Global citizenship in formal education systems and cooperative inquiry research: a cooperative inquiry experience with teachers and NGDO practitioners.

Jadicha Sow Paíno

Holder of a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Sciences and a Master’s Degree in Development Cooperation.

Universidad Politécnica de Valencia [Polytechnic University of Valencia]. Technical Assistant on the project entitled Global Dimension in Engineering Education

Keywords: Cooperative Research, Development Education.

Summary: This article aims to show the processes and findings of two cooperative inquiry research projects carried out between 2010 and 2012 in the city of Valencia. These research projects involved teachers across all levels of the formal education system, as well as NGDO practitioners engaging in education. The aim of the two processes was to reflect on the meaning of and practices related to global citizenship in the classroom, as well as to make a series of practical recommendations seeking to contribute a set of knowledge towards educating global citizens. The cooperative inquiries conducted have meant an epistemological shift and a review of the theoretical principles that are proposed in popular education and in development education.

1. Introduction

Although the concept of Global Citizenship (GC) seems to have been coined this century, it was actually used by Immanuel Kant back in the 18th century:

The more or less close-knit community that has been established among all the peoples on earth has come to the point where a breach of Law that occurs in one place has an effect on everyone else. This is how we come to understand the idea that ‘World Citizen Law’ is not an imaginary legal construct, but a necessary complement to the unwritten code falling within the realm of Political Law and the Law of Peoples. It is, therefore, elevated to the category of Public Law of Humanity and fosters perpetual peace, which is a precondition so that we may harbour hope for a continuous approach to a peaceful state. (Kant, 1795; 2003)

This concept of citizenship, as an ideal comprising responsibility, respect and interdependence, and how to foster it through the formal education system constitute the themes explored in the two Cooperative Inquiry (CI) experiences conducted between 2010 and 2012 in the Province of Valencia (Spain). To be more specific, we have firstly sought to define what is understood by GC and what its distinguishing features are. Secondly, we have sought to understand which of the practices and education stances existing among teachers in the formal education system and Non-governmental Development Organisations (NGDOs) foster the previously defined GC. And lastly, we have endeavoured to discover how a CI process may, in itself, be a GC driver.

Both studies, which are qualitative and exploratory in nature, have, rather than seeking generalisable answers, strived to collect the reflections of an interdisciplinary group of practitioners and provide practical suggestions based on their experiences, which can be applied in the various areas of formal education in which they work.

The theoretical framework that underpins the concepts, analyses and discussions that have been developed throughout the CI is introduced in the first part of this work. Next, the methodology employed, which is not only a tool for analysis, but also entails an epistemological positioning for research, is presented. Finally, the evidence and discussions of the inquiries as well as the key findings and recommendations for the development of both educational work and future inquiry tasks on these issues will be illustrated.

2. Theoretical influences

The theoretical influences based on which the two inquiries were conducted originate from the principles of Popular Education (PE), fifth-generation Development Education (DE) or Global Citizenship Education (GCE) as well as CI. The choice of these topics reflects both their commonalities and their complementarity, in addition to their individual input. Their convergence produces the framework with which to analyse and propose realities and educational practices that foster the creation of various types of citizenships, which are yet connected and involved with other people and realities.

From PE we have drawn on the shifts in power relations in the classroom and the education centre, the educational values that underpin it and critical approaches that raise the questioning of concepts and learning experiences, the concept of transformation and action that relates to an education oriented towards self-change and community change in and out of the school, as well as an affectivity that aims to achieve a broader development of human beings in general. PE also incorporates the issue of multiculturalism by examining and acknowledging cultural, racial and regional differences, among others, while adopting a critical attitude towards discrimination and inequality and challenging the clichés, stereotypes and values internalised in our conscience through popular culture.

GCE provides a global perspective applied to education in which the development models in the north and in the south are questioned, by assuming responsibility for active participation in local settings with perspectives that identify global interconnections, and incorporates proposals from various authors to establish a horizon of attributes for a global citizen.

Lastly, from CI we have taken into account the epistemological shift in knowledge production that affects the entire educational community and society at large, and that involves self-insight and the democratisation of knowledge for defining curriculum content, and to review the operation and organisational structures needed in the educational process.

The meaning of citizenship

Right from the outset, this article has, several times, made reference to the concept of “citizenship”; it is, however, worth taking a closer look at this in order to specify what kind of citizenship we are referring to in this research.

According to Merrifield (2002:2), the concept of citizenship is at times unclear or difficult to ascertain and it must be defined with caution. There are two main concepts of citizenship. One refers to the legal status given by birth, which carries a series of rights and responsibilities. The other makes reference to citizenship as a practice linked with active participation in State affairs for the good of the community as a whole and takes place in formal and informal political systems through participation in and affiliation to social networks and movements.

The latter concept of citizenship as a practice is the one encompassed by the nature of DE and that will steer the analysis of the findings in question. According to Friedler (2011:9), citizenship and active statuses are not only a matter of the “global south”, since it is clear that without development policies in the “northern” countries, results will be insignificant. Therefore, an active citizenry that becomes critically aware of reality and is well informed, regardless of the source, would constitute a cornerstone for development. It would be a citizenry that, through their daily actions and mechanisms for asserting pressure on governments, demand answers and actions to tackle global challenges by acknowledging and understanding other people across the world as citizens with their own realities and rights.

Furthermore, this idea of citizenship would require certain conditions for participation that should be provided by the States and demanded by the people. The latter two would entail a two-fold responsibility: the first being a demand for a citizenship that is able to participate and the second being the responsibility for representing in solidarity those who are unable to do so (De Sousa, 2006: 118). Hence, De Sousa justifies the need for an articulated set of national and global democracies, in order to create high-intensity democracies that may transform the existing power relations and replace them with shared-authority relations through strong civil societies and States. This is this convergence and articulation of the local and global spheres, where the point of view of the “other” and self-problematisation are acknowledged, which makes it easier for societies to undergo transformations in the face of the existing challenges (Delanty, 2008:40).

Following this presentation, it may seem as if we were aiming to provide a standardised definition of “citizen”, which, given the diversity and complexity surrounding the existing realities in the world, may be considered impossible or even pretentious. Although this could be considered to have been sensibly tackled in this chapter, it would still be interesting to consider the proposals made by some authors who outline certain “attributes” of what a citizen is in line with the above. Merrifield (2002: 4) specifically highlights the following attributes: knowledge in the sense of understanding and awareness of others; the skills that allow mutual commitment, and proneness to care for others and searching for justice and legitimacy. Meanwhile, Boni and López (2012) define a set of attributes related to the knowledge and awareness of different aspects of the various societies, identities, and so on; and skills with regard to other people and attitudes based on the ideal values of the global citizen. These attributes stem from a set of principles (political vision, ecosystem vision, identity element, “glocal” element and pedagogical element) and assume a horizon in the practices of citizenship education.

The branch of Action Research: methods and epistemological aspects.

To frame the CIs that have been carried out here, it is, first of all, necessary to talk about the branch of Action Research (AR) to which they belong.

