Education & SDG 4.7 Partnerships Teaching materials

Listen. Learn. Grow. Empowering young Belgians to become global citizens

Young Belgians are learning to become active agents for change through a global citizenship education programme.

This is a Draft Guest post by Marie Navarre, Communication Officer for the federal global citizenship education program at Enabel, the Belgian development agency.

“Enabel is convinced of the need of Global Citizenship Education (GCE) in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Global citizenship education should be part and parcel of all sustainable development initiatives.”

Global citizenship education can take many forms. For Enabel, GCE is about stimulating youngsters to become active agents for change. We do so by (a) raising awareness of global issues, (b) embedding GCE in education programmes and (c) supporting initiatives taken by young people for a more just and sustainable world.


To be able to change the world, one must first understand the world in all its complexity. This is why we invest in informing and training teachers, school principals, pedagogical advisors and others. Through continuous training, inspiration days and immersion journeys on global issues, (future) teachers, school teams and school principals learn about complex challenges and solutions in areas like climate change or migration. They learn to shift away from their familiar centre of gravity, to consider different points of view and question their own positions. They also learn to teach these new skills to others! You can find examples of projects and publications on our website.

A project example: At Parc Malou – Robert Maistriau school, sustainable development is at the center of the educational project. Nature is part of the children’s daily life: pond, henhouse, vegetable garden, … there is always a place to explore! An overview in pictures…


The programme focuses on embedding GCE in the education system in two ways.

First, through advocacy, we try to convince education actors, from the Minister to school networks and teacher trainer institutions, about the usefulness and importance of GCE in education. We want the education community to take ownership of the matter and open the doors of curricula and schools to GCE. Since 2015, we have been involved in the design and implementation of the Pact for an Education of Excellence, a comprehensive reform of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. In 2018, we helped facilitate – together with the federation of NGOs – an agreement between the Ministries of Development Co-operation and Education on integrating GCE into the curriculum in Wallonia and Brussels.

Second, the programme works on pedagogical innovation. Our GCE innovation labs have informed new teaching practices on issues like governance or decolonisation. We develop activities for teachers based on critical pedagogies (discussing the general role and status of teachers), on whole-of-school approaches, or linking art and GCE.

Our activity on art and GCE, for example, allows us to find alternative ways of reading the world and engaging with it, through the body and artistic work.  Art is used here as a means of social transformation. Our activities in this area – including debates, student projects and teaching materials – helped train future art teachers in global issues, particularly on the issue of migration. This project also resulted in a handbook to help other art colleges take up this approach.

This film is the third part of an exploration of “art and education for global citizenship”.


Two years ago, we launched a study to find out how young Belgians are involved in today’s world. We found out that an important condition for young people to participate in global civil society is the presence of local or international networks. Another conclusion is about the social environments that encourage people to engage: family is here very important, but also school, youth movements and university.

Drawing on these insights, Enabel’s GCE program is conducting a second phase of this research with a pilot project on youth engagement and international solidarity. 


Our experience with GCE has provided us with a number of lessons to share with colleagues in other countries.

  1. Get to know the education system

To gain credibility and recognition from decision-makers in the education sector, we had to demonstrate strong knowledge of the education system, including its jargon, legal framework and specific challenges. One person from our GCE team is responsible for following latest developments in the sector, including curriculum and higher education reforms. This helps us anticipate and seize opportunities for GCE, preparing and proposing the right pedagogical tools at the right time. We also share this knowledge with other GCE actors, for example non-governmental organisations that offer teacher training.

  1. Start from what young people know and live

What we  learned from our teachers trainings and through our study on youth engagement in Belgium (Enabel, 2021) is that we need to start from what young people know and what moves them. Addressing global challenges by showing young people – often catastrophic – images of global warming in Antarctica or war in the Middle East is not the right method.

In other words: to address the global, we need to start from the local. A good example of this is in vocational education. Our GCE training course starts from everyday objects used by future professionals, such as chocolate (for caterers), shampoo (for hairdressers) or chainsaws (for carpenters). We use these objects as entry points for a conversation about where products come from, how they are manufactured, shipped and marketed, and whether they are linked with conflict. 

“Questions vives” (Living Questions) is another example. It begins with fact sheets on major news items that affect young people (e.g. the Squid Game television series, the war in Ukraine, the murder of a French teacher who showed cartoons of Mohammed). It then offers learning paths that teachers can use in class to open qualitative and philosophical debates on issues like freedom, (dis)information and fake news, gender, or democracy. We conceived this pedagogical material in collaboration with the public radio and television channel RTBF and Amnesty International.

  1. Work with partners 

Another lesson we learned is the strength of partnerships. Whether with education actors, NGOs, the media or private partners, partnerships are beneficial at several levels. When reaching out to specific audiences, partners often provide goodwill and trust, and can give credibility to the project. Partnerships are also essential for disseminating the results or capitalising on the project. Our outputs must be shared, used and discussed – there is nothing more frustrating than being convinced about the relevance of an activity and having no one know about it.

In our GCE programme, we have collaborated with a large range of valuable partners: art colleges, the Higher Council for Media Education (CSEM), the public radio and television channel RTBF, Amnesty International, the French community, an association for sustainable development (Coren), the UNESCO Associated Schools Network, as well as NGOs and NGO networks working on GCE


What makes GCE in Belgium special is the fact that it touches on the three reciprocally reinforcing areas of action: awareness raising, mobilisation and advocacy. While awareness raising is already an essential part of education, mobilisation and advocacy takes us into the middle of society and helps us reach much further. Together, these three areas of action can engage young people and stakeholders towards a more just and sustainable world.

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.

1 comment on “Listen. Learn. Grow. Empowering young Belgians to become global citizens

  1. Mugisha Cohens

    Wow! Incredible development here. I like the GCE concept.

    How can interested person out of Belgium (in Uganda) be part of the program?


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