Challenging and Changing global education?

In 1717, Derby used to be the centre of the Industrial Revolution. A water powered silk mill, a knitting machine and a cotton spinning machine were amongst the many great innovations that speeded up the Industrial Revolution and it all happened in the city of Derby!

Now, let’s fast forward 300 years to an interdependent and globalised world where textile production has moved miles away from Derby and where most of us haven’t ever seen a knitting machine. Today Derby has a new niche and one of them is that it has become the centre for global education- well that’s my experience at least.

From July 4th till July 8th I attended an EC funded training ran by Global Education Derby called Connect, Challenge and Change. For five intense days along with participants from Turkey, Romania, Poland and other parts of the UK we  debated how we can get young people excited about global issues.

Raul, from Mundi, an organisation part of the East Midlands International Youth Work and Development Education Network, showed two photos: one with blue fin tuna and the other with people on a small fishing boat in the middle of the sea. He asks us what the connection was between the images. Overfishing is a big problem in the Mediterranean, which has meant that a lot of fishermen have lost their jobs due to large fishing corporations, hence leading to an influx of economic migrants in Europe. Global education is not about learning to play an African instrument, he states, it is about getting young people to critically question their surroundings.

I guess the overarching question about the training was, “How do we get young people to engage and critically question their environment?” Ruth and Alison our lovely facilitators from Global Education Derby made us explore this through workshops where we connected, where we were challenged and where we were inspired to change.

During the first day we looked at how we get young people to connect to global issues using their experiences as a starting point. Using a shower curtain that had a huge world map, we were asked to take a little chip and place it on the country where our clothes were from. Most of us unsurprisingly put it on China. A simple shower curtain sparked a long debate about capitalism, globalisation, and the textile industry and youth unemployment.

On the second day of our training we were challenged by role play. I was asked to play the role of the coca farmer in Bolivia. My name was Juan of course. We argued we had to continue growing the coca plant because it was our livelihood and the only thing that would make us stop would be better opportunities in life. We had grown coca for our whole life and it would be hard to get a new job, moreover it gave us enough money to send our children to school and pay for our doctor. After presenting each role we then saw a video were the coca growers actually explained why the coca plant was so important to their culture. They would do toothpaste, shampoo, tea, beds and all kinds of products by the coca plant. This was an interesting eye opener for me.

On our last day of training we were asked to discuss change and how we get young people to do it on a personal level, local and national level. We watched some really inspiring videos. One of them was about young people in Tower Hamlets who had led a campaign against the arms fair that happened in their local community. The young people were asking the organisers how come they sold arms to countries were people kill each other.

I believe this links very well with what the Citizenship Foundation does through our previous Youth Act work, Act Global, Giving Nation and now the project I run called Make the Link – Climate exChange which links young people to environmental issues. Global education to me is very much about getting young people gain confidence on how to live in a 21st century world and adapt to the fast-paced changes.

Global education is a field in transition now due to obvious reasons of funding. As practitioners we still need to wonder why we haven’t been able to make a stronger case for the UK government of how valuable it is for young people to understand the global interdependencies between countries and how that affects them on a daily life. I thank Global Education Derby for an insightful week and I am looking forward to join forces on this continuous complex debate of what global education in the 21st century should look like.

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

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