In an interconnected world facing common problems that recognise no boundaries, global citizenship concepts have become common topics at scholarly conferences and in educational discourses. However, many Arab schools rarely tackle these concepts.
A recent study led by Naima Al-Husban, an associate professor of education at the Arab Open University, in Jordan, found that global citizenship concepts were only superficially integrated into Jordanian textbooks, “and this was done in a limited, unsystematic and inconsistent way with a reference to national or regional meanings rather than to a global one.”
In the study, titled “Investigating Global Citizenship Concepts Embedded in Primary and Secondary Textbooks in Jordan,” Al-Husban and her team analysed 57 textbooks on the Arabic and English languages, science, and social education across primary and secondary education, from kindergarten to 12th grade.
“We found a notable focus on collaboration, social responsibility, local rights and duties, and local citizenship,” Al-Husban said in an interview with Al-Fanar Media. “Otherwise, there were disparities in including a list of 100 concepts, classified into knowledge, skills, and values, most of which were absent.”
Published in June, the study was supervised by Mohammad Tawalbeh, dean of the Faculty of Education at the Arab Open University. It received support from EQUAL, the Education Quality and Learning for All Global Network at New York University, among other organisations.
A second study from the same project, which started late in 2019, focuses on teachers’ awareness of global citizenship concepts. It will be published later in JSSE–Journal of Social Science Education.
Global Citizenship Education
Al-Husban thinks that global citizenship education is crucial to guarantee graduates’ acceptance of others in an increasingly interconnected world. “Thanks to technology, we are living in a global village now,” she said. “We need to be ready.”
According to the United Nations, global citizenship education (GCED) aims to provide young learners with the understanding, skills and values they need to cooperate in resolving global challenges. Unesco’s work in this area is guided in large part by the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, particularly SDG 4 on Education and its seventh target (4.7).
“Thanks to technology, we are living in a global village now. We need to be ready.”Naima Al-Husban, an associate professor of education at the Arab Open University.
In the interview with Al-Fanar Media, Al-Husban said she and her co-researchers approached EQUAL with a plan related to meeting the goals of Target 4.7, which calls on countries to ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills they need “to promote sustainable development, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.”
“I wondered, What tools do we need to communicate such global ideas to our learners in the 21st century?” Al-Husban said. “From my reading, I think that global citizenship is an umbrella that entails all requirements that can help graduates possess the tools of the future, like entrepreneurship, accepting others, respecting others’ ideas, social responsibility, critical thinking, and refugees’ right to access to education.”
Concepts’ Poor Integration in Schools
Commenting on the textbook study, Al-Husban said: “As far as I know, this might be the most comprehensive, national-scale project” in this area. “We have analysed all the curricula taught in Jordan’s primary and secondary schools.”
Al-Husban noted that the lack of systemic integration of GCED concepts was seen in both vertical and horizontal aspects of the curriculum.
“A vertical alignment curriculum is when a concept is simply introduced at a lower education grade and is expanded as students grow up, so they can be ready to deal with the globe at graduation,” she said. “This is lacking.”
Horizontal alignment was also missing, she said. “If a student studies something on non-violence in Arabic courses, there should be at least a relevant exercise in sciences in the same grade,” she said.
This can be included in all subjects, she said.
“Math curricula can have questions about white and black children, so they can be familiar with and accept the other,” she explained. “Science curricula can include such topics like pollution, climate change, diversity, natural disasters, and critical thinking, so we can shape the learner’s personality in the future as a global citizen.”
A teacher for 10 years, Al-Husban said research suggests that students and teachers prefer to deal with people like themselves. “Unfortunately, even teachers might marginalise a different student,” she said. “A low-achieving student is rejected by all.”
If such an attitude is notable within members of the same academic system, she wondered, “what about someone from a different culture, color, or race?”
The second study in the project aimed at determining teachers’ awareness of global citizenship education concepts, and any variations in awareness levels across different demographic variables.
For this study, the team surveyed 4,305 teachers across Jordan and conducted 20 in-depth semi-structured interviews to explore how teachers communicated such concepts in the classroom.
“We wanted to see if teachers are really ready, well-trained, and eligible to deliver such concepts appropriately,” Al-Husban said. “In surveys, teachers might say they agree while they don’t know what the concept in question is. This test included scenarios, each reflecting a concept of global citizenship, so we can learn what teachers know about them.”
“Unfortunately, even teachers might marginalise a different student. A low-achieving student is rejected by all.” If such an attitude is notable within members of the same academic system, “what about someone from a different culture, color, or race?”Naima Al-Husban
The findings revealed that teachers showed an average level of awareness of GCED concepts (11 out of 20) and that female teachers were more aware of GCED than males. “Females might be more caring and ready to sacrifice,” said Tawalbeh, who is a professor of education technology as well as dean of the Faculty of Education.
Al-Husban said that most teachers just explain the concepts in a traditional way and move on. “We need simulation of real-life situations, play-like, so students can learn and embrace such concepts as behaviour,” she said.
As private schools usually teach international curricula that contain such concepts, the study focused on public schools. It found no rural-urban division in teachers’ awareness of the concepts across Jordan. “The difference was more about the teacher’s experience and postgraduate studies,” Al-Husban said.
Global Citizenship, Not Globalisation
Al-Husban and Tawalbeh both confirmed that some people might feel afraid that global citizenship means detaching students from their cultural identity in favor of a more globalised identity.
“Our context does not include such dimensions,” said Al-Husban. “I found that local citizenship completes global citizenship. When a learner helps and collaborates with a colleague, I can guarantee that he will do the same with a foreigner. It is like a classroom simulation of the outer world.”
Global citizenship is not a threat to religious identity. “It is about embracing whatever religion you want, yet respecting diversity and other faiths. Our similarities as human beings are far more than our differences.”Mohammad Tawalbeh, dean of the Faculty of Education at the Arab Open University.
Tawalbeh said similar concerns were voiced in a five-day conference about global citizenship, held at Geneva University and attended by 14 persons from different cultures.
“Everyone was interested in this topic, yet there were different perspectives,” he said. “In the end, some still have reservations. Such new concepts cannot come overnight.”
The interviews showed a religious concern that globalisation means making people identical. “It is not like this, it is about embracing whatever religion you want, yet respecting diversity and other faiths,” said Tawalbeh. “Our similarities as human beings are far more than our differences.”
New Curricula Recommendation
The textbook study recommended that Jordan’s Ministry of Education revise the current textbooks in light of standards proposed by Unesco. It is also recommended improving textbooks to engage learners with international issues they are capable of mitigating, and fostering teachers’ abilities in teaching GCED concepts and skills.
“We need to rethink curricula, paying attention to systemic inclusion of GCED concepts,” Al-Husban said. “We need to deliver them in vertical alignment; if they are not repeated in other stages, students will not acquire them.”
Since 2020, Jordan’s National Centre for Curriculum Development Centre has made some positive changes, Al-Husban said. “The ministry was a partner with us, but that work was motivated by the Unesco conference’s recommendation,” she said.
For that reason, Tawalbeh recommends re-conducting the study to assess the progress made in the new curricula. “This is the importance of national-scale studies. UNESCO should support such studies,” he said. “I hope the new curricula benefited from the recommendation to integrate such concepts.”
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