To the School of Education, in Fraser Noble Hall at the University of Leicester, where I’m presenting a workshop as part of a training event for PGCE primary school teachers: “Education for the 21st Century – Incorporating the Global Dimension”. The Global Dimension is an educational initiative supported by the Department for International Development, which has grown out of earlier programmes developing themes of citizenship and community cohesion in our schools. In a nutshell, it encourages children to have a wider perspective on the world in which they live and instills in schoolchildren a sense of awe and wonder at our planetary home. It is meant to be embedded across the curriculum, campus and culture of schools.
Making the Global Dimension a central part of school life means equipping children to live in a world of change, in which they will have to live with intensification of issues that earlier generations may not have had to address: climate change; biodiversity loss; air pollution; terrestrial system weakening (deforestation, desertification, agricultural overuse); poverty; inequality; debt; conflict; pandemics. These are often described as “megaproblems”; how much of this can we burden children with? Teachers and schools have to help children respond to these megaproblems in ways that are that are positive, hopeful and energising. It’s a strange thing to be doing, on a number of levels and we’re all very self-conscious of this. We’re helping train teachers who will prepare children for adult life in a world that we can barely imagine. These teachers, qualifying at the start of the second decade of the 21st century will be in charge of children who could easily be living into the start of the 22nd. Given what’s happened over the last 100 years, how can we conceive of what might take place in the next? It beggars belief and baffles the imagination. But whatever we’re passing on to the next generation, we can’t make them a gift of apathy, disinterest or fatalism. Many of the difficulties that we see bubbling up now will hit them with full force – heaven help them.
The “Global Dimension” in education has eight key concepts: global citizenship; sustainable development; human rights; interdependence; conflict resolution; social justice; diversity; values and perceptions. The workshops are designed to try and cover all these principles. The workshop I’m presenting is entitled, “The Globe on Our Doorstep”. It’s my intention to help these trainee teachers to consider ways to use the presence of faith communities in and around the city as an educational resource to help further the global dimension, presenting them as being of interest and relevance to the school and its wider "family", to show how we might discover their unity and celebrate their diversity. Other workshops on offer today:
- Developing Thinking and Enquiry Skills Through Philosophy for Children (Clare Carr)
- The Global Dimension Accessed Through the Outdoor Classroom (Claire Plumb)
- Sustainable Schools and the Global Dimension in the Classroom and Curriculum (Phil & Barbara Smith);
- Global Education Through School Linking (Helen Trilling)
- Using Play to Bring Home the Global Dimension (Paul & Alice Warwick)
There are about 120 student teachers attending. They get to pick two workshops to fill their afternoon, so we all present our one-hour session twice, to 15 of them at a time.
This is the third time I've contributed to this sort of event at the University of Leicester. Involvement in the East Midlands Network for Global Perspectives in Schools has been a constant feature from the earliest days of my post with Leicester Council of Faiths. Given the state of our world – and its possible future – it might be argued that there is no part of our children’s education that’s more important than this. But right now it looks like there will be no funding for this programme from the middle of 2010 onward. Now that can’t be right, can it?