9.4 Raising awareness about global issues
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In the formal education sector, the process of consulting new core curricula has been completed and they are binding and monitored by decrees of the Minister of National Education. It has not provided for teaching young people about global problems as a separate subject, since these topics are included in a subject called [Civic Education] in secondary schools. The basic (obligatory) and extended (optional) core curricula now include the following topics: Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the context of the European Court of Human Rights; specific rights of national/ethnic minorities and regional language users in Poland; as well as the concept of globalisation and its effects on and challenges in the sphere of politics, culture and society.
As far as the analysed subject matter is concerned, Geography core curriculum at upper secondary general education and technical schools also applies. This involves topics such as the sense of and conditions for using the principles of sustainable development, including “the understanding of rational management of environmental resources and the preservation of cultural heritage”. As far as students’ practical skills are concerned, the core curriculum addresses a number of specific topics, for example “the understanding of the need for rational management in the geographic environment, according to the principles of sustainable development, protection of the natural and cultural heritage, as well as the need for recultivation and revitalization of degraded areas”. In this respect the Ministry of Climate has prepared a portal including lessons scenarios for teachers.
Before the new core curriculum became effective, the federation of Polish NGOs involved in international cooperation for development, supporting democracy, humanitarian aid and global education, International Group, conducted an analysis of the presence of global education in school (Civic Education and Geography) textbooks. The study covered the years 2014-2015 and found that despite there being global education content in all the analysed textbooks, much of the content was of a stereotyping nature, and often, "there [were] no descriptions that would explain the causes of the specific phenomena and their consequences, develop among students attitudes of openness and acceptance for diversity in the surrounding world, point to the existence of global interdependency networks or explain that individual actions, even at local level, and contribute to changes in distant parts of the world". The researchers have formulated recommendations in this respect, including greater emphasis on knowledge about the UN Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals, which replaced the former in 2015.
According to the aforementioned UN outcome document The Future we want, the conference participants recognise that "the younger generations are the custodians of the future, and the need for better quality and access to education beyond the primary level. [The participants] therefore resolve to improve the capacity of our education systems to prepare people to pursue sustainable development, including through enhanced teacher training, the development of sustainability curricula, the development of training programmes that prepare students for careers in fields related to sustainability, and more effective use of information and communications technologies to enhance learning outcomes. [The participants] call for enhanced cooperation among schools, communities and authorities in efforts to promote access to quality education at all levels". The document also points to the importance of non-formal education (i.e. learning outside the formal education system in its broadest sense through a series of planned activities with specific objectives and support for learners) and informal education (i.e. learning which is not organised or structured in terms of objectives, time and support, including the acquisition of skills, which are often nonintentional, through work and other experience). However, in Poland this recommendation has not led to the emergence of widespread and structured support from the state and its agencies for non-formal education aimed at raising awareness of global problems. The following examples of such activities are separate initiatives undertaken, in most cases, by non-governmental organisations.
In the field of human rights, the activities of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights included the programme entitled Lessons on human rights delivered in cooperation with and in response to the needs of schools, libraries and other institutions working with young people aged 16-20. The workshop-based education programme was conducted until 2019 in the form of lessons for institutions from Warsaw and the surrounding area, and of webinars for recipients from other parts of the country. It encompasses topics pertaining to human rights and freedoms, refugee issues (foreigners’ rights, counteracting discrimination based on origin, hate speech and hate crimes) and counteracting discrimination (the discrimination chain and discrimination matrix, the Allport pyramid, hate language, etc.). Furthermore, in the field of education on the sustainable use of resources, a noteworthy example is Eat locally, think globally. From school gardens to sustainable food system (Jedz lokalnie, myśl globalnie. Od szkolnych ogrodów do zrównoważonych systemów żywnościowych), a project delivered to students between 2015 and 2017 by the Alliance of Associations ‘Polish Green Network’. The programme was also addressed to educators and aimed to strengthen the potential of young people and teaching staff in the critical understanding of global problems and active involvement in their resolution, with a particular emphasis on the contemporary model of food production and consumption in the context of environmental and social problems. The international project, cofounded by the EU, conducted among teachers and students from 12 EU countries. It referred to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and stressed the importance of various global problems, including the growing stratification of societies, climate change, migration, environmental degradation, the predominance of multinationals in economy and politics, depletion of natural resources, and the spread of civilisation diseases and their connection to the modern food system, including both hunger and food wastage.
Currently, there are also educational and information activities addressed to Polish society under the umbrella name Global Education, which aim to explain the development problems of the modern world, as well as international development factors and their impact. In addition to expanding knowledge, the programme also intends to change attitudes by stimulating critical and conscious reflection on one’s lifestyle and daily choices, as well as personal involvement in overcoming global poverty and participation in the process of building a global society based on the principles of solidarity, equality and cooperation (the initiative also emphasises the need to show people the effect of individuals on global processes and the impact of global processes on individuals). The current global challenges specified by the programme include: ensuring peace and safety in the world, improving quality of life in countries of the Global South, protecting human rights, ensuring sustainable development and building economic and social partnerships between countries of the Global North and the Global South.
Moreover, apart from the Eat locally, think globally... programme described above, the Polish Green Network has developed a reference book containing, among other things, lesson scenarios for creating gardens called Ecological school gardens (Ekologiczne ogrody szkolne), where gardens are treated primarily as an educational tool, and their creating and managing is linked to lesson scenarios on the principles of permaculture.
