We have reached a point in our history where technology has developed beyond the ability of human society to manage it. We have always had wars and terrorism but now we also have the ability to destroy all higher forms of life. Our economic development is not sustainable and resources are being depleted in an unplanned manner while population growth continues. Poverty, disease and illiteracy are widespread. Climate change alone threatens destabilisation through floods, fire, starvation and drought, and even our oxygen supply is under threat.
To overcome these problems our focus needs to be global. National and commercial interests cannot be trusted to provide an answer. Education alone will not solve the problems, but the right kind of education is essential if these problems are to be addressed meaningfully.
Young people are the future, and need to have not only knowledge about democracy, human rights, global and national institutions, but need to be given the skills, confidence and experience to be able to take action, to feel empowered. There needs to be dialogue between teachers and students, partly through the medium of school councils, on what decisions students should take in schools, so preparing them for adult life. They should be given the framework in which they can affect and educate their local community. They should be given the opportunity to communicate with students around the world.
Citizenship is now in the curriculum. The government wants to “put the world into world class education” and address racism and sectarian conflict in our society. We need to have the psychology of citizens rather than slaves, and be able to cooperatively work out the way forward. All aspects of the curriculum should have a global dimension. The wider the perspective, the greater the wisdom, the more possibility there is for limiting disaster.
I end with three quotes from Chris Waller of the Association of Citizenship Teaching
- “The greatest challenge for us is to decide whether as a society we really want an education system that stifles the learning environment in order to fulfil the aims of the reporting system or whether we want a system that young learners enjoy because it helps them to consider tomorrow’s problems today.”
- “Addressing issues such as sustainability and cultural diversity are more important than better grades in maths and English to the future of this country”.
- “We need to equip children, young people and adults for life in a global society and work in a global economy”.