AR can be defined as “a proposed research method in social and educational sciences, so called in connection with the term ‘action research’ coined by Anglo-American researchers”. (Obando -Salazar, 2006:2)

The term can be traced back to Kurt Lewin’s psychosocial institute in the 1940s. It was then that this type of inquiry was first conducted as a tool to resolve social conflicts and to give credibility to the development of the power of “non-academic/plain/normal” people by taking part in collective reflection, discussion and decision-making on specific yet shared issues. Lewin proposed, also in the field of education, a number of methods and principles to train schools as agents that are able to drive democratic change in their communities (Adelman, 2006:11).

However, where was the theoretical foundation on which the current concept of AR is based established? To answer this question, it is necessary to refer back to the criticism of the tenets of positivism and natural science in the 1960s, which focused on the possibility of integrating theory and practice. More specifically, the so-called “positivist veto” and the Critical Theory proposed by members of the Frankfurt School, which assume that the methodologies required for social sciences are different than those employed in natural sciences. The positivist veto was criticised mainly for its methodological postulate of freedom of valuation (value neutrality), and the vertical, asymmetrical and non-reciprocal relationship between the subject and object of research.

AR is thus proposed as an alternative solution to the issue of the relationship between theory and practice, and is presented as a type of research with a critical, implicative tradition, therefore proposing a rejection of the “status quo” of the existing oppression, marginalisation and segregation as a means, among others, of social emancipation.

According to Moser (Obando -Salazar, 2006:3) AR can entail a paradigm shift for social sciences, where the first element of this shift relates to the criterion of truth. In traditional social research, the “truth” has a monologic nature, while under the framework of the AR paradigm, the criterion becomes dialogic. The second element refers to the shift associated with AR of the experiment by means of the discourse; and the third element is specified in the proposed transformation of the “material facts” of positivist research through empirical, discursive data in AR. In the AR paradigm, the truth is not absolute, but historical.

It is actually in the Latin America of the 1970s where we find a prominent landmark of the development and application of such research for political, social and transformative purposes, with authors like Orlando Fals -Borda, Rodriguez Brandao, Paulo Freire, among others, giving rise to the term Participatory Action Research (PAR)[1].

It was here that PAR was conceived as a research methodology seeking to develop symmetrical, subject/subject models that were counter-oppressive of social, economic and political models, and as an expression of the associated activism, carrying an implicit ideological commitment to contribute to the collective praxis of the people (Rahman and Fals -Borda, 1989: 15).

This PAR approach considers that the unequal relations of knowledge production come to be a critical factor that perpetuates the dominance of an elite or social class over the people. PAR seeks to stimulate people’s knowledge, understood as their own wisdom and knowledge, or as something to be acquired through peoples engaging in self-insight in order to serve as a basis for popular action toward social change and for a process towards equality and democracy.

Still in the 21st century, there continue to be initiatives and authors that justify, within a context of globalisation, the use of these approaches as a condition for achieving global social justice. According to De Sousa Santos:

There is no knowledge or wisdom democracy. This wisdom is multifold […] there is no global justice without global cognitive justice, that is without justice in knowledge, or without variety in knowledge. This is why popular education is so significant nowadays (De Sousa, 2006: 119):

Cooperative Inquiry

Having provided an overview of the origins of PAR, we will now focus on the concept of CI. By way of definition, we could say that CI is a systematic process of action and reflection among co-researchers addressing a problem of shared interest. CI aims to create change, improving professional practice, organisational outcomes or social democracy. Furthermore, this type of research can help reduce the current divide between practitioners and academia, by prompting more meaningful relationships to be established between these two spheres. (Ospina et al., 2008:2).

However, the relevance of CI from a theoretical and analytical framework point of view lies in the democratising and transformative component of the process itself. This statement can be explained if we take as a starting point the assumption of the existing gap between academia and practitioners that has been exacerbated by some specific mechanisms of knowledge production. These establish that academics are people who “produce” knowledge and limit the role of “practitioners” within a discipline as mere “consumers” of this knowledge, and do not qualify them to participate in research or inquiry processes.

In the educational field referred to in this article, this paradigm of knowledge production can translate into missed opportunities to develop strategies and practices that reflect the vast set of knowledge of educational professionals, as well as into the difficulty experienced by researchers to focus on the relevant issues that should be looked into, and even into the gap existing between the proposed recommendations on education and the context in which practice takes place.

In view of this challenge, CI focuses on the so-called logics of “contestation” and “transformation”. The process of “contesting” advocates democracy in the production of knowledge by considering that it comes from various sources; it criticises the current academicist model, and welcomes people from other academic spheres to create knowledge to serve the needs of its own practical purposes. Furthermore, the logic of “transformation” validates the authority of academia to take part in diverse socio-political objectives and demands that they make a commitment to society. This process of transformation would contribute to the creation of “communities of inquiry” within society.

Hence, the excluding roles of the inquirer vs. the subject being researched in traditional CI inquiry are replaced with a cooperative relationship of initiatives and bilateral control, which means that they would be co-researchers involved in team work.

These co-researchers draft, manage and draw inquiry conclusions, and participate in the experience and the action being examined. This inquiry is not conducted on people, but rather with people. The knowledge produced stems from practice and experience, which contributes towards achieving practical solutions and effective changes.

A series of stages that the inquiry process undergoes in CI could be established. In the first stage, the group specify their objective and develop the inquiry question. The question is to be developed by and shared among the entire group, and answered based on their practical work. Moreover, it will guide the inquiry in order to address the challenges of the task ahead at individual or group level.

Having asked the question, the co-researchers devise a series of actions in order to begin to provide answers to the research question. The relevant procedures are set down for collecting and recording the actions. The data will later serve to find meaning in a collective manner. The subsequent reflection in search of meaning generates new ideas and elements that help the group to plan a new round of action. These cycles of action-reflection- action are repeated several times (six to ten cycles) until the group feel they have successfully answered their question.

According to Heron and Reason (2006: 5), as the inquiry progresses, group becomes increasingly immersed in it and two possible situations may apply. The first part gives everyone a chance to open up to what is being inquired in an unbiased way, encouraging them to delve deeper into the experience so that they may elaborate more on and further develop their initial, more superficial ideas and concepts. The second part, with a more situational approach, allows the group to take other “directions”, away from their earlier ideas and towards initially unpredictable topics and actions.

This deep commitment to the experience, which sheds light on the practical skills and new knowledge that arise from inquiry research, is one of the essential elements of nuance that make cooperative inquiry so different from conventional research.

Essential ingredients of the theoretical framework.

To conclude the presentation of the theoretical influences applied to the inquiries, we will present, by way of summary, the theoretical proposal that has been used to analyse which practices and positionings within the formal education system foster GC in the terms referred to above.

From PE we have drawn on the shifts in power relations in the classroom and the education centre, the educational values that underpin it and critical approaches that raise the questioning of concepts and learning experiences, the concept of transformation and action that relates to an education oriented towards self-change and community change in and out of the school, as well as an affectivity that aims to achieve a broader development of human beings in general. PE also incorporates the issue of multiculturalism by examining and acknowledging cultural, racial and regional differences, among others, while adopting a critical attitude towards discrimination and inequality and challenging the clichés, stereotypes and values internalised in our conscience through popular culture.

