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Education for Global Citizenship: a prime route to development

A brief analysis of some of the data contained in the 2010 report on Portugal from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) easily lets us see what a fundamental role education has played in promoting development. It has been thanks to education and the investment in getting people qualified, in research and in technological innovation – benefits which have repercussions throughout society – that a large number of countries have managed to catch up somewhat on the route to economic growth and offer their populations better standards of living and well-being.

If Education for Global Citizenship (EGC) contributes towards better informed citizens, who are more aware of the specific present-day problems, then it will certainly also contribute to the establishment of more sustainable and sustained development across the world.



Naturally, when we talk about development, the first thing we need to do is clarify exactly what we mean by the concept. Countless definitions have been suggested over the years but, being highly subjective, all, without exception, are subject to criticism.


For this reason, the only one singled out here is the one put forward by the UN in its Declaration on the Right to Development, where development is presented as being “a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting therefrom.” (United Nations, A/RES/41/128)


Thus, in accordance with this definition, rather than the accumulation of wealth, development has to do with human well-being and people’s freedom to exercise their own choices. For this to be achieved, boosting human capacity is fundamental and education is surely an essential ingredient for the sustained increase in the quality of life worldwide. An increase which, over the last two hundred years, has undoubtedly been due to the technological progress made as a result of the role played by education in research and innovation.


The specialists say than in the last 40 years every region has made progress in terms of human development, although at different levels. The regions of Eastern Asia and Asia-Pacific appear to have been especially successful, having achieved considerable economic progress.


However, numbers aside, there are other important realities that need to be analysed. Many people still live in circumstances of severe deprivation in many aspects of their lives.



Education’s Contribution to Global Citizenship

A number of economic studies, disseminated at national and international encounters, have been unanimous in considering education to be a key, and perhaps even decisive, factor for the success of countries in general and the developing nations in particular. Only education opens the way for a more sustainable emergence from poverty.



 “... education must be a process which is open to all throughout their entire lives. Because it’s not enough, as has happened in many developing countries, to promote literacy and basic education. That’s precisely why they’re still developing, because they haven’t acquired the capacity to build their own prosperity, by themselves and for themselves.”
 MAYOR, Federico (2001). “Endogenous Development and Democratic Government”


Subsequently, the countries that achieved the greatest economic growth over the last decades, with clear benefits for their society, are also those that made the greatest efforts in the field of education or made a greater commitment to promoting intellectual development.


One good example of this practice, a 50-year-long success story, comes to us from Eastern Asia, the so-called “Tigers” or “Dragons” of the Far East. The focus on an educational strategy geared towards technology has allowed them to develop the necessary qualifications that are essential for people to master the new technologies. Basic education was given priority at the outset, but as growth occurred and the need for more specialised, educated workers became more pressing from a competitive point of view, secondary and higher education soared too.


Click here to see the expanded version of the assessment report (Portugal 2010) in PDF format.


Take a look, too, at:

» Participatory Methods and Pedagogical Resources (In Portuguese)

» Oikos and “Education for Global Citizenship " (In Portuguese)

» Schools / Teachers / Instructors


» Oikos’ Global Citizenship Projects


(Projects in the Spotlight: feed of the global citizenship projects)

» MDG Documentary Cinema (In Portuguese)

» (En)forced and (Un)equal – Against Human Trafficking and Labour Exploitation (In Portuguese)

» MDG Showcase – Scenarios for the Future (In Portuguese)


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