Full file (pdf): EGR07 00 Editorial

We live in a time of breath-taking advances in global communications. Opportunities to travel and experience the lives of other communities abound to an unprecedented degree. During 2015 it is possible that several members of our Editorial Committee will be lucky enough to spend weeks in remote villages in eastern Gambia, walk along the beautiful cliffs of Wales and cycle through Peru and Bolivia. However, this ease of movement is balanced by severe restrictions which prevent some members from travelling to large parts of the world.

From the perspective of the British members of the Editorial Committee, immigration to the United Kingdom has always been a fact of life and the richness of its diverse population is one of the reasons for the success of its economy and the creative talents of its people. Nonetheless, how do we go about reconciling celebration of this diversity with the threat of terrorist acts within our community or the radicalisation of groups of our population who join conflicts in other parts of the world? Indeed, there is a growing fear in the UK of these returning radicals committing violent acts. There are great opportunities to communicate and experience the world, but there are also significant restrictions and threats that prevent many from doing this.

Our British colleagues report that the British government has, in order to consolidate and embed a feeling of loyalty and commitment to the UK, decided that children and young people should fully appreciate our inherent identity and that, in part, this can be achieved by promoting ‘British Values’. It is hoped that in doing this a wall can be built between tolerance and radical extremism.

‘British Values’ is the latest political football to land in the school playground. As a response to fears of radicalisation and extremism, schools in England are now expected to show inspectors their ‘British Values’ policy and even their ‘British Values’ display! Rumours of instant failure in the event these cannot be produced spread like head lice in Year 1! But should schools be fearful? A closer look at recent guidance published by The Department of Education reveals that schools need to ensure that young people leave school prepared for life in modern Britain. All schools, it states, have a duty to ‘actively promote’ the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. These values were originally set out in the ‘Prevent’ strategy, published by the government in 2011.

Many schools set out how they address these values in a logical and systematic way. Take this extract from the policy of a primary school in England that explains how the ‘British Value’ of democracy is promoted:

Democracy: Pupils have the opportunity to have their voices heard through our School Council. It promotes the democratic process, and fosters the concept and application of freedom of speech and group action to address needs and concerns. The election of a girl and boy School Councillor from each Year is organised through a pupil vote from each year group for those pupils who wish to stand to represent their year group. The Chair and Vice Chair of the School Council are elected from Year 6. Every year pupil views are sought through a questionnaire on a wide range of school matters including enjoyment of school, quality of learning, standards of teaching and behaviour and matters related to safety. We use the outcomes of surveys to make adjustments and improvements for the children.

Democracy – At our school we aim to:

  • Include in the curriculum information and opportunities to learn about the parliamentary and democratic system in Britain.
  •  Provide pupils with a broad general knowledge of, and promote respect for, British institutions.
  •  Teach pupils how they can influence decision-making through the democratic process in school and ensure they are listened to.
  •  Explain the advantages and disadvantages of democracy and how it works in Britain
  •  Develop children’s ability to learn how to argue and defend points of view. 
  • Help pupils to express their views in a variety of situations.”


A debate can be sparked about whether these are particularly ‘British Values’ or the values of many humane societies. Indeed, are these values reflected in the bedrock of British life? The author and broadcaster, Michael Rosen, argues that it is hypocritical to promote these values as particularly British, especially when many aspects of British society do not reflect them. Are children encouraged to examine and reflect critically on these values, and when they are found wanting, are criticism and the opportunity to work as active global citizens to do something about it encouraged? It is not enough to write policies and put up displays in schools celebrating how our students engage with this agenda within their school. Space needs to be found for open and honest debate and the chance to act as agents of change, even amongst the youngest children. The policy extract above correctly mentions fostering ‘the concept and application of freedom of speech and group action to address needs and concerns’ but at the same time it promotes ‘respect for British Institutions’. Respect for British Institutions comes with knowledge and a robust debate and critique of their validity and performance.

Small candles of hope do burn amongst this confusion. Teachers talk to one another to make sense of these demands and decide what is really important for their children. Curriculums evolve that place emphasis on listening to students’ views and capturing their spirit and adventurousness. These curriculums consider the child, and their background and experiences and have clear aims for high standards in core subjects, but they also ensure a wider view of the world. Developing an understanding of other cultures, the diverse nature of the world reflected in our own communities, globalisation, interdependence and understanding why the world is like it is should be a vital part of our children’s education. Why does poverty exist, not just in stereotypical African countries, but in the appalling chasm of wealth in our own and other ‘advanced’ countries?