GCE provides a global perspective applied to education in which the development models in the north and in the south are questioned, by assuming responsibility for active participation in local settings with perspectives that identify global interconnections, and incorporates proposals from various authors to establish a horizon of attributes for a global citizen.

Lastly, from CI we have taken into account the epistemological shift in knowledge production that affects the entire educational community and society at large, and that involves self-insight and the democratisation of knowledge for defining curriculum content, and to review the operation and organisational structures needed in the educational process.

3. Methodology

As noted in the introduction, the inquiries conducted have sought, through CI, to delve deeper into how to educate GCs from their own collaborative spaces involving teachers in the formal education system and NGDOs. However, it makes sense to explain that, methodologically speaking, certain conditions must be in place to be able to carry out a CI. On the one hand, the research group must be small (between 8 to 12 people).

On the other, the whole group must be aware of and linked with the inquiry topic in a practical way, since, as we will explain below, the answer to the inquiry question will be based on their experience. For the purposes of the inquiries presented here, two groups were put together by teachers of different educational levels (nursery, primary, secondary, vocational training and university) and NGDO practitioners devoted to DE.

The first group consisted of 11 people, and the CI process was conducted between February 2010 and March 2011. The second inquiry took place from February 2012 to December 2012, with 9 participants.

It must be noted that the people participating in the inquiry have the same or similar experience in issues related to multiculturalism, DE and various approaches to transforming education and working with various education-related NGDOs. At the beginning of the processes, the participants showed their motivation to take part in the collaborative inquiry process and generate other types of knowledge and insight that would be useful to them in their work.

Another essential aspect is that the people in charge of facilitating the process in its different dimensions, moderating the subject discussions, proposing methodologies and helping people draw conclusions and reports should be outside the group yet familiar with the subject and the methodology.

The author of this work has been part of the facilitation teams jointly with another person and has facilitated this task during the two CI processes; therefore their knowledge of the inquiry processes and their outcomes is extensive.

Finally, the role of rapporteur performed by people outside the group is hailed as a cornerstone of the documentation and data collection processes in CI. By using various techniques (on-site transcription, photos, videos, etc.) two people (preferably always the same two) record the evolution of the information that is generated both in terms of form and content, which subsequently enables the facilitation team to prepare a report on the meeting. These reports are crucial to the process as they enable us to follow the evolution of the inquiry process by addressing both the contents and the dynamics of the group as a research unit.  

More specifically, when the group members got together for the first time, they not only met each other as members but they also discussed their concerns regarding the issue in question (GCE), defined the initial inquiry question and agreed on a series of initial actions to be undertaken in order to answer the previously defined question.

The first group defined their inquiry question as: Which educational practices and experiences contribute to the creation of a global citizenship and how can they be improved from collaborative spaces by different social actors? How, taking this question as a starting point, can we redefine (unravel, deconstruct, reflect on) global citizenship?

In the case of the second group, the initial question that guided their research was:

How can we use educational practices for global citizenship to reach more people and change our environment? How do we help acknowledge that these processes generate changes that promote social justice?

The actions implemented to respond to the questions were of a different nature but always related to the participants’ field: reading texts related to the topics under discussion; visits and workshops in workspaces shared by the group; participant observation exercises in primary-school and university classes to observe the work of GC in classrooms of different levels, conducting interviews with people outside the group, etc.

To provide a clearer illustration of the evolution of the actions conducted, these are included in a table below:




Action no. 1

  •                Reflection: in my everyday experiences individually reflect on my identity and my educational practices as a global citizen.
  •                Reflection: How are we putting global citizenship into practice; how do we participate and create spaces?
  •                Keeping an up-to-date log on the inquiry.
  •                Reading one of three texts:

“Identidades asesinas” [Murderous identities] A. Maalouf. Ed. Alianza editorial. 2006.

“La imaginación cosmopolita” [The cosmopolitan imagination] G. Delanty. Rev. Cidob d’afers internacionals, 2008 SEPT; (82-83).

“La política oculta de la globalización” [The hidden policy of globalisation] B. De Sousa. Rev. Archipiélago: Cuadernos de  Crítica de la Cultura, 2006 DEC; (73-74)

Action no. 1

Approaching other practices, whereby co-researchers observing other spaces tell of their own experience at the centre they have been to, thus generating a different attitude, more focused on exchange.


Action no. 2

Observe and participate in GC practical work and experiences along with other colleagues.

  •                Joint work between Agricultural Engineering students and primary school pupils.
  •                Attendance of a Jaume Martínez Bonafé conference facilitated by INTERMÓN.
  •                Exchange of experiences between Education without Borders and a group of mothers of pupils of the Jaume I school.

Visit to “El Drac” school.

Action no. 2


Observation actions:

  •                Co-development Master’s Programme at the University of Valencia.
  •                Presentation of Social Education student reports. Observation of infant and primary school lessons.


Action no. 3

Propose any of the actions discussed by the group to people from different backgrounds or countries:

What does GC education mean to you? What kind of practical work or processes can bolster global citizen education? What are the most usual set-backs? What kind of attitude or disposition should a global citizen educator have? In your opinion, how relevant is networking for bolstering Global Citizen education? What kind of image comes to mind?

Action no. 3

Analyse the system of indicators to be used with Intermón.

Interviews to delve into whether there are significant differences in the perception of GC among the people who are involved in education and those who are not. Working with the learning project, which is a service provided in Ruzafa, where GC is not employed as a criterion for definition yet it is applied in actual practice.

Action no. 4

Working and delving deeper into the concept of GC: the group answer the questions that have been asked by people outside the process during the action proposed in July, so that they can draw their own interpretations. Later on, they will gather in order to share ideas and seek to create a shared theoretical construct built on our experiences.

Action no. 4

Presentation by the University of Valencia of the Learning project service to be implemented in Ruzafa.

Observation of the general delegate assembly meeting at a primary school. The group to continue with the interviews. Table 2: action cycle performed in the two cooperative inquiries.  Source: prepared by author.

Action no. 5

Preparing a publication on the CI process. All those in the group prepare a brief written account in which they introduce themselves, tell how they came to be part of the process, their concerns and what their expectations are. The group then revises the preview of the publication to look out for various things: making sure inclusive language has been used and providing ideas with regard to content and format.


Table 2: action cycle performed in the two cooperative inquiries.

Source: prepared by author.

Once the actions were completed, the groups met once again to share and analyse them, in light of the inquiry question and the evidence observed. Through this evidence, a series of meaningful outcomes were obtained as data and thoughts were prompted in an aim to answer the question initially defined. At this point, the groups once again reviewed the inquiry question so as to determine if it was still relevant, if it was appropriate to their concerns or if, on the contrary, it should be rephrased following the outcomes of their actions. When the exercise had been completed, the group would then define a new series of actions that would in turn generate evidence and data to be analysed at the next meeting, hence giving rise to a reflection-action loop that would continue until the group considered that the question was answered. Hence, the two groups worked face to face at the meetings and remotely through various spaces covering GC themes from the point of view of the formal education system. Regarding the first group, a total of 7 group meetings and 5 action rounds took place; whereas in the case of the second group, 6 meetings and 4 action rounds were held.


