Education & SDG 4.7 Partnerships Teaching materials

Worldwise Global Schools – How Ireland is Helping Kids “Wise Up” on Global Issues

Funded by Irish Aid, this programme brings knowledge about global justice and sustainability to schools.

Most development communicators identify “youth” as one of their main audiences. So where can you be sure to find young women and men? On social media? Likely. At school? Almost definitely. So, if you want to communicate about global issues with young audiences, you need to support Global Citizenship Education (GCE).

Schools are a great place to learn about the interdependencies of our globalised world, and to encourage children – and their families – to take a shared responsibility for the future of our planet. Whether it’s child labour, water conflicts, trade imbalances or marine pollution, we need to dismantle the myth that these are far-away problems.

A 2018 PISA study found that school activities related to global competences have a significant impact on the attitudes of 15-year-old students towards global and intercultural issues. Yet, there are major differences in how much access students have to such learning opportunities. In terms of general access to global learning, Ireland ranks 23rd out of 65 participating countries. In terms of the number of global learning activities that students are engaged in at school, the country ranks just 51st.

In Ireland, a number of GCE experts are working hard to bring global issues into classrooms. Launched in 2013 with support from Irish Aid, the Worldwise Global Schools initiative (WWGS) has already partnered with 350 of the country’s 730 post-primary schools!

The WWGS team provides schools with a complete 6-step planning framework to help organise their global education lessons and initiatives. There are training events and materials, as well as helpful guidelines for teachers on how to add GCE content into a typical lesson. Schools can also ask a so-called Education Officer for advice and training. WWGS also provides grants for schools with more limited resources, where overworked educators may see GCE as a costly extra burden.

As so often in communications, the key to success is promoting audience participation. Students need to become teachers themselves, carrying messages about global issues forward and educating their parents, younger siblings and people around them. WWGS guidelines and materials aim to do just this, by encouraging classes to engage in communication efforts: school assemblies, cooperating with other schools, organising public events, publishing newsletters or producing videos.

To provide schools with a further incentive to engage in GCE, World Wise Schools has developed an awards system. The Global Passport Award comes in three categories: the “Citizen’s Passport Award”, the “Diplomatic Passport Award” and the “Special Passport Award”. Schools decide for themselves which category they want to aim for, based on their level of ambition and innovation. To qualify for one of the awards, institutions are judged in diverse categories, such as “Curriculum”, “Teacher Capacity & Engagement” and “Community Engagement”. Once they gain an award schools can hold on to it for two years. After that, they need to apply again. In 2018, the Global Passport Award itself earned a prestigious prize: an innovation award from the Global Education Network Europe!

Worldwise Global Schools is anchored as a strategic partnership programme in Irish Aid’s Development Education Strategy for 2017-2023, which highlights the importance of Global Citizenship Education in building “a sense of belonging to a common humanity”. The strategy figures prominently in the section on “Communications Activities” of Ireland’s last Voluntary National Review on the SDGs. In the review, the government pledges “to ensure that education contributes to sustainable development by equipping learners with the relevant knowledge, skills and values that will motivate and empower them throughout their lives”. This commitment mirrors the global target of SDG 4.7 “to ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development”.

Many SDG communicators have recognized the value of schools as partners in conveying values and attitudes to the young, and the importance of having teachers that are equipped and empowered to engage students for sustainable development. The Worldwise Global Schools programme shows the way forward. It understands the needs of schools and teachers. It helps them meet these needs and it seeks to give them recognition for their efforts.

Global citizenship education is a long-term commitment. But it is an investment that brings returns. In collaboration with educators, communicators can deliver their message to the next generation and see the message multiplied to all segments of society.


This post is published in partnership with Engagement Global, a German service agency working on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to engage civil society on issues of development co-operation.

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