Leading private school launches groundbreaking global education initiative

Leading private school launches groundbreaking global education initiative

If all goes to plan this November, Ivanhoe Grammar School will set a new standard in global education.

Drawing from a deep well of research on global education trends, and building on the foundation of numerous successful projects in schools around the world, Ivanhoe Grammar has embarked on a groundbreaking initiative – the creation of a novel curriculum for a compulsory Global Education subject for students in Years 5-9.

The initiative, thought to be the first of its kind, aims to make the explicit teaching of Global Education a sustainable practice in schools, with students and stakeholders alike abuzz with anticipation ahead of the subject being integrated into their timetable.

Led by Emma Aguis, the school’s Head of Curriculum, the content will be delivered via “globally minded pedagogy and inquiry-based learning” based on the work of Kath Murdoch. Some student outcomes will be measured on the actions, and designs for action, that students take to make a tangible impact on particular Sustainable Development Goals within their immediate, national and international communities.

Students’ understanding will more broadly be measured across the program using a global competency framework that maps learning progression in skill areas that have been defined in key literature and encompass the cognitive, socio-emotional and behavioural dimensions of growth, such as ‘problem-solving complexity’ and ‘respecting diversity’.

An explicit, pragmatic, and long-term approach

The school’s deputy principal, Fiona Devlin said incorporating Global Citizenship Education into school curriculums, although beneficial for students' critical thinking and global awareness, is often challenging due to time constraints and overcrowded curriculums. Furthermore, she pointed out that these programs can suffer from inconsistency and lack of continuity, often being driven by individual educators, and are limited by teachers' knowledge and confidence in teaching global issues.

“Knowing this, we were looking for an explicit and pragmatic approach to global education long term at Ivanhoe, that would improve skills and develop interest and debate in global issues,” Devlin told The Educator.

“We wanted a program that we could drive, without the restrictions of policy-led curriculum and one that would take a more significant place in the educational experiences of our students. Hence Global Education is an exciting new standalone subject in the middle years at Ivanhoe Grammar School ready for 2024, and is embedded in the timetable.”

To achieve this, Devlin said teacher knowledge, attitudes, and competencies must continue to be developed to ensure practical teaching programs offer teachers the opportunity to influence how students will gain their knowledge and understanding of the world.

“Most importantly, we want teachers to influence how our students view their capacity to shape it and we wanted a program that complemented staff workload, rather than added to it.”

A key influence, says Devlin, is UNESCO’s publication: ‘Reimagining our futures together. A new social contract for Education (2021)’.

“This has shaped the priorities of the curriculum, the pedagogies that will shape the student experience, and the teacher collective structure surrounding the program,” she said.

“As well as this, our decision for the stand alone subject strategy aligns with the proposals of this report, allows our school to provide opportunities that can break through the traditional school structures, allowing for real world learning and service/community engagement opportunities where they may be had.”

Building on strong foundations

In 2017, as an Australian-first initiative, the school launched a centre for Global Citizenship. The day-to-day role of the Centre was originally designed to incorporate simple awareness activities to students from all year levels both in the classroom and in their co-curricular pursuits.

Devlin said since the centre’s launch, there have been many student-led initiatives in areas such as environmental awareness, gender equality and wellbeing and an understanding of First Nations.

“Student leadership portfolios exist in the school’s student leadership structure and since 2017 as an adjunct to the Global Citizenship Centre regular ‘global forums’ events have been held and led by those student leaders on topics such a gender equity,” she said.

“Using the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals [SGDs] as a foundation, students were regularly asked to consider how these goals can be reached.”

Devlin said the school has now morphed the learnings from such programs into its new subject.

“Throughout Years 7 and 8, our students for example, will study units based on the SDGs such as Indigenous World Views [SDG 15], Custodians of the Earth [SDG 12, 14-15], World Religions [SDG 16], Climate action [SDG 13], Poverty and Development [SDG 1] to name a few.”

“We hope that students going through our program realise that a formalised Global Education subject has the power to enhance their thinking process and assist them to act for the common good and look for ways they can contribute to building a more just, peaceful, tolerant and inclusive society.”

Devlin recalled a conversation she had with the school’s Year 12 Global Politics class about how they felt this new subject would be perceived by students across the school and what it means for them. 

“They held a strong view that it would really make a difference to how students see the world, that they would have a more balanced view of Global issues and how they might be able to contribute to the success of the SGDs even in a small way,” she said.

“One student stated ‘Schools have an obligation to teach us about the world in an ethical and measured way, so that we do not base our thoughts and judgements on what we see on social media’. I couldn’t agree more.”