Whenever necessary, information recording protocols were put in place to record details of the evidence stemming from the actions, so that they could be subsequently analysed. Annexe III shows an example of these record files for the actions. We must highlight that the author of this article performed the role of facilitator in both CI processes; therefore she has a deep knowledge of the inquiries in terms of form and content. This active role in both inquiry processes has enabled her to observe, participate in and collect evidence.


During the group meetings, the process was facilitated through a series of methodological tools for both individual and collective work. The choice of these tools came from the experience of the facilitators and some participants so as to meet the needs of the inquiry at any given time. An overview of some of the tools and resources employed is shown in the table below:


CONTENT TECHNIQUES: Expansive method


Card dynamics


Performance or representation

When? Used at the first CI session to kick-off the process. Permanent and indispensable tool in all meetings. Debate is inherent to the CI process, where participants share and communicate their reflections with and to one another on the subject of their inquiry. At their second meeting, small representations or sketches took place to show what people understood by global citizenship.
What for? To analyse what is understood by “inquiry” and “learning” by using images represented on cards. For various purposes: to show different visions and actions, share and define ideas, decide how to present the findings, discuss them and prepare meetings. To convey a specific concept to the other people within the group through physical expressions.


How? A set of cards with different images on them are laid on the table. Each participant must choose two images that, in their opinion, represent the concepts of learning and inquiry. Next, each person must show these images to the rest of the group and explain why they chose them. Debates were conducted either with the entire group being present or in smaller groups. The intention was for these to take place in comfortable settings, encouraging everyone to participate. Before the representation, the participants reflected individually and collectively on the topic or concept, and together they came up with the sketch. A short representation or performance.




  Individual reflection Reflection-based writing River of life
When? Throughout the entire process, during sessions taking place as part of group meetings or outside these. At different points, whenever there was a need to reflect on the progress of the inquiry process. Technique employed during the 2nd meeting.
What for? To think, break down and analyse concepts, ideas and assumptions dealt with within the inquiry group. It enables us to ascertain where and how the participants are in the inquiry process or ascertain their ideas and feelings about topics that are relevant to the group. Ideas and feelings come up spontaneously, allowing people to become more aware of their own thoughts and share them with others. To show their origins and experiences, the most representative influences that have shaped them and defined their identity.
How? Through reading and writing. Starting with a sentence given by the facilitator that the participants should finish. Then, they are given 10 minutes to write uninterruptedly everything that comes to mind. Following the reading, they are given 5 more minutes for each of them to re-read what they have written and underline what they consider relevant. Depending on the type of reflection, the results may or may not be shared with the rest of the group. Each participant is asked to freely draw their own life as if it were a river. Subsequently, these drawings are shared within the group. They may even be asked to draw the rivers together.


4. Evidence and discussion

In order to present evidence and discuss the processes related to the inquiry, we should remind ourselves of the questions that have been explored by analysing these CI experiences. Firstly, we have sought to delve deeper into the meanings attributed to the term “global citizenship” according to the various education-related fields and into the characteristics of a global citizenry. Secondly, we have looked into the educational practices and positionings that may, on the basis of PE and DE, contribute towards the creation of GC from formal education and NGDO spaces that have been present throughout our inquiries. Lastly, the findings of the two CI processes that have been conducted will be presented, showing how these experiences can in themselves become GC drivers.

At this point, it is important to clarify that any evidence presented stems from the two CI processes. This means that we do not aim to create generalisations on the subjects addressed, but rather to shed light on them and make proposals based on the experience of the participants, so that they may be applied to the various spheres of formal education where they perform their roles.

4.1. On the concept of Global Citizenship.

With regard to the first question, it was observed in both inquiry processes that the term Global Citizenship is sometimes confused with the term globalisation in various fields. This confusion could lead to the rejection of GC due to it being identified with a “Northern” or “Eurocentric” concept in which certain communities are excluded from participation and rights, or even as an imposition of the globalised socio-economic system. The opinions of certain participants of Latin American origin and educational organisations from this region serve to highlight this fact.[2] These opinions suggested that although the term citizenship has political connotations, it is seen in terms of local participation, in relation to the attempt to provide answers and solutions to problems in a more immediate context; therefore, pairing the term global with the concept of citizenship makes sense for very specific cases, such as the environment, in which the relationship and global connection are inevitable. In addition, the term GC is sometimes associated with technology and development, so this concept would only be “possible” or valid in certain States or nations of the “north”.

The evidence and reflections could “fit in” with the idea of citizenship proposed by Merrifield (2002:2) as active participation in State affairs for the good of the entire community. Friedler’s (2011:11) ideas, however, to demand global responses in the face of global challenges would not be feasible in certain situations in which the immediacy of day-to-day needs would not, initially, allow for these demands. At any rate, the more global or international visions of citizenship would not be generalisable, since they would only apply to contexts such as Europe. At this point, it is interesting to note De Sousa’s theory that in the development of “high-intensity” democracies, understood as the process of transforming relationships of power into relationships of shared authority, certain people are charge with the responsibility of representing others who do not have access to the same level of participation and based on procedures seen from the perspective of the victims of suffering inflicted by other human beings (De Sousa, 2006:118). However, this study warns against this idea, insofar as without the necessary rigour, knowledge and communication, it could lead to interference or people speaking for others without the authority to so do.

In light of this evidence, the term global citizenships was used in the two inquiries in order not to exclude any communities from this term and so it would reflect the idea that there are many different ways of understanding citizenship, depending on different collective contexts. From this basis, the inquiries offer, on the one hand, a definition of the term global citizenship, developed by the first inquiry group:

Citizenships (shared and multiple) are processes of construction (that can be taught) of people (with their principles, values, desires, reflections and emotions). These people collectively and cooperatively participate in local and/or global actions in favour of obtaining rights for themselves, for others and for the planet in order to dynamically transform reality and to channel new processes through this transformation. These are cyclical, repetitive processes (Sow et al, 2011: 42).

A set of characteristics of a global citizen has also been proposed (developed by the second CI group); however, it is important to note that this proposal is located in a very specific reality and is not intended for general application. These characteristics are based on a clear projection of the change that is pursued and the actions that are required to bring about this change in the long term, from a political stance aimed at a transformation towards social justice. On this basis, a global citizen works with a global and local outlook and, being aware of existing vulnerability and exclusion, strives to include as many people as possible so that nobody is left out. This all implies an interest in discovering new things, entailing a heightened awareness, in being concerned, observing and learning, as well as looking to be consistent as a person and a citizen. Ultimately, a global citizen is someone who lives immerse in a cognitive and empathetic process that allows them to critically understand and interpret their surroundings and to feeling frustrated, indignant and able to speak out.

Within these characteristics, we must also bear in mind that their identity is shaped by their surroundings and realities (personal, family, collective), in the safety of the familiar, through fear of the unknown and by interpreting their contexts from a historical perspective. Finally, certain characteristics are identified that are related to the need to work as part of a larger network based on collective encounters, and for drawing inspiration from the paradigm of human progress (human rights, the environment, gender, democracy, peace and interculturality).

