Finding a place in a globalized world

(Edmonton) Global citizenship is a hot topic among post-secondary institutions, both in Canada and abroad. It is also something that the University of Alberta has been involved with for a long time.

So it seems fitting that a group of University of Alberta professors would become the editors of one of the first books on the subject from an institutional perspective. Edited by U of A education professors Lynette Shultz, Ali Abdi and George Richardson, with a foreword by University President Indira Samarasekera, Global Citizenship Education in Post-Secondary Institutions: Theories, Practices, Policies draws on the experience of academics and graduate students in a multitude of disciplines who share their thoughts and best practices on the subject.

Featuring contributions from faculty and graduate students from across the U of A, as well as work from well-recognized international scholars in the field, the collection is one of the results of the Global Citizenship Curriculum Development Project, a cross-faculty initiative co-directed by U of A International and the Faculty of Education.

But Richardson is careful to mention this is not simply a “how-to” book.
“Most post-secondary institutions in Canada, and across the world, want to engage with the notion of global citizenship education, to help determine what the mission of universities should be in a globalized world. This book addresses that,” he said. “How do universities take up this kind of responsibility? What are some practises that have been successful? This book helps universities consider what global citizenship education might look like at the post-secondary level.”

And for as much as one might be concerned that the book approaches global citizenship education from a purely Western perspective, Richardson says they have included reflections from such countries as Zambia, Iran and Brazil. And while it could be assumed that all post-secondary institutions are eager to move into global citizenship education, he cautions that some may be interested but also wary of the institutional intent. In fact, one of the contributors, a Zambian scholar, shares his concern that globalization is perhaps just another attempt by developed nations to impose a form of academic colonization.

As far as experience goes, the U of A has a longstanding history in the field of international education in a variety of countries. Richardson hopes that academics seeking to build detailed, thoughtful and sustainable global citizenship education programs will draw on the essential lessons and best practices offered in book to better understand how such programs can “work in theory, emerge in policy and be reflected in practice.”

However, for Richardson, designing a global citizenship education strategy is not so much about immediate benefits as it is about creating space for much-needed dialogue. He says the different chapters in the book can assist universities to re-envision and re-imagine their role in the world on a much wider and fundamentally significant level.

“It’s not simply about educating students so they can compete in a global market economy,” he said. “There’s also the ethical and moral responsibility for universities to do right in the world.”