p. 13). Furthermore, students should become conscious about blind spots occurring in certain texts and analyze them carefully (cf. Andreotti 2011).


6. Conclusion

In conclusion, it can be said that GCE aims to form a world community.

Nevertheless, the different conceptions of GCE expose distinct visions of the world community and thus how to create it. Therefore, different approaches to GCE have developed. Soft approaches to GCE envision this world community following a Western model preferably. From my point of view, this is dangerous because it neglects the opinions of others, namely the ones who are most affected by contemporary problems. Personally speaking, I would even claim that it lays a nourishing ground for internalizing racist beliefs under the mask of a certain kind of cosmopolitism, which leads to the exclusion of others.

I think that young people – especially young Western citizens – need to be aware of the fact that the social inequality on our planet does not derive from “underdevelopment” but rather because of the colonial past.

As a teacher, one is partly responsible for forming society through education. Hence, it is essential to reflect one’s owns belief systems to make well-informed choices in terms of educational issues. Compared to soft approches of GCE, critical versions of GCE center on the need for critical thinking skills and avoid uniformization.

Concerning my initial research question, the EFL classroom is an ideal space for educating pupils and students towards GC. It offers many opportunities to critically analyze and discuss language, discourse, and thus power relations. One among other implementation methods of GCE is OSDE, which supports developing the ability to see through other eyes.


Text by J. Weigelmann



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