The characteristics that are proposed in this article coincide with Merrifield’s idea of citizenship (2002:2) as active participation in State matters for the good of the whole community through social networks and movements. Hence, by acknowledging and understanding the others as citizens with their own realities and rights, we would see a person that demands and puts into practice certain actions to respond to global and local challenges (Friedler, 2011:11), as well as considering those members of the population that may not be able to participate (De Sousa, 2006: 118). This proposal encompasses a “strategic” component within the education process of global citizens, as indicated by Celorio (2006:11), which is based on collaborating with and supporting broken sections and the sectors that have to endure the reorganisation of the new, actual socialisation. This is so from the moment the proposals and actions that would be demanded and put into practice contemplate the need to achieve social justice in the face of the vulnerability of certain people instead of their inclusion in systems that enable them to have an influence on their own realities.

To sum up, the pieces of evidence referring to the concept of GC that have been identified by the groups include a series of factors or conditions that may contribute to the formation of the feeling or personality of GC, and have been highlighted on numerous occasions in inquiry processes. These could be a dual or multiple cultural identity that, in spite of causing a sense of individual uncertainty and conflict at times, increases the likelihood of appreciating GC. Travelling, and being in contact with other people, cultures and realities, while not deemed sufficient, are considered a necessary part of GC education. In this regard, being able to speak or have a good command of other languages facilitates communication, since languages are GC drivers. Affiliation to different social movements is key to shaping persons as global citizens. According to Delanty (2008:38), these processes, taking into account the ability for self-transformation involving the cultural and political resources in a given society, acknowledge the perspectives of “others”. They also generate inclusion in a group, which is framed within local realities with global links. The latter aspect is significant if we consider the distinction made by Delanty (2008:38) between critical cosmopolitanism, and superficial cosmopolitanism or pseudo-cosmopolitanism, which focuses only on using other cultures’ lifestyle in order to enrich their own material lives without a regulatory commitment in place.

4.2. On educational practices and approaches

With regard to the findings from the second question, regarding what types of educational practices and approaches can contribute to the creation of GC, it is important to point out that these are presented in relation to two different yet interconnected scenarios. Firstly, the role of teachers, the classroom space, the centre as a whole and the contexts and interactions in which the centre is located are presented. Then the spaces of NGDOs as active agents in the development of DE and GC are discussed. This approach was chosen both in order to structure the information and to clarify the different roles that can be undertaken by an individual participant in the educational process depending on their location within it. However, the fact that these findings are not applicable to all educational levels is made clear by stating the scenario from which they have been obtained.

The role of teachers.

It is undeniable that teachers play a central role in the classroom, in terms of both establishing and directing, to a large degree, the learning and relationship dynamics in the classroom. As such, this section will begin with the findings related to the attitudes and practices that teachers must possess to initiate the change towards GC education based on the characteristics established in section 4.1, implying a conscious decision to become what Henry Giroux calls a “transformative intellectual” (Mc Laren and Leonard, 2003: 58).

Teachers need to be convinced of the need to make changes in power and knowledge relationships, changes that would begin by displaying and transmitting a series of attitudes. Ultimately, the discourse and attitudes of teachers should be consistent. This rejection of traditional and vertical teaching methods is indispensable if we wish to gain access to elements of critical analysis that can be used to question pre-established believes and ideologies.

In this way, teachers evolve from being a mere “user” of the education system to proposing sets of knowledge as transformative intellectuals who, through encouraging respect and recognition of differences, help to form a generation of conscientious and critical citizens, dedicated to the change towards greater social justice. This task would mean that the teacher would have to bear a series of factors in mind. Firstly, the need to question the content that will be transmitted to students with a dual objective: to stress that knowledge is never neutral and that it is created from everyday life. Therefore, there would be no need to formulate universally applicable theories, allowing for reality to be understood in a different way. Secondly, it would imply the use of teaching methods and practices that foster creativity, nurture the ability to develop more complex reasoning and use of a range of different languages to include more people in the educational process. Lastly, a relationship would need to be established based on the students’ reality and a commitment to action driven by the question, what can/could we do? All these findings respond to the work of Freire (Mc Laren and Leonard, 2003:56) when he suggests that students should be considered as agents with the ability to change their reality insofar as they are able to understand and objectify it, while also being able to identify and challenge myths, values and behaviours that have been adopted from popular culture and internalised in our conscience.

Other findings point to the importance of the socio-affective focus that is applied by teachers. This focus is understood as a set of attitudes and actions that determine the nature and quality of relationships in the classroom. Strategies such as learning the students’ names, getting to know their likes and preferences, speaking in the plural to include themselves as part of the group, as well as debating situations and problems from a positive and constructive point of view and strong listening skills are found to be some of the key aspects in the relationships that are established. Ultimately, teachers should focus on achieving the broadest development of their students as human beings, introducing a series of emotions into their dialogue method ranging from humour and compassion to indignation. (Mc Laren and Leonard, 2003: 58)

However, a series of factors that could limit the teachers’ ability to develop their role in the classroom was also discovered. Certain levels of “complacency” among teaching staff can result in a passive response to the introduction of new educational approaches and the isolation of those practitioners who are keen to put these ideas into practice. Furthermore, the current educational model is designed to be reproductive and not transformative, thus creating a closed-off, reductionistic and homogenising education in terms of content, methods and practices.

The classroom space.

As for the findings from within the classroom, first of all it was observed that the relationship between students and teachers needs to be reconfigured. This would entail moving away from a scenario in which decisions within the classroom are made solely by the teacher, towards a relationship of shared responsibility in the learning process. In order to do so, we noted the importance of a flexible conception of the classroom space in order for it to be configured by the class as a whole. The use of horse-shoe or circular seating arrangements, which also incorporate the teacher’s desk, allows for barriers to be broken down, for the class to all see each other and work together in a more assembly-style scenario and to share resources, thus strengthening the group-work element. Furthermore, it is important that the rest of the classroom space can be dedicated to other uses that are considered necessary by the class, such as a library, games areas, etc.

As part of this reconfiguration of relationships within the classroom, research has shown that regular switching of roles, where students become “teachers” and where knowledge and learning experiences are exchanged on a student-student level, is highly important. In this way, the process of learning and studying is shared more profoundly by more people, making students jointly responsible for both their own learning and that of their peers. In summary, constructing the dynamics of the learning process between all people in the classroom invites students to see the classroom as their own space, to take on shared responsibilities and, as stated by Freire (Mc Laren and Leonard, 2003: 56), allows for the school to be transformed without resorting to authoritarian relationships or the unequal distribution of power. Research has also highlighted that in these relationships within the classroom, camaraderie and not the supervision of some people by others is encouraged and different realities and cultures are accommodated by visualising them through a range of contents, methods and experiences.

These proposals imply, therefore, a series of decisions are made in the classroom that are proposed and decided through holding assemblies. These assemblies can be directed to a greater or lesser degree depending on the experience that students have of such meetings. However, in all cases, it is vital that decisions are proposed and adopted at these assemblies and that a certain level of responsibility, accountability and transparency is established among all people in the classroom.

All these initiatives focus on the act of choosing authority and reconfiguring the school in the society in which it is found, since the classroom space is the first place where the political element of the school can be visualised as it represents a place where individuals and society are constructed (Mc Laren and Leonard, 2003: 50).