When do children begin to acquire this knowledge, hone these skills and develop values that consider other groups beyond their own? Some might call this vital strand ‘global learning’. This is a term that often leaves teachers confused, however, we can explore it and begin to appreciate how it can be a vehicle for creating global citizens who can survive and prosper in a globalised world and also serve as global critics who question the status quo. In fact, it will address the challenge of developing ‘British Values’ because, surely, an important value is a commitment to social justice and equity.

Schools in England can be a confusing and stressful place to work. Torn between the expectations of parents, governors and government inspectors who compete to influence the ethos and direction of the schools, teachers and children become the victims of political decision making. Head teachers are left with the unenviable task of making sense of this mess, compromising their true beliefs about how a school’s success should be judged by creating a hybrid that pays lip service to a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum but whose main purpose is to prepare our young people for the SATs (statutory assessment tests) and the inevitable Ofsted government inspections. Head teachers in England now live a very strange life as they approach the next inspection. Wednesday lunchtime is past so no inspection can happen until next Tuesday! Many talented and experienced Head teachers, even those from ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools, have prematurely decided to ‘call it a day’ and retire, or ‘pretire’ to a part-time professional life away from the stress of waiting for Ofsted.

Let us consider the British Government’s claims of a curriculum free from excessive prescriptive content, leaving schools to develop exciting, creative learning (a curriculum so important that it can be ignored if a school becomes a more independent academy). Wouldn’t that be great; head teachers and their highly qualified staff making decisions about the curriculum! Alas, this is not the reality. SAT tests at seven and 11 years of age are designed to assess levels of attainment in maths and English, so how surprising is it that there is an obsessive dominance of these subjects in the curriculum with their tracking and on-going assessment? Very young children are separated from their peers into special groups for ‘booster’ sessions and vital opportunities to enhance and enrich the curriculum are ignored or postponed until ‘after the tests’. Vital opportunities, even for young children, to mix informally with their peers are wasted in order to fit in extra lessons. We have met very few teachers who are not hard-working and committed to their students’ best interests, but it takes a brave teacher, or head teacher, to create a ‘world class curriculum’ with confidence and know it will produce interested, highly motivated, critical young people who also perform well in the SATs.

Including a global learning thread within the curriculum is vital and with it comes the realistic possibility of achieving many of the aims of ‘British Values’. Whether we take the key elements of responsible global citizenship, published in 2006 by Oxfam, or the more recent global learning outcomes from ‘The Global Learning Programme’, an opportunity can be seen to achieve the aims of advocates of ‘British Values’ but with a greater emphasis on developing critical thinking that encourages questions about the status quo.

Skills (Oxfam, 2006)

● Critical thinking

● Ability to argue effectively

● Ability to challenge injustice and inequalities

● Respect for people and things

● Co-operation and conflict resolution


Values and attitudes (Oxfam, 2006)

● Sense of identity and self-esteem

● Empathy

● Commitment to social justice and equity

● Value and respect for diversity

● Concern for the environment and commitment to sustainable development

● Belief that people can make a difference

The Global Learning Programme: 2013 (See pdf file).

 Curriculums throughout the world, both formal and informal, need to aim to produce creative, critical young people with strong values-based aims; not ‘robot like’ agreement to a pre-determined list but rather critical reflection as to whether they encompass everything that a community holds as important, as well as keen observation of the actions of individuals, schools, institutions and governments to ensure they are held to account.

‘The lives of children and young people are increasingly shaped by what happens in other parts of the world. Education for Global Citizenship gives them the knowledge understanding, skills and values that they need if they are to participate fully in ensuring their own, and others’, well-being and to make a positive contribution, both locally and globally.’ (Oxfam, ‘Education for Global Citizenship A Guide for Schools’ 2006)

As Michael Rosen said, the positive aspect of considering these ‘British Values’ guidelines is it creates the opportunity for them to be scrutinised carefully by children. Let us hope that schools take the chance to promote the skills and values of global citizens to enable them to do just that.

As we can see, we are facing a complex subject that we must continue to debate, not just with a positive perspective but also with an in-depth process of critical thinking, given that there are many risks and nuances that can appear when considering the topic that concerns us. It is in this context that we present issue 7 of this Journal, the first article in which is, albeit indirectly, closely related to the topics that we have previously covered.


