Carlos Alberto Torres, Distinguished Professor of Education at UCLA and UNESCO Chair in Global Learning and Global Citizenship Education discusses the latest developments in the field of global citizenship education and shares his insights on how to advance this movement in an interview with AFS. Dr. Torres also spoke at a recent Global Education Symposium convened by AFS Argentina & Uruguay. Read more about this Symposium here.

1. What are the latest developments in the field of global citizenship education?

Some of the themes at the top of the agenda today come in the form of open questions such as: How to define citizenship to include global citizenship education? How has the concept of global citizenship education been incorporated in the discussions of governments and academia around the world? What is the role of UNESCO and the United Nations in promoting global citizenship education and education for sustainable development?

These themes are altering the way we understand education and learning in the 21st century. They are also connected to the controversies around the concept of citizenship, diversity and the dilemmas of multiculturalism—and the responsibilities of universities and adult learning systems in promoting citizenship building.

2. How can educators and schools improve the way they  teach global competence?

Global citizenship education aims at enabling learners to understand world issues while empowering them with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes they need to address global problems. Developing global citizens is a process of individual and collective growth that allows transformation and self-transformation. Teachers should also be part of this transformative process as learners, acquiring critical thinking and analytical skills so that they can help their students become active social agents.

3. What are some of the obstacles of global citizenship education?

In my research, I have identified five great enemies of democracy and, by implication, of global citizenship education. These are rabid nationalism, religious extremism, corruption, authoritarian populism, and fake news.

4. What are the major challenges in your current role?

There are many challenges, but I would like to mention two of the most important. The first one is funding. The second one is developing a common definition or understanding of what global citizenship education really means. We must seek a way to teach a confluence of values and practices that enhance the dignity of human life and preserve nature, no matter what we call this concept, be it global citizenship education or something else.

5. AFS convenes stakeholders across sectors to advocate for global citizenship education and include global competence as a core 21st century skill. What should we focus on to advance this movement?

Promoting global citizenship education is a social movement that requires a diversity of approaches and practices, as well as robust agendas for research, teaching, activism, and policy.

Global citizenship education should facilitate critical thinking, and include human rights, social justice education, sustainability, migration and diversity in the school curricula and discussions.

However, this will require reforming schools at all levels, as well as extensive teacher training.  Global citizenship education also must be included in non-formal learning situations and informal learning opportunities like articles and postings in the media.

I wonder if I will see in my own lifetime this revolutionary movement for education and freedom.

Read this interview in Spanish

Carlos Alberto Torres, Distinguished Professor of Education, is the inaugural holder of the UNESCO UCLA Chair on Global Learning and Global Citizenship Education, UCLA. Founding Director of the Paulo Freire Institute (São Paulo; Buenos Aires; UCLA), and former Director of the UCLA Latin American Center (1995-2005). Dr. Torres, has authored, co-authored or edited more than 70 books, and more than 200 peer-review research articles, chapters in books and entries in encyclopedias in several languages. He is currently the editor of the forthcoming Wiley Handbook on Freire and Editor of Global Commons Review (see


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