Problematizing 'global citizenship' in an international school

Year: 2016

Author: Rankine, Emily, Savage, Glenn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Over the past few decades, dramatic social, economic, political and spatial transformations associated with globalisation have led to new forms of mobility, connectivity and transnationality. In response, new conceptions of the individual and society are transforming the aims and purposes of education (Vertovec, 2001; Stewart, 2007; Rizvi & Lingard 2010). An emerging trend in this context is an amplified political and theoretical focus on schooling as a transnational space, with the goals and outcomes of education no longer limited to national concerns (OECD, 2014). Linked to this, is the growing importance attributed to the concept of ‘global citizenship’ as a key priority for education in the twenty-first century (Zahabioun, Yousefy, Yarmohammadian & Keshtiaray, 2013). However, despite widespread support for the development of global citizenship, and even though an abundance of policy ideas and educational practices associated with it have emerged, wildly different definitions and understandings of the concept exist. There is also significant uncertainty regarding the distinction between global citizenship and other related concepts such as ‘cosmopolitanism’ and ‘intercultural understanding’. To a certain extent, such contention is to be expected, given the broad framing of the term, however, it also has the potential to cause significant confusion for policy makers and educators attempting to transform ‘global citizenship’ from an abstract construct into a set of concrete, observable practices. This paper problematises the global citizenship both conceptually and in relation to meanings and practices at work an international school located in Thailand that has strong commitments to promoting the concept. Drawing upon ethnographic research conducted in the school and an emerging body of literature on global citizenship, the paper argues that the concept remains highly contested, not only amongst theorists and policy-makers, but also by those ‘at the chalkface'. This lack of clarity poses significant problems for researchers, policy makers and educators who seek to further develop global citizenship as part of a more global approach to schooling reform.