Learning to be teachers: building the confidence to explore global issues

In February 2005 Darius was part of a Tide~ study visit to Derry exploring what we can learn from Citizenship issues and experiences in this locality.

When I think of the state of Citizenship in schools I always use Balbir Sohal’s analogy of baby socks. She visualises older established subjects as wearing thick, heavy duty walking socks, whilst Citizenship wears a pair of baby booties with pink ribbons. However this new born baby has some impressive expectations laid upon it:


If Citizenship is going to get close to any of these expectations it needs to be seen as more than just a new slot in the timetable; it needs its own body of subject knowledge and even more important its own pedagogic practice. This provides a particular problem for ITE students of Citizenship. There is already a body of professional practice in place for say History, Geography or Physics but one has yet to develop in Citizenship. So how are student teachers, and experienced teachers, to access this new pedagogy?

This problem is especially true when we consider the last of those demands: promoting global awareness. The big problem is that an image of global citizenship seems counter intuitive. We have a British passport, cheer at national victories in the Olympics and may even vote in European elections, but being a citizen of the world is a harder concept to grasp.

The philosopher Ray Bhaskar argues that for communication to occur there needs to be an area of ideas and experience that are common [mutuality] and areas that are different. If there is nothing in common there is no chance of understanding each other and if there is nothing different there is nothing to talk about [Ray Bhaskar The Possibility of Naturalism].

One of the temptations when teaching about the diversity of humanity is to revel in the difference. Years ago, as a young teacher of Sociology, my classes were amazed at the range of wedding traditions and marriage arrangements. Looking back, I am embarrassed at the exoticism I was peddling.

PGCE students need to reflect on their own experiences if they are to develop the knowledge and practices to teach about global issues. We start this process, at Birmingham, with a diagram to map out their links to the rest of the world [available on the Tide~ web-site]. This comes as a shock to many as they realise how integrated the global economy really is, but this impact inspires many of them to use this resource in their own teaching.

It also enables them to start approaching issues of world trade in their teaching. This activity also helps with teaching about identity. What, for some of us, may seem exotic and global, for many of our pupils in Birmingham can be familiar. This point is made by Audrey Osler and Hugh Starkey in their research on cosmopolitan citizenship in Leicester. We must embrace the idea that all of us have multiple identities, which function in local, national and global contexts.

During the year the students work at a local Third World debt campaign conference. They not only study the problems facing a specific country but also need to consider how to communicate it effectively. They learn how to organise and distribute work as a team. Using the internet, they can be overwhelmed with information. As they spot similarities with Britain they are able to make sense of all this material. Issues such as urbanisation, uneven distribution of wealth, rural depopulation and poverty enable them to understand what they are reading.

Resources alone will not help improve global citizenship teaching; teachers need time to reflect on the issues and search out the points of mutuality and difference. This will enable them to develop the subject knowledge and pedagogic practices to teach global citizenship.

See Exploring Ubuntu for ideas and approaches to support ITE students exploration of Citizenship Education in a global context.