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Expert opinion from IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society


Never has there been such an urgent need for educational research that tackles our understanding of global forces

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 4 July 2018

Douglas Bourn.
The impact of Globalisation on societies, economies and political systems has never been greater than it is today. Brexit, the rise of xenophobia and extreme forms of nationalism in Europe and the Trump phenomenon are in part due to the influence of global forces and people’s sense of powerlessness.
Globalisation has enabled instant access to knowledge for millions of people around the world but has also resulted in the rise of ‘fake news’. Therefore, there has never been a greater need for educational institutions around the world to address these global influences.
The IOE’s Development Education Research Centre has been at the heart of responding to this need, with its research, initiatives and publications.
One of the most important of these has been the International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary. Established in 2008 at a time when global forces were only beginning to be seen as important within education, it was the year of the great financial crash. Today understanding the ‘global’ influence can be seen in many places. For example, themes such as global competencies and global citizenship are part of today’s educational landscape.
The Journal has played an important role in raising the profile of Development Education and Global Learning and encouraging a culture of research. It was the first academic journal in the English language specifically addressing development education and global learning themes. It is recognised as the world’s leading journal for research and debates on themes such as learning about global issues in the classroom, impact of development education programmes on raising understanding of development issues in society and interpretations of what it means to be a global citizen. In 2015, a special issue was produced outlining perspectives from Southern Africa that emphasised the importance of transdisciplinary approaches to learning. In 2017 a special issue was produced focusing on debates in Canada on youth voices on global citizenship. A feature of numerous articles has been publishing the outcomes of doctoral level research and the contradictions in the role and engagement of civil society organisations whose agenda can often be more on behavior change than learning.
The growth in interest in these themes can be seen in recent years through the major expansion of academic literature and research in this area. For example, over the past three years, over 40 books and 400 articles have been published on themes such as global citizenship, global skills and research on global learning. 2017 saw the establishment of the first international network of academics and researchers in the field of global education, ANGEL.
The special 10th Anniversary issue reflects this diversity and growing maturity of research. For example an article on the 2018 PISA global competencies framework demonstrates the tensions many in the development education community feel about this initiative in terms of promoting value of global learning but yet doing so within the framework of a narrow testing methodology. Another example reviews a European wide global education programme for primary schools and emphasises the importance of pre and in-service training of teachers. One of the most controversial articles in this issue is a critique of child sponsorship as a global education initiative and the dangers of an approach that assumes mere exposure to learning about global poverty can lead to forms of social action. Finally the issue includes a powerful analysis of how adult migrants and refugees respond to the question of ‘do they see themselves as global citizens’. The evidence suggests that whilst they can resonate with a sense of being global, they did not see themselves as ‘citizens’ and felt excluded from decision-making processes in society.
What these articles show is the contemporary social and political relevance of this educational field. Never has there been such an urgent need for educational research that addresses understanding of global forces within societies and economies. Development Education has had its main aim working towards more just and fairer societies. For these aims to have any progress, research on the impact of learning about global forces must be a high priority.
Professor Douglas Bourn is Co-Director of Development Education Research Centre and was Editor of the International Journal for Development Education and Global Learning from 2008 to 2015.
Photo: DFID via Creative Commons

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