Global Citizenship Education is a powerful approach in education that can empower people to recover from crises and transform their communities into peaceful and sustainable societies,” says Monika Froehler in her latest interview with AFS.

Monika Froehler is the CEO of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens. She is a passionate change maker, advocate, founder and speaker. She was entrusted to create the Ban Ki-moon Centre after working at the UN, the EU, the Austrian Foreign Ministry and in field missions around the globe. She is passionate about the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement. Throughout her career she managed to support hundreds of women, young people and communities all over the globe e.g. working in Africa and Latin America to ban landmines; working to improve hospital care in rural Central Asia and Africa; assisting in eco-friendly city planning in Asia and bettering the living conditions of women in the Middle East and West-Africa.

Monika shared her reflections with us in advance of the AFS Global Conference (22-23 October 2020) which explored the impact of the first ever PISA Global Competence Assessment results on different education stakeholders, and help us define the path forward. 


How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted global citizenship education (GCED)?

In the past couple of months, due to the COVID-19 crisis, the educational sector was challenged a lot – almost as much as the health sector. Literally all educators, students and parents alike were engaged in minimizing the problems of school closures and keeping on educational efforts despite lockdown. 

The COVID-19 pandemic was much more than a disruption. Schools were shut down in 146 countries and the pandemic still threatens to exacerbate existing inequalities and the huge digital divide. 3,7 billion people are not connected to the Internet. Only some societies could afford to respond by the rapid deployment of digital learning models, alternative scheduling and physical distancing in classrooms and schoolyards. So education – as such – was challenged to its core, as it relied heavily on “traditional methods” of physically gathering, frontal teaching in classrooms, and nationally defined curricula.  

What are the implications for GCED? Global Citizenship Education has been frequently presented as a pedagogical answer to respond to the challenges derived from globalization: respect for human rights, development of global responsibility, environmental awareness, economic growth, social justice, and so forth.  

GCED therefore has become even more necessary particularly with the lessons we learnt from COVID-19. Our education systems need to increasingly focus on critical thinking, empathy and encourage responsible, democratic forms of engagement and collaboration among citizens and governments from other regions of the world. GCED has become ever more imperative.

What new trends are you seeing in global citizenship education (GCED) and youth work?

GCED is a powerful approach in education that can empower people to recover from crises and transform their communities into peaceful and sustainable societies. It includes specific educational approaches that provide effective entry points for international understanding, critical thinking, teamwork, peace and human rights education. Practically GCED often instils an activist and/or a certain social entrepreneurial mindset by promoting the knowledge of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), global citizen values and 21st century skills. 

Therefore, in the past couple of years the significance and means of GCED have incredibly evolved. Information is accessible at everyone’s fingertips, once connected to the Internet. Youth activism is a key amplifier of global citizen values. Several global movements have gained prominence lately from #FridaysforFuture to #EarthUprising to #BlacklivesMatter etc. And digitalization enables tremendous reach and opportunities for borderless cooperation.  

Educational systems are adapting slowly to these changes, in contrast to the velocity in which the world itself and our societies are changing.

How can non-formal education improve 21st century education for young people worldwide?

Non-formal education is more flexible than formal education. It can therefore respond to demands of young people worldwide faster.

Non-formal education can quickly be contextualized and pragmatic, responding to local needs. It can take into account realities and constraints due to a crisis situation and can be inclusive and participative, while being based on human rights. Non-formal education can more easily involve multiple stakeholders and normally aims at sustaining collaboration with local communities.

Right now, it is our responsibility as teachers, educational researchers, policymakers, pedagogical institutions and concerned international organizations to encourage reflections that expand our possibilities to address the pedagogical dimensions of global civic challenges.