Changing Systems to Change the World: UNESCO and Asia-Pacific partners host regional webinar on ‘Systemic Transformations Needed to Advance GCED’, 17 November 2022
The UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, along with APCIEU and additional partners in Asia-Pacific, organised and hosted the webinar, ‘Changing Systems to Change the World: Systemic Transformations Needed to Advance GCED’ (hereafter ‘Changing Systems’ or ‘Webinar’), on 17 November 2022. The Webinar had the aim of establishing a strong connection between Global Citizenship Education (GCED) with local contexts in Asia-Pacific, while acknowledging the global aim of GCED through the capacity-building of diverse stakeholders in the region.
The panel-led Webinar featured 4 speakers from New Zealand and Australia, and was moderated by Ms Libby Giles, Education Director, Centres of Asia-Pacific Excellence (CAPEs), New Zealand, and Dr Karena Menzie-Ballantyne, Senior Lecturer in Education at CQUniversity, Australia.
Changing Systems was organised with the following objectives: (1) to provide examples drawn from a trans-Tasman research project: Embedding and sustaining the global citizenship education agenda at system and school level, which the webinar was based on, and which explored how GCED can be genuinely embedded in teaching and learning at all levels in a sustainable way; and (2) to present the perspectives that have been identified through research with the intention of encouraging participants to consider the types of systemic changes currently needed for effective GCED. The ultimate objective of the Webinar was to provoke considerations of systems changes that may be needed to authentically embed GCED in the participants’ own learning contexts.
In total, the Webinar received 97 registrations and 53 participants from over 15 Asia-Pacific countries with a wide range of profiles, among them teachers, policy-makers and students. The opening remarks were delivered by Ms Rika Yorozu, Head of Executive Office, UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education (UNESCO Bangkok), and Dr Hyun Mook Lim, Director, Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding (APCEIU). Ms Libby Giles provided the introduction and context of the Webinar prior to the presentations given by the panelists.
The panel-led presentations began with Mr Chris Dench’s sharing of his GCED journey at Kilcoy State High School, in Southeast Queensland, Australia, where he was a former school principal. He highlighted several useful learning points, such as building the pedagogical capability of staff to effectively engage students, and the importance of school leadership, interpretation and attitudes towards GCED. While leadership may change, once school leaders have enabled a shift in teachers’ mindsets towards GCED, e.g. helping teachers understand that GCED does not comprise a competing agenda with education for fundamental skills but provides, rather, a complementary curriculum, GCED practices will be sustainable over the long term.
Ms Tyler Te Kiri, Project Leader at CAPEs Education Māori, University of Waikato, New Zealand, commented that it would be ideal to create an education system that places importance on the knowledge, stories, cultures, and values that learners bring with them into the classroom. This might entail increasing investment in the proper resources, whether they be money, time, and/or the rewriting of education policies that would validate and celebrate younger generations.
Mr Andrew King, Principal of Oropi School, New Zealand, stated that his GCED curriculum is strongly inquiry-based and that his school strives to provide most learning contextually rather than solely based on standard curriculum requirements. For example, the Oropi School has a ‘garden table’ programme to teach the students sustainability principles. The school stays engaged with sister schools in China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, to compare and contrast the issues commonly faced, particularly in regard to climate change and other pressing global subjects. Mr King also expressed his belief that language learning is a key foundation for embedding in learners all the global competencies.
Ms Maia Weatherstone, a student at Indooroopilly State High School, Australia, described the high level of student engagement in GCED at her school, citing the school’s ‘connect programme’, in which all students participate, and in which the year-level coordinator will pick a theme related to global citizenship or global competencies themes. Ms. Weatherspoon cited an example in of the latter in a programme called ‘videos for change’, for which students created videos looking at reduced inequalities, environmental sustainability, and education. Ms Weatherstone also suggested educating children on GCED from a young age, as this would enable young people to adopt the values and beliefs of GCED more easily, in turn improving how global citizenship might be incorporated in high school and later years of post-secondary schooling.
Dr Menzie-Ballantyne concluded the panel-sharing by echoing the importance of teacher professional development in GCED, such as providing pre-service and in-service training for teachers, as well as other trainings to help shift mindsets. Dr Menzie-Ballantyne notes that teachers need to believe in what they are teaching. In addition, a measurement tool for GCED outcomes would also be helpful for enhancing wider appreciation for GCED’s full educational potential.
Questions and Facilitated Discussion Session
Changing Systems proceeded with a question and discussion session, in which participants were highly engaged. Mr Andrew King shared a strategy for celebrating and showing examples of GCED, via video clips and writing, a tool he called ‘learning stories’ to show parents what the students are doing, and how they were benefiting from engaging with students from other parts of the world.
Dr Menzie-Ballantyne wrapped up the Webinar by stating that through her research and engagement with schools, she has found that GCED ‘best practices’ look different in each context, culture and country. Ms Rika Yorozu, of UNESCO, presented closing remarks by thanking the participants and the panelists for a fruitful conversation, concluded with a recitation of webinar keywords and key phrases, among them ‘the need for school exchange’; ‘the whole school systems’; ‘putting teachers in the center but also empowering the school principals and school managers to support the teachers’; and ‘most important to make learning fun and enjoyable’; the latter which UNESCO is currently advocating through its Happy Schools initiative.
Overall, the Webinar has received positive feedback from its participants. The in-depth discussion session was filled with rich ideas from different perspectives, suggestions from the lived experience of the panelists, and additional informative inputs.