Within this process of student participation in the classroom, the CIs highlighted the “added” opportunity provided by migratory processes for working on multiculturalism and GC. Today, classrooms in education centres (especially in public centres) have become spaces in which numerous nationalities and cultural realities exist side by side. This reality can contribute to visualising and working with different topics and methods by using the experiences of students and of their families. It creates an opportunity to connect diverse realities, to explore local and global issues and to deconstruct stereotypes that are counter-productive for GC (assistentialist and catastrophic perspectives of the “south”). However, we cannot ignore the “other side” of the reality of multicultural classrooms, in which various integration-related conflicts can arise. Many of these conflicts derive from a lack of material and human resources in education centres and a lack of understanding between cultures. Furthermore, certain educational policies that without the necessary resources can also lead to increased segregation in the classroom include, for example, the policy of bilingualism[3] in the Region of Valencia (RV).

Lastly, the findings from within the classroom also suggest that books and ICTs[4]should not be given pride of place in this space, since, although they are useful tools for assisting the learning process, they are not able to form the backbone or nexus of educational activity nor the theoretical component. Classroom resources and material should vary in form, origin and design in order to respond to the diverse needs that can arise at any given time.

The findings from the CI with regard to the classroom space for specific education levels are as follows. In reference to the modules taught, in the case of primary and secondary education, the official education programme stresses the compulsory nature of the subject “Citizenship Education”[5] with the aim of responding to:

The need to foster responsible citizenship in a democratic society as a channel for achieving social cohesion and a shared European identity [...] to reflect on their role within a nation, a region, a municipality and a neighbourhood, at the same time as being part of a global society (National Spanish State Gazette No. 186. Sec. I).

In light of this approach, it could be assumed that the above-mentioned module is an opportunity within the classroom to work on GC. However, one piece of evidence that arose in both CI experiences is that this subject, depending on how it is delivered, is not a useful space, since it is introduced as a stand-alone module in the fifth year of primary education and the second year of Compulsory Secondary Education (ESO [in Spanish])[6]. It would have to go much further; transmitting the intended values through actions, teaching practices and participatory processes, and by taking on responsibilities, tasks and group activities in which the whole classroom or centre can participate. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid one-off occasions at set times in the academic year and instead to understand the values that we wish to transmit as ingredients that are integrated in, flow throughout and form a key part of the school curriculum.

However, and despite being aware of these limiting factors and requirements in both research groups, the ability to establish links between local and global contexts within the classroom has emerged in a number of occasions as a complex task, since, among other, concepts of GC it is neither so obvious nor simple to define.

Another proven aspect, which affects the classroom space in universities, points to the lack of variety in teaching methods and learning strategies that are employed by educators. This fact is most obvious in technical degrees where the use of diverse languages and methods of communication that would take on board avenues such as creativity or the visual arts is practically non-existent, and the learning process is largely orientated towards the acquisition of purely instrumental skills. These focal points would reinforce visions of “banking education”, leading to relationships in which teachers deposit a range of “unique” knowledge in their “ignorant” students, and where dialogical, democratic and socialising elements do not form part of the educational process.

However, the inquiries have identified that this reality could be transformed, to a certain degree, if the university classroom is considered as an autonomous space, where the faculty is free to assert a certain degree of independence in order to apply different focal points, methods and teaching practices and to teach “in another way”. And if, in addition, the presence of students of other nationalities and cultural realities is taken advantage of, their experiences can provide a multicultural vision and a critical attitude towards each student’s own language and knowledge base. Ultimately, classroom space should be used to promote a critical thought process that allows links to be established between the contents of different subjects and diverse local and global realities, and to appeal to the need to clearly set out (at certain times) an ethical and political stance with regard to student involvement in the development of profession activity.

The centre as a whole.

In order to analyse the set of educational practices and approaches that could contribute to the creation of GC from within the education centre, a distinction must be made between the different cycles that occurred in the two CIs. However, and as the first findings to be seen at all education levels, the inquiries highlighted the importance of and need for explicitly stating in the curriculum[7] the attributes that the students are set to gain (since this is the tool for organising work in the centres) and to create genuine access to participation processes for the whole education community; understood as the students, the centre’s teaching and non-teaching staff and the students’ parents.

In the case of early childhood, primary, secondary and training-cycle education centres, staff meetings have been noted as important organisational structures with great potential for GC work. In order to realise this potential, the management and the teaching staff of the different year groups and cycles must work together to establish the methods, targets, attributes and focal points that will be used in educational activities and to define those of the training projects in centres that integrate GC and DE in their curriculum.

Another aspect of GC work that was found to be fundamental is the development of group activities between students from different year groups. Some examples of these would be: general assemblies of delegates where representatives from different year groups put forward proposals, complaints and initiatives that have been drafted in class and that affect the entire centre; group “management” of the playground and shared areas in terms of the distribution of space, creation of games between different year groups, timetables, etc.; the shared use of the centre’s resources and materials; the presentation of student petitions to various institutions (town councils, education ministries, etc.) regarding needs, initiatives or complaints that affect the entire centre. This type of initiative can contribute to students accepting more responsibility for both their own and the collective process of coexistence in the centre. It also encourages students to work with the rest of the staff to construct the dynamics of the centre, considering it as their own.

And by opening the centre to the concept of full participation, the role played by the students’ parents (formally through the AMPA[8] or informally) is very important for the design of a group agenda. In light of this, school boards should move beyond the merely advisory and bureaucratic functions that they are often given to focus on documenting and establishing a dialogue about real concerns and needs. At the same time, it would be interesting to set up other mechanisms that would provide knowledge of the contexts in which students find themselves and live so that decisions can be made in a more cooperative manner, with a greater number of voices and so that they are adapted to the realities of the families. This last aspect is especially relevant in the case of families from the different cultures and nationalities that are found in the centre, since a mutual lack of understanding between the centre and the family can sometimes arise with a negative impact on coexistence and learning processes.


In the case of university education, educational projects and approaches to GC work struggle against the unfavourable situation of existing within a formal and pyramid-like structure. This structure is relatively closed to modification and teaching innovations, does not allow for much participation in decision making and can be rather undemocratic. With this reality in mind, it is clear that the possibility of working on GC in universities is determined by the spaces fought for and created by lecturers and other university staff that are interested in the reflection and application of GC within their institution. An example of these initiatives are the teaching innovation groups that include lecturers, research staff and students from various disciplines and that reflect on issues, focal points and changes in the relationships of knowledge production and exchange within universities. Certain spaces in universities have also been highlighted in which GC principles form one of the key pillars of the training, such as, for example, Master’s programmes in Development Cooperation and Humanities. However, it is vital that these experiences are shared with and extended to the rest of the university community in order to act as “multipliers” within the institution, and to address the need to introduce comprehensive humanist themes into technical or “science” degrees.

Contexts and interactions.

In order to conclude the presentation of educational practices and approaches aimed at the creation of GC, the work, interactions and strategies in the different contexts of the educational realities that have participated in the inquiries will be discussed.

For all the education levels that took part in the inquiries, networking acquires special importance in contexts such as the current situation where the education sector is under strain for a number of reasons: a lack of human and material resources, the increased mobility and rotation of teaching staff, the fragmentation of the educational community, the rigidity or inertia of the structure of educational institutions or the lack of connection between institutions involved in education (families, centres, NGDOs, governments) and non-integrating, diverse and multicultural spaces, among others.

