A few months ago, I decided to leave teaching after two years of completing the Teach First programme. Working within the national and school structures left me feeling inherently unhappy as I could not address educational disadvantage to my full potential.
My biggest concern as a teacher was the increasing pressure on schools and teachers to meet exam result targets, therefore removing the space and time in classroom to develop students’ social and cultural capital. The lack of student awareness, particularly in the face of world affairs such as European Refugee Crisis and Brexit, did not hit home for many of my students. For those that were engaged, there was no classroom time to be able to engage in intelligent debate on global issues.
Why is this important?
The Department of Education dictates that ‘spiritual, moral, social and cultural’ development must be taught within the national curriculum, as well as ‘British values’ such as mutual respect and tolerance, individual liberty and rule of law. However, it is not explained how or when, leaving it up to schools, departments, and sometimes individual teachers to embed this into learning. As a result, the quality of moral education can vary dramatically across schools.
In addition, Citizenship, despite being a statutory requirement and a part of the national curriculum, is not necessarily offered as a subject on its own in all schools. When subjects such as RE and Citizenship are not offered as GCSE subjects, their value and priority drops. This is a troubling trend because it means value based education can be compromised at the expense of exam results.
There is no denying the importance of a global education: the idea that collaboration is necessary for a healthy economy, stable political climates and innovative ideas to tackle global issues has been around since World War Two. Teaching students open-mindedness, respect for cultural diversity, cross-cultural understanding can build empathy, clear communication across borders and a predisposition towards a global collective identity.
I made the decision to travel to countries which are ranked highly on the OECD and PISA Education Index, but more importantly the OECD Civic Engagement Index. This shows the political engagement of young people and demonstrates young people’s proficiency in political and moral literacy, as young people will be more inclined towards civic participation by voting, volunteering and being active citizens. I will research how these particular countries teach global citizenship and moral education in schools, using my research and learning to develop our approach in the UK.
Education faces a myriad of issues in the UK, not least of which is the continuing educational disadvantage faced by students from lower income background. However, this does not alleviate the need to prepare our students for a globalised world. They have immense potential, and it is our responsibility to nurture all aspects of their learning.