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MoS Ciarán Cannon - Global Citizenship Education, School Culture & Ethos Symposium for Post-Primary

 A dhaoine uaisle, a phríomhoidí, a leas-phríomhoidí agus a aíonna eile, tá lúcháir orm fáilte a chur romhaibh chuig an siompóisiam seo de chuid Scoileanna Domhanda WorldWise.

I am delighted to welcome everybody to our symposium today. I really appreciate that you have taken the time out of your busy days to be with us.

This symposium is of particular interest to me as it involves two areas that I am passionate about, education and international development. From 2011 to 2014 I was Minister of State for Training and Skills in the Department of Education and Skills and, where possible, I have brought that experience to my current role as Minister for the Diaspora and International Development, including helping to launch Africa Code Week in Tanzania.

In April of this year, I was honoured to be appointed as a Unicef Generation Unlimited Champion for Education. The ‘Gen U’ initiative is a new programme that aims to ensure that every young person is attending school, training or has found decent and age-appropriate employment by 2030, with a special focus on empowering young women and girls.

Last year I was delighted to take on the role of Political Champion for Education in Emergencies. This concept was developed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, whose Malala Fund advocates for every girl’s right to free, safe, and quality education.

In A Better World, Ireland’s new policy on international development, which was launched earlier this year, a commitment has been made to spend at least €250 million over the next five years on global education with a focus on improving access to quality education especially for girls, and access to education in emergencies. In 2017, I visited Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania where I witnessed at first hand, how important it is to address the educational needs of populations in emergencies and protracted crises, in particular refugees and other forcibly displaced people.

Indeed, both the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade share an agenda in relation to Education for Sustainable Development. We have been working together to meet SDG Target 4.7 which calls on Governments to ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, global citizenship, human rights, gender equality, tolerance and peace. Global Citizenship Education is closely aligned with Education for Sustainable Development and our Development Education Unit is represented on the Advisory Group for ESD and will also be strongly represented at the ESD Forum to be held in Dublin later this month.

Like you, I am a firm believer in the transformative power of education. Education needs to be about much more than acquiring the skills needed to join the workforce. We in Ireland have experienced an incredible transformation through education over the last fifty years. I believe equally in the transformative power of Global Citizenship Education, as it contributes to the realisation of our vision for a sustainable and just world, by providing an opportunity for people in Ireland to reflect on their roles and responsibilities as global citizens and by encouraging people to take action for a fairer and more sustainable future for all. This is why a total of €4.33 million was allocated to the global citizenship education budget in 2019.

We are also committed to ensuring that Global Citizenship issues are embedded across initial teacher education at both primary and post-primary level as well as in continuous professional development. A number of our partners including WorldWise Global Schools and Ubuntu are working to ensure this.

The title of the symposium today is ‘Global Citizenship Education, School Culture & Ethos’. The Oxford dictionary defines ethos as: ‘The characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its attitudes and aspirations’. Every school has a certain ethos or characteristic spirit that inspires all aspects of the life of the school. I have often heard parents say that they chose a particular school for their children because of its ethos, so ethos is important. And this is why your role is so important because as with so many issues, the key factor which will determine whether or not global citizenship becomes embedded in school ethos will be leadership and drive from the top.

Sometimes the school may see itself as having a particular obligation towards the disadvantaged in society in line with the missionary traditions of its founders. Often, school ethos is equality-based and is linked to young people becoming agents of transformation for good in the world. Some schools aim to equip students to be thinkers, so that they can address injustice and environmental issues.

An effective Global Citizenship programme, such as our WorldWise Global School programme, can ensure that the whole school community learns how to become good Global Citizens in line with the stated school ethos. To be successful, it needs to be strongly supported by management and implemented right across the curriculum in a whole school approach.

GCE does not have to be an add-on in an already crowded curriculum. It can be embedded across many subject areas. It is clearly aligned to the Wellbeing Indicators and it is particularly relevant to at least five of the twenty-four Junior Cycle Statements of Learning. With Senior Cycle Review consultations now taking place we are afforded an excellent opportunity to embed GCE at senior level also.

I think you’ll agree with me that now, more than ever, we need to work together on helping nurture strong young global citizens. When we were younger, we assimilated the ethical values of our parents and school also played a large part in influencing how we viewed the world. As young people are now spending so much time on social media, they are absorbing much of their information from online sources and we can no longer be sure of exerting the same positive influence as before.

Recent events in the world, and indeed at home here in Ireland, have led us to examine how we welcome people who are fleeing from war, persecution and poverty in their own lands to build a better future abroad. As Minister for the Diaspora, I am very conscious of our own migrant heritage. As I travel to meet the Irish diaspora around the world I hear their stories of how they were made welcome in their new homes and occasionally they tell me how they felt when the welcome was less than warm.

In an increasingly complex and interdependent world, Global Citizenship Education can help us to fight a small but virulent racist agenda which plays on the concerns of decent people. What better place for young people to hear the message of social justice and inclusion than in the nurturing and trusted environment of their schools.

As I was thinking about school ethos, about a community working together, striving passionately to achieve a common goal, the image which best summed this up for me was that of Siya Kolisi lifting the rugby world cup for South Africa last Sunday week. I was struck by his inspirational words as he said: “We come from different backgrounds and from different races. We came together for one goal and we wanted to achieve it. We can achieve anything if we pull together as one”. As our schools and our communities become increasingly intercultural, this is what we should aspire to.

Again, I thank you for the time that you have taken to come here today. Thank you for prioritising the symposium over the many other important tasks that I know you all have to attend to.
Míle buíochas as éisteacht liom inniú agus guím gach rath oraibh sa todhchaí. Go raibh maith agaibh.

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