The Global Education First Initiative summarizes Global Citizenship Education (GCED) in its introduction to Priority #3, Foster Global Citizenship. Five points can specifically be addressed by the Early Childhood Education (ECE) field and its larger community of stakeholders:
1) “Education must be transformative and bring shared values to life”
2) “[education] must cultivate an active care for the world and for those with whom we share it”
3) “[education] must transform the way people think and act”
4) “Education must fully assume its central role in helping people to forge more just, peaceful, tolerant and inclusive societies.”
5) “[education] must give people the understanding, skills and values they need to cooperate in resolving the interconnected challenges of the 21st century.”
Paralleling these tenets with Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP), we see how each can be blended into ECE programs.
“Transformative learning…seeks to discover and explain how learning engages individuals so that they grow, evolve, and progress… Transformative learning is about embracing and engaging difficulties and challenges through learning (versus through problem-solving; tasks forces; trainings, etc)” (Transformative Learning Network). While problem-solving, tasks forces, and trainings involve looking at solutions to challenges prior to engagement in the experience, transformative learning is reflective and results from having already engaged in the experience. We ask, “What have I learned from having experienced this challenge?” “How did this challenge change me?” “How have I evolved in my thinking?” Both reflection and solutions-based skills are necessary to model with children. Additionally, teachers benefit from a more in-depth understanding of how each child processes experiences and information when they engage in both types of discussions with children. It is also helpful for teachers to engage in transformative learning through reflection of their teaching practices and life experiences.
In Global Citizenship Education, education focuses on the shared values, while respecting the uniqueness of values within these multiple social and cultural contexts, in order to create an inclusive learning community that highlights diverse collaboration. In ECE programs, understanding familial and cultural values, and incorporating those vales into our programs, as best we can, are the core of family centered practice and DAP. We respect each child and family as individuals while at the same time moving toward understanding their uniqueness and blending those values into our programs. We identify what values our programs share with our families and work together to incorporate them into our programs.
Active Care for the World
DAP’s Guideline #1 for Effective Teaching advocates “Creating a caring community of learners” (NAEYC). Global Citizenship Education advocates for extending this community beyond the learning environments of community, school, family, and society, to encompass all environments, especially the natural world in which we live, and all components of this natural world, such as plants, animals, waterways, forests, etc. GCED includes sustainable living education at its core. In ECE programs, we can begin to create a caring community of learners for our natural world by reconnecting children to nature through outdoor programs and classrooms, gardening and composting, recycling, and fostering nature-centered values as shared values. We can foster partnerships and collaborative experiences with other like-minded stakeholders that involve diverse groups with whom we share values. Such stakeholders can include conservancy groups, green living groups, and outdoor recreation groups.
Tolerant and Inclusive Societies
In addition to guideline #1 discussed above, which is also a component of developing tolerance and inclusiveness within learning environments, guideline #5 is paramount in building tolerance and inclusiveness. Guideline #5 emphasizes relationship building with families, however we can and must take this relationship building beyond just our families and include other stakeholder groups that can assist us as well. Some of these groups could be early intervention specialists, immigrant and refugee support groups, and linguistic translation groups whom have the skills to assist us in understanding and accepting diverse groups into our programs.
Global Citizenship Education is a hot topic, and rightly so, if we are truly committed to raising competent learners equipped to navigate global issues once in adulthood. Early Childhood Education is the maiden leg of a lifelong journey of learning. It is imperative that we look at GCED closely, and purposefully and intentionally plan experiences and environments in which learning is transformative, centered upon shared values, and fosters tolerance and inclusiveness. When we truly follow DAP and blend in elements of GCED in age appropriate approaches, we can position ECE as a leader of innovative teaching, instead of a follower of push-down methods.
– A follow up post will address how ECE can decrease the barriers to Global Citizenship that GEFI states in Priority #3.