Therefore, from a strategic point of view, networking allows us to make connections between global and local contexts and to unite democratic struggles gaining power and enhancing their impact, to foster cooperative work and new anti-hegemonic ideas, to exchange knowledge and perspectives and to strengthen the role of trainers by removing the feeling of solitude and isolation.

In the case of early childhood, primary and secondary education centres, and those offering training courses, certain networking initiatives have been introduced. These initiatives include cultural exchanges through theatre, participation in “Trobades en Valencià”[9] and music, as well as activities outside of school hours that are open to the entire educational community, making local connections while providing a global dimension. The inquiries have also highlighted Inter-centre[10] projects in collaboration with municipal councils that maintain correspondence by letter/email with other centres, on both a national and international level but especially with countries in the South. This correspondence allows for information, concerns and knowledge to be exchanged in a more discrete manner, responding to the genuine concerns of the participants and breaking stereotypes.

It is also considered highly valuable to foster spaces for collaboration between teachers, parents and NGDOs, which aim to update educational material as a group by responding to real needs and to encourage schools to participate as another civil society agent in political petitions and proposals, among others.

However, it is universities that have emerged as a space in which networking presents a fantastic opportunity for GC work. Academic networks, according to current initiatives (such as the European Higher Education Area) incentivise mobility, create spaces for collaboration and include bodies[11] that are able to enhance the awareness and training of teachers and education professionals.

Based on this “advantage”, university institutions may not only establish networks with academic institutions in the North and the South in order to exchange experiences and train teachers “from” and “in” different realities, but also position themselves as a bridge between theoretical and practical realms, fostering spaces for collaboration between academic and non-academic networks in order to consider day-to-day life experiences (schools, institutes, NGDOs etc.). The experience of the CIs reveals that university teaching staff believe creating links with people from outside the academic world favours contact with GC, since it “forces” academics to interact with practical elements and to revise content, methods, teaching practices and educational approaches. An example of this type of link are the CI experiences that are presented in this study uncovering the need for universities “to look to schools for inspiration” in the integration of other languages, thought processes and focal points, and to encourage research in other spaces outside the university.

However, these networks are normally created by individuals or small groups within universities, thus highlighting the need to involve more people within these institutions in this task, as well as breaking away from the trend of establishing relationships and exchanges with universities and “elite” academies in the North that are often aligned with restrictive and “hidden” curricula[12].

NGDOs as agents for GC work.

The findings that, according to the NGDOs, are worth highlighting largely respond to two questions: the first focuses on these organisations’ collaboration with education centres, while the second responds to these organisations’ need for processes of reflection and socio-political approaches.

With regard to the collaboration of these organisations with education centres, it was found that teachers and the education community in general would need to play a more active role in the creation of the material used by NGDOs for GC work. The aim is for this material to respond to the real-life needs and situations in education centres. In addition, it is clear that a more continual collaboration is required on the part of universities for the integration into their curricula of subjects such as human rights, gender or inclusion, as well as processes of reflection on these topics and the potential role of university institutions as political agents for social change.

With regard to the existence of processes of reflection and socio-political approaches of NGDOs, the findings of the CIs suggest a need for these organisations to take on a “social movement” role. This “new” role would entail the opening up of these organisations to the rest of civil society and the involvement of NGDOs in citizen petitions and requests. In order for this to occur, NGDOs would need to dedicate more time to reflecting on their own practice, since the current dynamics of bureaucracy and the search for funding do not make this possible.

The key to achieving these two purposes lies in networking with social movements, education agents, etc., revealing itself as a fundamental and indispensable aspect of NGDOs. These alliances would allow for the generation of spaces for reflection and exchange of ideas, experiences and resources that could contribute to the development of a more diverse GC that is more grounded in the realities of the “North and South”.

However, and despite the importance of networks as spaces for work and the exchange of experiences and ideas, it is clear that, more often than not, these spaces are created through people-to-people connections rather than the strength of pre-existing networks.

4.3. On the Cooperative Inquiry processes

This section concludes with a presentation of the findings of the two CI processes, focusing on their practical application and how these experiences can in themselves become GC drivers.

With regard to the methods, it is paramount that the task of facilitating and the people in charge of leading the process are in tune with the CI methodology required throughout the process, ensuring that control and freedom within the group are applied in the right proportion. This aspect is very important when considering that, in the first place, the inquiry question must be specific, related to current practices and should avoid issues that are too pretentious and that are unrelated to the practices of the group. All conversations and dynamics must be permanently guided in order to establish links with the daily practices and to relate the activities with the inquiry question so that it may be answered. In addition, and in order not to lose the “thread” of the inquiry, it is advisable to allow no more than two months between meetings.

Another significant aspect in terms of the methods is directly related to the activities and the need for these to be flexible since it can be difficult to coordinate the schedules of all participants.

With regard to the capacity to generate GC, the groups really valued the opportunity presented by the CI process itself to listen to other sectors, find out about other realities, learn with more people and work as part of a team. Moreover, these experiences help to eliminate baseless preconceptions and prejudices about the agents and functions of the education system. The inquiries have been a positive experience in terms of developing a more open approach to listening and, in some cases, an exchange of roles. This process has encouraged some of the participants of this group to start or continue other research projects, sharing the experiences and findings from this CI, both in terms of methods and content, with other people in a diverse range of initiatives.

Likewise, it has produced important reflections on GC that have, in turn, generated interest in this topic and in other related issues, prompting greater clarification and understanding of concepts and a re-reading and questioning of personal and professional practices. Therefore, through a new vision inspired by the experiences of the group that transcend beyond day-to-day practices, a series of teaching methods have been redefined. The work surrounding these topics creates a desire to continue working on them in collaboration with different people and institutions in future projects. Likewise, the dynamics and methods used during the process have been considered as interesting and accurate enough to have been replicated in the various fields of the participants in the CIs.

The type of relationship between the people in the group has contributed to the creation of horizontal relationships, the revision of power relations (mainly in the generation of knowledge), to more empathetic and democratic processes beginning inside and outside of these inquiries and to encouraging respect for others and the search for consensus.

Even though the inquiry processes do not represent a starting point in terms of GC, they are considered as a valuable backdrop and important complement to other focuses and also constitute the first research experience for some of the participants. They represent a life experience that forces us to question, think and analyse, and that introduces networking into teaching practices. On the other hand, the learning related to both the content and the methods can be applied to daily practices and also encourages revision and discovery of and reflection on concepts and new or already acquired practices.

5. Conclusions

The conclusions that can be drawn from this article will begin with the task of reflecting on and creating the GC concept. A cautious attitude should be adopted and it is important to note that the term GC is not applicable to all realities and, while it does represent a more or less broad vision, this vision is not shared by everyone. However, in the field of education, the idea of citizen interdependence and the need to establish a minimum level of responsibility towards the rest of the world cannot be omitted. Once established, these concepts can then be translated into active and dedicated proposals for social change towards a more egalitarian model of human, political and environmental development, which would be reflected in people’s daily actions and political petitions to States and administrations.