Support for educators is also an outcome of the programme Humanity in Action the Academy of Human Rights and Civic Activism namely the development of the reference book Toolkit for Young Educators, containing articles and lesson/workshop scenarios on human rights (it has not been made available in Polish).
Another source was the e-learning educational programme for teachers run by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights: Human rights every day, or how to teach about human rights in an interesting and factual way.
A separate web portal, run by the Centre of Citizen Education, is dedicated to global education. It provides teachers (e.g. of Biology, Chemistry, Ethics, Physics, Geography, History and Civic Education) and non-formal educators with access to information and numerous lesson scenarios.Furthermore, the Centre operates an ecology portal, which also offers knowledge packages and lesson scenarios.
Information and scenarios for educators on responsible consumption and its importance to the environment can also be found on a portal run by the Buy Responsibly Foundation (Fundacja Kupuj Odpowiedzialnie). As it can be concluded based on the above-mentioned resources, in Poland the largest number of support options for educators (both formal and all other persons involved in the dissemination of knowledge about global problems) is provided by non-governmental organisations, hence it is difficult to identify the leading funding sources for such activities. In most cases, being provided under public (state and local), business and private programmes, the sources are unstable and nonuniform (even within single projects).
A good example of activities in the non-formal education sector is the Academy of Human Rights and Civic Activism run by The Foundation Humanity in Action Poland (Fundacja Humanity in Action Polska). The Programme aims to prepare leaders of social change who are capable of effectively motivating others to take action and of initiating cooperation within various disciplines, economic sectors and regions of the world. To achieve this, the programme combines historical education with education about and promoting human rights, thus supporting young leaders from Poland and other countries in their public activism and creating an environment that is conducive to their activity in the form of a global activist network called the Senior Fellows Network (SFN). The programme consists in learning by doing, and thus developing skills (based on educational games, workshop and lesson scenarios and public campaigns) that will be helpful in future professional careers and public activity. At the end of the Academy programme, its participants can participate in the Humanity in Action annual international conferences, which are an opportunity to discuss current human rights issues in the field of international politics, and to share good activism practices. The Academy participants are a very diverse group that includes future anthropologists, doctors, engineers, filmmakers, political scientists and politicians, psychologists, sociologists, philologists and lawyers, as well as special needs educators, musicians, journalists, economists and historians, in addition to people still seeking their professional pathway. Within a year of completing the Academy, its graduates implement their Action Projects as SFN members from Poland and other countries where Humanity in Action is present. The Academy funding method is a good illustration of the aforementioned complexity and instability of funding for education on global social problems. Most of the Academies have been funded with the support of the German Foundation ‘Remembrance, Responsibility and Future’, whereas in 2014, the Academy was implemented under the Citizens for Democracy Programme (ProgramObywatele dla Demokracji) funded by the EEA Funds, and with the support of the Foundation ‘Remembrance, Responsibility and Future’ and the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Other initiatives of this kind, which deserve a mention include the Model United Nations (MUN), a simulation of UN sessions organised by young politicians and available to participants aged between 16 and 21. During the sessions, young people discuss global problems and propose solutions, which they ultimately vote on. The aim of the project is to educate active and conscious citizens of the world who are willing to discuss and reflect on the global problems around them. The organisers also emphasize the MUN social goals, namely integration, culture clash and broadening horizons, and consider it a great opportunity to share opinions on current problems or to get to know other points of view. In Poland, such conferences take place in large cities, with the participation of university and/or middle class students. In Warsaw, since 2015, POLMUN (Polish Model United Nations) is taking place, as a continuation of the analogous event that has been taking place between 1992 and 2011 in Gorzów Wielkopolski. Also in Warsaw, since 2007, WawMUN (Warsaw Model United Nations) is taking place, meant for students of local high schools.
Another valuable project was the three-year international programme Glocal Tour funded by the European Commission and realised in Poland by the organisation Salesian Missionary Voluntary Service – Youth for the World (Młodzi światu. Salezjański Wolontariat Misyjny). Addressed not only to young people, but also to teachers, it fulfilled the role of educator support. The programme focused on topics related to the Millennium Development Goals, in particular to poverty, access to education, maternal and child health, combating diseases and the concept of sustainable development. Its main objective of was to raise public awareness of global interdependencies and the problems of the modern world. Consequently, the Glocal Tour can be considered as one of the activities described herein, being a small information campaign on global problems. On a larger scale, similar activities have been performed under the social campaign: Development? No Harm (Rozwój? Nie szkodzi) dedicated to global education and the UN Sustainable Development Goals specified in the 2030 Agenda. Under this campaign, the Polish Green Network organises events for children, young people, university students and adults, to discuss various development models and the Sustainable Development Goals. The aim of the campaign is to build responsible citizenship among Polish people in reference to six goals, namely No Poverty, Zero Hunger, AffordableandCleanEnergy, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action and Partnerships for the Goals.
As regards information, in addition to the previously described portals run, for example, by the Centre for Citizenship Education, an important action designed by the UN Information Centre Warsaw is the Public Platform: Sustainable Development Goals (Platforma społeczna: Cele Zrównoważonego Rozwoju), which provides resources to support educators, and contact details for the institutions in Poland that work towards the fulfilment of the Goals. An analysis of the tabs shows that these are mainly non-governmental organisations.