The article, “The impact of international schools partnerships (ISPs) on the teaching and learning of Geography. Uganda, a case study”, written by Naomi Adams and Mark Chidler from Newman University (Birmingham, UK), presents a critical study of a very common practice in the United Kingdom, namely partnerships between different parts of the world (particularly from different continents) to create a pedagogical link between both school communities that strengthens learning in a global perspective. This subject area is one that Mark Chidler already presented in issue 5 of this Journal and that he now returns to address with this article, analysing the progress of this practice in the United Kingdom and where high quality ISPs can be found. This practice is also related to the topic that we have covered in this editorial and is a challenge when establishing relationships between places in which educational cooperation is real and not something “vertical”, which usually happens in some cases. The temptations of paternalistic relations can be found everywhere. They are, to some extent, the legacy of colonial experiences that are now “disguised” under a modern and benign perspective, but that sometimes create dependencies that do not lead anywhere. The authors focus on the subject of geography and on a specific case in Uganda, but their conclusions can be applied to other examples.


The second article, written by our colleague Miguel Ardanaz, tries to develop an approach to the classroom that works from the global dimension. “The classroom as a space for global learning. The world as a classroom for transformative learning: Twelve paths and one perspective”, uses a narrative-like technique to imagine what it would be like to look through the windows of educational spaces that work with this focus. This is a development of the “global learning focus” that has already been presented in previous articles. From here, he formulates twelve signs that can help us to identify whether global learning spaces are being built and whether they are on the right path. He also presents a framework for thought on revising curriculum designs from the perspective at hand. These techniques are starting to be used in the Global Cities YPOGS project that is supported by the European Union, and, after slow implementation, they are now producing real change. In any case, we are aware that while the author considers classrooms in particular, any of these techniques can be used in any educational space or initiative as a model for observation and review.


In the third article we come across the strange experience of reading about the birth of a sister Journal to ours in Portugal, in which the authors focus on their collaborative experience, as a methodology for working together, an experience with which we can identify. “Sinergias –creating an academic journal on Education for Development with an experience of collaborative working” was written by Jorge Cardoso, Tânia Neves, La Salete Coelho and Carolina Cravo, from the Gonçalo da Silveira Foundation and the Centre for African Studies at the University of Porto. In their reflection and systematisation we can see how this project, focusing on research into ED in the Portuguese context, was first established as they explain how they link both ideas and how the project can be built between everyone, with patience and with clear ideas.


Moving on to the review section, we examine three publications with very different origins and objectives that display the range of reflections in our subject area. The first is a work about citizenship education in Europe, written by Avril Keating: “Education for Citizenship in Europe. European Policies, National Adaptations and Young People´s attitudes”. This study, discussed by our colleague Elena Oliveros, like the following one, again puts the topic of “national values” (in this case European) on the table within an in-depth study on perceptions and focuses.


The second book is a published Master’s dissertation by Konsue Salinas, in which she considers the possibilities of ED in the school setting: “Acercando la Educación para el desarrollo a la escuela. Una mirada internacional, una mirada local” (“Bringing Education for development to school. An international perspective, a local perspective”). She concludes by contextualising the study in Navarre, the autonomous community where she lives. This is a region with some highly thought-provoking ED initiatives (in the Spanish context) and could be an interesting reference. In support of this type of initiative, this issue of the Journal will be presented in Pamplona with the collaboration of the NGDO Coordinator of Navarre.


The third book is a short publication on a topic that is closely aligned with the interests of this Journal: the evaluation of ED, “Evaluar la Educación para el Desarrollo. Aprendiendo de nuestras experiencias” (“Evaluating Education for Development. Learning from our experience”). This work, coordinated by María Dolores Ochoa and María Paz Torres Rosales, considers the different evaluation methods that are currently being used. They also propose one that they consider to be more appropriate. The review is by Justina Sánchez, of Intered.

We conclude this issue by continuing with the subject of evaluation. In this case, the guest article in this issue is a piece by specialists Jan Van Ongevalle and Bénédicte Fonteneau, from the University of Leuven in Belgium, and who are also affiliated with the Research Institute of Work and Society (HIVA). “Learning about the effects of Development Education programmes. Towards a learning centred monitoring and evaluation practice” is an excellent piece of research which, based on a study of the work of a number of organisations, proposes the keys for carrying out an evaluation focused on learning. This perspective is one with which we at this Journal identify. We recommend a careful reading of this report, which we have put into article-format and that we believe could be highly thought-provoking.

After we finished this article we awoke to the news that almost one and a half thousand people had died crossing the Mediterranean in search of a better life. This is painful proof that global learning is a vital element in the world in which we all live. Some of our politicians were probably off school the day that this was covered, having seen the solutions that they proposed at the meeting of heads of government that took place after the disaster.