Although it has not been covered in depth, this study has touched upon the configuration of individual identity in order to be able to understand, develop and put into practice the characteristics of global citizenship. This means that the context, traditions, culture and history that surround us as individuals are highly influential when it comes to understanding and developing a series of attitudes and commitments in relation to people from realities both near and far. In future research, it would be interesting to explore this idea with the aim of obtaining more information and of broadening the “focus” through which the bases of GC are understood and established.

With regard to educational practices and approaches, it is vital that schools be reconceptualised as democratic spaces since they are one of the first spaces where socialisation occurs. This implies a fundamental series of changes in the roles played by all people involved in education. This series of changes entails the adoption of responsibilities in the classroom regarding teaching processes, subject management and the accountability of everyone who forms part of the education centre. In addition, educational and training activities should be conceived as a complex process that requires the time and spaces to take a flexible approach to spontaneous or planned situations and meeting, depending on the needs of the participants. An example of this shift towards a more democratic model for schools would be a change in the role played by the students’ families. Through getting involved in the management of the centre and in educational activities with the students, these families would become an “advisory” voice on the school boards.

The knowledge and subjects that are covered in classrooms should be connected with the pupils’ reality, as well as encouraging them to be aware of and use their ability to act and make changes both as individuals and as a group. For this to be achieved, teaching methods and practices must be employed that, without exclusively relying on textbooks, use material and nearby resources that establish connections between local and global realities. It is also necessary to rethink the knowledge that is passed on by considering the local and global realities of a world in which personal, economic and environmental issues are inevitably interconnected, and in which the power to make decisions about issues such as these is unevenly distributed. Future research in line with the above could focus on exploring teaching methods and focal points that would establish stronger links between local and global realities. It is also important to investigate ways in which schools can forge better links with their local surroundings, playing a greater role in local realities while also fostering student participation and their ability to act and make changes in their local communities. Lastly, and along the same lines, it would also be interesting to continue working on the exchange of experiences and methods between the earlier stages of education and universities in order to encourage these institutions to rethink teaching methods, focal points and socio-affective attitudes through teaching innovation groups.

At the same time, is it also important that connections are formed between the range of formal and informal institutions involved in educational activities. This would allow for the introduction of strategies to prevent the duplication of activities and exhaustion of teachers, and to enhance the personal and educational development of students. These connections will require and create spaces for reflection and dialogue both inside and outside of schools in response to the actual needs of the education process. In this task, the role of governmental institutions is fundamental in that they must guarantee sufficient material and human resources in order to satisfy the needs and requirements of the education sector so as to provide quality education that is adaptable to different realities.

Continuing to focus on the role and approach taken by the State government in educational matters, and in contrast to the tendencies reflected in current reforms, there remains a strong need to introduce curricula with artistic and humanistic content, subjects and focal points at all levels of education. This need is underlined throughout this article, especially in the case of technical degrees that have become completely cut off from such areas of knowledge, creating the simplistic impression that only technical knowledge is of any worth and, to a certain extent, reducing students’ creative, critical and analytical abilities. Furthermore, we must attempt to respond to and visualise the multicultural reality of classrooms today, in order to anticipate their needs and benefit from the opportunity they present to work on GC-related topics. In order to do this, the education authorities must provide the necessary resources that will probably vary from one education centre to the next, depending on the local neighbourhood/reality.

In relation to NGDOs, there is a clear need for them to take on a more political role as well as a more explicit strategic approach. These new stances and visions would redirect activities and thinking towards strengthening networking and social bases, with the aim of legitimising the actions of NGDOs and transforming them into genuine agents of social change. With regard to the educational material created by NGDOs for schools, these resources would need to be developed in collaboration with the educational community in order to respond to the needs of different education centres and realities. NGDOs would also need to actively position themselves as channels through which education centres can voice their demands. This would imply moving away from the mere provision of administrative services in order to take on a role that is more critical of and independent from any economic relationships between NGDOs and schools.

Finally, this study also points to the need to reconceptualise research as a task that is carried out by and for society. Within this new approach to research, academic participation would cease to play an “imperative” role, dismantling its monopoly on “valid knowledge” in order to place its experience and resources to serve the collective progress of all societies and realities.

This fact is related to the thematic research proposed by Freire (2006:126); a method of research that seeks to link up the most significant themes in order to identify how the corresponding problems are interrelated. This is how it comes to be that the more critical the inquiry, the more enriching and constructive it will be, since, by preventing it from fading away as a result of the narrowing perspectives of half perceptions of reality, we are able to gain a better understanding of the full picture.

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[1] According to Rahman and Fals -Borda (1989), the term PAR is preferred as it encompasses research through an action that is participatory and also as it is research that merges with action in order to transform reality. They have also established the differences with the old line of action research proposed by K. Lewin in the US with other purposes and values, as they are considered to have reached an intellectual dead-end. They also point out the differences of the limited “sociological intervention of Alain Touraine” and “action anthropology” of Sol Tax and others; schools of thought that do not go beyond the objective and somewhat detached observer-participant technique.

[2] These opinions have been collected through an action in which several people within the groups travelled to various countries in Latin America. See Annexe I

[3] It should be noted that the segregating factor is not the bilingualism itself of a certain region, but rather certain educational policies (as in the Region of Valencia) that produce linguistic programmes in which compensatory educational support is required for students with difficulties with the language (primarily Valencian) due to their origins. And one of the consequences of the lack of human and material resources in this educational compensation is that it conditions the choice of language in which education is received and, as such, leads to the segregation of students according to their origins through the linguistic programme.

[4]Information and communication technologies.

[5] At the time of writing up this study (March 2013), the Ministry of Education presented a draft of the Organic Law for the Improvement of Education (abbreviated to LOMCE in Spanish), which if approved would remove the Citizenship Education subject from the curriculum.

[6] According to the Organic Law on Education (LOE [in Spanish]) that governs the structure and organisation of the education system at non-university level, the subject entitled Civic Education is taught as determined by each Autonomous Regional Government in years 5 and 6 of primary education and in years 2 and 3 of compulsory secondary education [ESO in Spanish].

[7]According to ORGANIC LAW 2/2006, dated 3 May, on Education, a curriculum is understood as: the set of targets, basic skills, content, teaching methods and assessment criteria for all of the educational activities governed by said law.

[8]AMPA: Association of Mothers and Fathers of Students.


[9] The “Trobades en Valencià” are meetings for debate, reflection and celebration of the educational community, organised by the Federació d’Associacions per la Llengua (FEV); a civic organisation made up of 26 associations from the region and nationwide. The main aim of this organisation is the linguistic standardisation of Valencian in all areas of use of the language, with special focus on the Valencian education system.

[10] The Inter-centre projects create the opportunity for students from different schools to work together on innovative projects in various areas and at different levels, covering a range of educational stages from early childhood to secondary education.

[11] Some examples include: the Institute of Educational Sciences (ICE) and the Centre for Development Cooperation (CCD) at the UPV.

[12]A “hidden” curriculum is one that is implicitly communicated. It does not appear in writing but is highly influential in the classroom and the educational institution as a whole. It is the result of certain institutional practices that, without appearing in any type of regulation, can end up being the most effective in the acquisition of knowledge, behavioural patterns, attitudes and values.