ERG SES C 08, Sustainability and Education
My presentation focuses on the question: how does postcolonial educational theory contribute to a critical examination and reformulation of inclusion and exclusion in concepts of global citizenship and sustainable development in educational practices? This question will be discussed via a German case study that concerns the educational concept of Global Learning.
Global Learning is a form of political education, which is implemented by governmental, ecclesiastical and civil society actors in the field of development cooperation since the 1990s. It is used as an umbrella term for concepts such as Global Citizenship Education and Education for Sustainable Development which are promoted by the UNESCO since its first introduction at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
In Germany, Global Learning is moving away from being a field of specialization for those interested in development cooperation. Rather, the concept is increasingly seen as a "central educational task and a socio-political challenge" for the entire educational sector in Germany (OR 2015: 32). This statement was published in 2015 for a newly ratified nationwide orientation report for educational institutions in Germany (“Orientierungsrahmen für den Lernbereich Globale Entwicklung im Rahmen einer Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung”) by the Conference of Ministers of Education and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
However, many civil society initiatives, organizations and academics in Germany are finding issue with the way in which Global Learning seems to position itself as a one-way road of “aid” from self-aggrandizing “helpers” in the Global North to the “needy” Global South. This criticism is expressed in concepts such as the “Develop-mental Turn” and “Development Diversity,” and is influenced by racism-critical schools of thought such as post/decolonial theory and Critical Whiteness Studies.
The aforementioned orientation report for Global Learning as well as other prevalent didactical materials in the field are strongly criticized by several NGOs and educational practitioners for the exclusive patterns of a seemingly inclusive discourse, which enables the reproduction of hegemonic, paternalistic and racist constructions of the Global South. These practitioners of anti-racist education call for a closer cooperation between post/decolonial critique (e.g. Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, Gayatri C. Spivak, Walter D. Mignolo, Paulo Freire) and Global Learning, and work towards develop alternative educational materials and workshops on topics of global citizenship and development, which are increasingly become part of institutionalized practices of Global Learning. Central aims are to identify power relations and colonial traces within educational materials and policy frameworks of Global learning, and to develop counter-concepts in order to overcome these issues.
The presentation starts with a historical examination of how concepts of global citizenship and sustainable development emerged as part of a pedagogical discourse based on interrelated, yet distinctive histories of various fields of education, such as human rights education, peace education, inter- and multicultural education, environmental education and development education starting in the 1960s. In my presentation I want to propose that these pedagogical strands and their contestations provide ideological insights into the relationships of the Western world to its former colonies after the second World War and during the period of the Cold War. These changing relationships were informed by modernization and dependency theory paradigms as well as reform-pedagogical claims of political grass-root movements and civil initiatives. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, these pedagogical discourses transformed into the idea of universal characteristics of citizen responsibility in globalized societies and the emerging discourse on Global Citizenship Education and Sustainable Development Education after the 1990s. I will argue how the discourse of globalization as “an objective self-evident entity” (Rizvi 2009: 46) provoked a (postcolonial) critique of the underlying power relations of a universalist perspective on development and citizenship, identifying this persisting discourse as a neo-colonial strategy in educational practices. This relationship will be exemplified by a case study on the publication “Education for sustainable inequality? A postcolonial analysis of materials for Development Education in Germany“ released by the German NGO “glokal e.V.” in 2013. The intention with this case study is to show that such publications are intended as steps towards new educational material in Global Learning settings, which creates conflicting and ambivalent discursive invocations for the learning subjects. I want to propose that a discourse analytical access to such materials provide insights in the peculiarity of educational practices of Global Learning. These practices seem to be increasingly characterized by a critical deconstruction of its contents and practices; nevertheless, these deconstructions become part of the “curriculum”. This is particularly possible within educational settings of (young) adult education in voluntary programmes, which are less institutionally regulated than regular formal schooling. This argumentation will be further expanded by extracts of a comparative documentary analysis of typical education materials used within the ASA-Programme, i.e. the main Global Learning programme in Germany, as well as expert interviews with practitioners of the programme.
Postcolonial criticism or even the term colonialism is rarely part of official policy papers, such as is the case for the 2017 UNESCO report “Education for Sustainable Development Goals: Learning Objectives.” Yet, this presentation’s main finding is that teachers and facilitators often express conflictive relationships to institutionalized practices of Global learning, and base their teaching on counter-discursive, postcolonial materials. Such practice blurs the lines between official and unofficial discourses which influences concepts of global citizenship and development and poses the following question that will require further consideration: based on which discursive invocations are subjectivities of learners formed in practices of Global Learning?
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