Fostering values and attitudes of solidarity and empathy is a key part of global citizenship education and connects in well with the Junior Cycle Wellbeing Framework.
GCE should be approached with an open mind. We often think of the world within our own parameters and GCE challenges us to ‘unlearn’ and venture into the unknown to see things from other perspectives. Imagining a fairer better world requires wisdom as well as knowledge.
It’s important to use methodologies that bring out the values and attitudes of students on global issues.
Below are the values that global citizenship education can help to foster.
Empathy not sympathy: Empathy is about feeling with other people, sympathy is about feeling for. It’s important that we try to put students in the shoes of people affected by the global issues we are learning about, and support them to feel empathy with rather than feeling sorry for those affected.
Solidarity not charity: It’s important to instill a sense of solidarity in our students, to stand with people as fellow human beings with whom we can collaborate, instead of seeing people as ‘charity cases’ and resorting to fundraising as the only action to ‘help’. Making connections with how our lifestyles and behaviours can impact the world’s people and planet is a good place to start.
Respect for self: In a just and democratic society, respect for self is central to the flourishing of well being of both the individual and the wider community. Respecting oneself brings both the capacity to act autonomously and be self-motivated. It is an essential prerequisite to have respect and concern for others.
Respect for others and human rights for all: The disposition to respect and care for others is central to living interdependently. The positive relationships forged among individuals and groups are essential to the development of qualities such as cooperation, interdependence and respect for a diversity of people and cultures. These positive relationships will support us to live and work in the realities of the world of today – and in the future.
A sense of social responsibility and belonging: In a society geared to the general wellbeing of all, it is essential to develop a commitment to social responsibility – without shying away from a critical examination of power relationships, privilege and traditions. Such a disposition to social responsibility should also entail a commitment to social justice and the sustainable use of the environment, where we all feel collectively part of our global enterprise as a result of common purpose, rather than personal self-interest.
A commitment to learning: In a world increasingly characterised by change and adaptation, the need to have an open disposition to learning, to make new connections and new meanings, is fundamental. This would also require: willingness to adopt a critical stance towards information, willingness to give reasons why one holds a view or acts in a certain way, and to expect similar reasons from others; respect for evidence in holding and forming opinions, willingness to be open to the possibility of changing one’s own attitudes and values in the light of the evidence.
Belief that you can make a difference: We can actually affect change! Sometimes it can seem that the world’s problems are too big for us to tackle, but all of us working together can make a difference!