Global Citizenship Education for Global Citizenship?

Students’ Views on Learning About, Through, and For Human Rights, Peace, and Sustainable Development in England, India, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden


  • Thomas Nygren Uppsala University
  • David Kronlid
  • Esbjörn Larsson
  • Judit Novak
  • Denise Bentrovato
  • Johan Wasserman
  • Oakleigh Welply
  • Anamika
  • Mona Guath



education for sustainable development, human rights education, peace education, global citizenship education, students views and methods


Purpose: In this study, we explore students’ views and experiences in relation to education about, through, and forhuman rights, peace, and sustainability in the global north and south. We investigate what students after nine years of schooling see as central issues and productive actions linked to key elements of global citizenship education (GCE) to better understand the complexity of GCE in theory and practice.

Design: We use a survey designed in line with theories of global citizenship education. Using a mixed methods approach, we analyse responses from 672 upper secondary school students, aged 16–19, in England, India, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden.

Findings: We find that students in different contexts may experience global citizenship education very differently, even if they are all part of a global community with guidelines from UNESCO. Dimensions of human rights education, peace education, and education for sustainable development  are evident in both the global north and south; yet, students in European contexts, namely in Sweden and England, for instance, appear to be taking away very different learnings. Overall, while students across the national samples have knowledge about human rights, peace, and sustainability, they seem to struggle to identify activities for human rights, peace, and sustainability. We find a vernacularisation of GCE, highlighting a diversity of methods and cultural contexts linked to students’ experiences from education.

Research limitations: This study is limited to a few schools in selected countries; thus, our findings may not be generalisable on a national or global level.

Practical implications: Students across our diverse sample highlight the importance of education to promote global goals. Findings indicate that more focus on education for global citizenship is necessary if schooling is to work in line with international recommendations. Similarities and differences in students’ knowledge and understanding about peace, human rights, and sustainability call for differentiated and localised approaches in attempts to reach common and shared goals.

Author Biographies

Thomas Nygren, Uppsala University

Thomas Nygren PhD, is Associate Professor at the Department of Education, Uppsala University. His research interests center on civics and history education, the digital impact on education, critical thinking and human rights education. His current research projects investigate students’ digital media literacy, global citizenship education, and critical thinking across disciplinary boundaries.


David Kronlid

David O. Kronlid, PhD, is Associate Professor in Ethics at the Faculty of Theology, Uppsala University, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Education, Uppsala University, and Adjunct Professor within the Centre for International Development, Social Entrepreneurship and Leadership (CIDSEL) at the University of Sunshine Coast, Australia. His research interests are epistemology, meaning making, social justice and sustainable development, environmental and global ethics, and transformative education for sustainable development.

Esbjörn Larsson

Esbjörn Larsson, PhD, is Professor in History of Education at the Department of Education, Uppsala University. His research interests center on history of education, military history and history of childhood and youth. At the moment he is Dean at the Faculty of Educational Sciences at Uppsala University.

Judit Novak

Judit Novak, PhD, is Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education and School Research, University of Oslo, Norway. Her main research interests are in education governance and policy, the privatization and marketization of education, citizenship education, and theories and methods of policy analysis.

Denise Bentrovato

Denise Bentrovato, PhD, is co-director of the African Association for History Education and an Extraordinary Lecturer in History Education in the Department of Humanities Education, University of Pretoria, South Africa. She is also a Research Fellow in the History Department of the University of Leuven, Belgium, and Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Social Sciences at the Institut Supérieur Pédagogique de Goma, eastern Congo. Her research combines interests in history education, memory politics and identity formation, and primarily focuses on post-colonial and post-conflict societies in Africa, including Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo, South Sudan, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Johan Wasserman

Johan Wassermann, PhD, is a full professor in History Education at the University of Pretoria. He is also the co-director of the African Association for History Education. His research interests include youth and history, life histories, history textbooks, teaching controversial issues in post-conflict Africa and minorities and the minoritised in Colonial Natal. Currently, he co-leads two research projects: ‘Text and Context in Africa’ and ‘Youth and Education in South Africa’.

Oakleigh Welply

Oakleigh Welply, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the School of Education, Durham University. Her main areas of research and teaching include social theory; the relationship of education to issues of language, religion and citizenship; migration and youth identities in Europe and global citizenship education.Theoretically, her work is mainly inspired by the works of Paul Ricoeur, Hannah Arendt and Pierre Bourdieu to investigate the intersection between wider structures and the subjectivities of young immigrants’ identities and experiences. She has a strong interest in Global Citizenship Education, which she has approached through a variety of perspectives, ranging from theoretically-based discussions to large scale survey data analysis.


Anamika, PhD, is Deputy Adviser to NIEPA, New Delhi, India. She is looking for international cooperation with UNESCO, and ASEM Education Process. She has published works on human rights education, comparative education, ideology and history curriculum. Her current research examines Indian secondary school pre-service teachers’ views on the pedagogy of human rights education.

Mona Guath

Mona Guath, PhD, is Post-doc at the Department of Psychology and the Department of Education at Uppsala University. Her research interests are cognitive modelling and complex decision making online, specifically, disinformation and environmental decisions. Her current research projects are digital media literacy, environmental decisions in online stores, and computational psychiatry.


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