Global Citizenship Education: In Early Childhood Education, What Does That Mean?

global children

This initial post parallels the vision of Global Citizenship Education (GCED) and the core values and beliefs of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Much of the discussions and research around GCED include how to incorporate GCED into educational curriculum. By paralleling the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Global Education First Initiative’s vision (GEFI) and NAEYC’s fundamentals, we can begin to illuminate viable practices. These practices will become clearer as we later parallel GCED with Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) and examine how play is a child’s natural expression of, and vehicle for, learning to become a globally minded citizen.

UNESCO’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) has three priorities, the last of which is Foster Global Citizenship. This priority is at the center of the movement for Global Citizenship Education (GCED). There is much debate in the academic world regarding how to define, incorporate, and assess GCED at any, and all, levels of education. While these are important aspects to consider, especially at higher levels of education, Early Childhood Education (ECE) is strategically positioned to begin moving toward incorporating GCED into ECE programs and curricula while the broader academic community continues to work toward satisfying the semantics and logistics of defining GCED and what it looks like in educational curricula.

UNESCO’s key message, as it appears on pages 14-15 in the Final Report of the Second UNESCO Forum on Global Citizenship Education, clearly states its vision, defines GCED, discusses implementation and key partners, and finally discusses the role of technology and media in promoting GCED. NAEYC’s Core Values and Beliefs are clearly listed on their website. Upon examining each organization’s values and beliefs, we can immediately see commonalities, namely: a devotion to quality and relevant education, respect for and appreciation of diversity while still appreciating and valuing the uniqueness of the individual, the importance of relationships and relational learning, learning to “be” and to “live” together, not just learning to “do” and to “know” skills and concepts.

In the field of ECE, this should look very familiar to us. Later when we parallel DAP and GCED, if there is any blurriness, it will dissipate. For now, pertinent questions we can begin to ask ourselves, and our colleagues, are 1) how am I/are we providing relevant education to our children and families, or even are we?, 2) do I/we genuinely respect and understand the diverse population of our center and community?, 3) how am I/are we manifesting that respect and understanding?, 4) is that respect and understanding clear to our families and children?, 5) how am I/are we supporting children and families in learning how to “be” together and live together? Be brutally honest with yourself and your colleagues. It is okay, even exceptional, if we identify areas where we need to improve ourselves and our programs.

While I have my own answers to these questions and an emerging picture of what GCED looks like in ECE, I am eager to hear the ideas of others. Feel free to comment below with your answers to these questions, or other questions you feel are important in creating momentum toward blending GCED with ECE.

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