The State of Global Education in Europe

Overview about The State of Global Education in Europe

2018 is a challenging time for the state of Global Education in Europe, as this third edition of the State of Global Education in Europe attests. Political challenges abound – geo-politically, in Europe, and at the national level throughout Europe. Some of these challenges are not new – rising populism, the growth of extremism, the threat of neo-fascism, assault on basic human rights, increasing gaps between rich and poor. We have faced these political realities before, and not very long ago, but large parts of Europe seem to be suffering from political amnesia regarding our recent past. We are also witnessing new challenges, such as the imminent scenario of post-Brexit Europe, and the role of social media. Signified by the undermining of truths and interference with democratic processes, these challenges also highlight the need for streamlined learning, for critical Global Education and for urgent public mobilization for the common good.

European Union values – an obviously contested term – including equity, social justice, social cohesion, and solidarity – are no longer taken for granted. A strong voice for human rights in the world is diminished when it has to defend the very notion of human rights – and fight rear-guard actions – at home. Meanwhile, the role of policy, and of policymakers, is shifting, with associated challenges for Global Education.

Some of these challenges and issues that are at the heart of Global Education – social justice, equity, human rights, sustainability, climate change – seem to become both more complex and more insurmountable. The summer of 2018 – a hot summer for Europe – seems not only symbolic of a heating of the micro-climate around policy change for greater global and local justice; it also seems to be a real measure that people can readily understand, of both the futility of climate change denial, and of the impossibility of human action to reverse the damage done.

This might seem like a bleak picture, and it is. But in GENE, we take an educational approach. This approach suggests that the only source of true change is the reality as it is; and that we need a clear-headed understanding of the enormity of the challenges if we are to deal with the possibility of change that is at the heart of education. Only then can we hope to make the change a reality.

The State of Global Education in Europe

This report outlines some of the reasons to be hopeful. Here are just three:

  1. It is clear that the world, and Europe, face enormous challenges and that sporadic, shotgun, uncoordinated approaches will not contribute meaningfully. One of the “good news” stories of this report is that there is far greater coherence, more strategic approaches, far better national strategies (and further critical reflection, monitoring, evaluation and redevelopment, based on learning from these strategies) than heretofore. And those engaged in the development of national strategies and policies are not just developing them from the ground up at the national level, they are also learning from peer policymakers in Europe, so that common policy learning processes are applied.
  2. Education is the practice of freedom and does not lend itself to pre-prescribed campaigns. It should not be considered as a funnel for reaching the population with preordained messages. For this reason, some educators are critical of the SDGs as a focus for GE; as they were of the MDGs before. Nevertheless, given the nature of the SDGs, and the possibility of combining local and global concerns for justice, equity and sustainability, the SDGs are acting as a catalyst for system-wide focus on Global Education. In the report, we outline some of these initiatives and signs of hope.
  3. Another interesting and hopeful sign from among the national reports and examples contained in the report concerns the core of what Global Education is all about. For almost 50 years, those involved in development education and global learning, along with those involved in human rights education, environmental education, peace education, etc. have understood that at the core of a concern for justice, lies a tension between local and global dimensions of GE, variously understood. Put somewhat over simply, there has been a tension between local and global – where do you start, what is the balance, how to ensure that concern for those who suffer most, in the majority world, and the causes underlying global injustice, are adequately linked to a concern for those who suffer closer to home, and the causes of local, national and European poverty and injustice. This balance and tension remain at the heart of Global Education. But in 2018 it takes on a new urgency, and also provides for new possibilities; as analyses of the causes of the rise of populism and extremism are linked to issues of exclusion and poverty at home. This comes as no surprise to those involved in GE. And while it would be wrong to suggest that GE can become a quick fix or panacea for all Europe’s ills; nevertheless, Global Education has a long tradition and has many strategies and methods for dealing with this nexus between the real issues facing the peoples of Europe locally, nationally and throughout the continent, and the issues of global justice, engagement, analysis, dialogue, and participation facing the peoples of the world. Some of the national reports and examples contained in this report highlight these hopeful possibilities.

So, this third edition of the State of Global Education offers many other insights into current policy, trends, and thematic issues and also looks at the important question of levels of funding for Global Education in Europe. It begins with a chapter which looks at cross-cutting themes reported during 2017. Many different themes emerge, including inter-ministerial coordination, national strategy development implementation, review and renewal and work around the Sustainable Development Goals. Chapter 2 explores funding trends in Global Education against the background of trends in Official Development Assistance flows. Chapter 3 outlines some of the work done at national level to evaluate Global Education policy, strategy, and projects. Chapter 4 provides some of the source materials, with highlights from the over 40 ministries and agencies that participated in GENE Roundtables during 2017. It is here that the reader will find some details per country, and we trust that these short highlights will prove a useful basis for policy dialogue between Ministries, Agencies, diplomats, researchers, and other stakeholders from civil society, local authorities, etc. There are also examples of national practice throughout the report – provided not only to document national situations but also to illustrate particular issues or initiatives or to act as a catalyst for cross-border policy learning.

Since 2001, GENE has provided a space for policymakers to gather and discuss matters in an informal and constructive context, through inter-ministerial Roundtables, which work based on Chatham House rules. Roundtables take place twice per year, and each Roundtable is accompanied by a compendium of country updates. As with previous editions of the State of Global Education in Europe, this report draws on the information contained in those country updates. The country updates are internal papers, and GENE seeks permission from participants before publishing any content.1 We are grateful to the Ministries, Agencies and other co-ordinations bodies that participate in GENE for providing regular updates on the situation in their countries regarding Global Education, and forgiving GENE permission to publish some of that information in this report.

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