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FOCUS December 2016 Volume 86

GCED and Human Rights Education


The idea of Global Citizenship Education (GCED) is now being promoted in the school systems in Asia and the Pacific by the United Nations (UN). It is a new initiative that builds on the previous UN educational programs such as the Education for International Understanding (EIU) and the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). All these educational initiatives of the United Nations are intrinsically linked to its main concern: human rights.

UNESCO Program
UNESCO adopted GCED as one of its strategic areas of work for the 2014-2021 period based on the educational component of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically target 4.7, which calls on countries to ensure that by 2030,1

 all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

UNESCO links its work on GCED to its “long standing experience in human rights and peace education,” which is guided by its Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights treaties, the Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1974), and the World Programme for Human Rights Education (2005-ongoing).2

The Incheon Declaration for Education 2030, is the most recent international consensus of over “1,600 participants from 160 countries, including over 120 Ministers, heads and members of delegations, heads of agencies and officials of multilateral and bilateral organizations, and representatives of civil society, the teaching profession, youth and the private sector [who] reaffirm[ed] the vision and political will reflected in numerous international and regional human rights treaties that stipulate the right to education and its interrelation with other human rights.”3

The declaration also promotes a new vision that is “inspired by a humanistic vision of education and development based on human rights and dignity; social justice; inclusion; protection; cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity; and shared responsibility and accountability.” It supports education that addresses “all forms of exclusion and marginalization, disparities and inequalities in access, participation and learning outcomes.” It also stresses the “importance of human rights education and training in order to achieve the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.”

This declaration was adopted at the World Education Forum 2015, held on 19 – 22 May 2015 in Incheon. It was organized by UNESCO along with several other UN agencies (UNICEF, the World Bank, UNFPA, UNDP, UN Women and UNHCR).

GCED Conference
The Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding (APCEIU) organized an international conference on Global Citizenship Education (GCED) with the support of UNESCO on 24-25 October 2016 in Seoul.

The conference was attended by about two hundred educators from Asia, Africa and some from Latin America and Europe consisting of GCED experts, practitioners, and educators from the academe, private sector, civil society organizations, youth organizations, education ministries, international/regional organizations, GCED-specialized institutes, and the general public. There were plenary and simultaneous workshop sessions.

The Conference aimed to:
1. Provide a platform for sharing practices, pedagogy, ideas, and insights on GCED and reinforcing partnerships and network among key stakeholders (policymakers, academic community, youth, NGOs, UN entities, etc.); 
2. Raise public awareness and formulate strong advocacy on GCED; and
3. Advance GCED at the local, national, regional and global levels in the context of SDGs.

The plenary sessions included keynote speeches on GCED for sustainable and peaceful societies; panel discussion: What does it mean to be a global citizen?; GCED Talks: Learning to live together; Way Forward: Building sustainable solidarity.

The Concurrent Sessions included the following:
1. Actors of GCED
• Innovative teacher education approaches to GCED
• Whole-school approach to GCED
• Youth engagement as change makers
2. Thematic Approaches to GCED
• Building a culture of peace
• Respect for cultural diversity
• Prevention of violent extremism (PVE)
• Sustainable development (Human rights)
3. Learning Process and Assessment
• Integration of GCED into curriculum 
• GCED teaching & learning resources
• Assessing learning outcomes of GCED
• Transformative pedagogies for GCED.

The Concurrent Session on Sustainable Development (Human Rights) held on the second day of the conference (October 25) emphasized the importance of using the educational component of Social Development Goals (Target 4.7) and the bases of people’s participation on the link between development and human rights. Sustainable development, in relation to Global Citizenship, requires the active role of people and should be based on the fulfilment of human rights as provided for in UN declarations.

National-level Implementation of the GCED
In December 2016, the APCEIU and the Ministry of Education of Bhutan jointly held a national workshop in Thimphu that aimed primarily to “strengthen capacities of local education professionals by improving their knowledge on the key concepts and pedagogical principles for GCED, EIU and ESD in line with SDG 4.7.”4

This kind of national activity provided focused discussion on concepts and practice related to GCED. It provided an opportunity to examine international issues and standards in relation to specific national context.

The workshop had the following major topics:
1. Critical analysis of the local and international issues - seen from the perspective of human rights education and drawing connections between GCED, EIU and ESD based on universal values;
2. Exploring pedagogical principles for GCED, EIU and ESD – using exercises, observation, discussion and reflection on democratic dialogue and communication;
3. Designing and developing activities for GCED, EIU and ESD in the participants’ schools and communities;
4. Discussing the way forward by sharing ideas on effective implementation strategies for GCED, EIU and ESD in Bhutan.

The application of GCED in school setting was presented through the GCED program of an upper secondary school in eastern Bhutan.5 The Dungtse Central School in Phongmey county in Trashigang district acts as a feeder school for the students who come from remote schools (Sag steng Lower Secondary School, Me Rag Primary School, Jöenkhar Primary School, Yarbrang Primary School, Thöngrong Primary School, Tökshimang Primary School, and Pakaling Primary School) in the district.

In 2013, Dungtse Central School started the “Embracing GCED with GNH Curriculum (A Whole School Approach to GCED)” program. Its diversity component highlights the cultures and traditions of the different ethnic groups in the region through the activities of students belonging to these groups.

This national workshop is a good example of making GCED better appreciated by educators who are at the forefront of facilitating the education of people. Such workshop should be an opportunity for dialogue among the educators at both conceptual and practical levels.

Human Rights and GCED
There is a need to emphasize the human rights component of GCED. Since human rights constitute one of the major pillars of the UN, they must be essential components of any educational initiative of the institution.

The teaching and learning of human rights in the context of GCED are supported by numerous UN declarations that guide UNESCO and its affiliated institutions including APCEIU.

The national workshop in Thimphu provided an opportunity to clarify the common link of the different UN educational initiatives including GCED that address various concerns including development, environment, human rights and peace. It provided the opportunity to discuss the defining role of human rights in pursuing these educational initiatives, GCED in particular.

For further information, please contact HURIGHTS OSAKA.

BhutanWkshp (1).jpgEndnotes
1 Sustainable Development 4, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform,
2 UNESCO, Global Citizenship Education,
3 Incheon Declaration for Education 2030,
4 Concept Note, National Workshop on Implementing Global Citizenship Education in Bhutan, APCEIU, November 2016.
5 Yeshi Dorji, Head of the English Department of Dungtse Central School presented the school program. He was also one of the key persons in the Ministry of Education team (headed by Wangchuk Bidha) that organized the national workshop.