MET:Global Learning and Sustainable Development

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Global Learning and Sustainable Development

Globalization vs. Sustainable Development

Globalization and sustainable development are concepts which seem diametrically opposed. However, the former is inevitable while the latter is an utmost necessity, requiring the need to establish rules of engagement; hence the need for global learning which allows both discourses to find common ground and achieve their objectives without conflict. Sustainable development is directly dependent on increased knowledge and mindfulness of the issues surrounding environmental protection and development awareness, and therefore, requires education and practices which increase awareness on a global level. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without educated decisions.

Merging Globalization and Sustainable Development

Key Concepts

Globalization has been defined as “the increasing flow across borders and boundaries- whether national, economic, cultural, technological or institutional- of people, goods, services, ideas, information, images and values.” (Ebeid, 2001). Sustainable development may be defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). Literally, sustainable development is maintaining appropriate development over time. Globalization promises to spread economic prosperity, improve people’s lives through better health care, allow greater access to new technology, promote cultural exchange. A key aspect of sustainable development is environmental education. In order for global prosperity to be maintained, concerns and protection of the natural environment is a priority, displayed by most developed countries through environmental education as a part of their formal education system with a clearly defined status. At this point it would appear as if there is some element of consensus between the concepts, globalization and sustainable development. Global education involves learning about those problems and issues which cut across national boundaries and about the interconnectedness of systems—-cultural, ecological, economic, political, and technological.

Globalization and Education

Global learning is defined as a combination of global reach and global perspectives aimed at creating a global citizen. The use of modern communication technologies has revolutionized education by providing students and facilitators with the necessary tools to interact in a global environment. Education is the key to creating meaningful interactions among and between cultures as well as with the world around us. It is necessary to first guide and support learners in forming their own "global mindset" in order for changes to occur on a global scale (Spariosu, 2004).

File:Typical ClassroomIMG288.jpg
Global learning starts in the classroom

As we advance the ideas of globalization and sustainable development the need now exists to engage in what is coined as global learning. Global learning will induce and strengthen the exchange of ideas and methodology which will benefit both sides of the divide (Brunold, 2005). Global learning has to be seen as “a mediation of a perspective, which assembles connection of nearby observable problems to worldwide processes and lines of conflicts (Gugel and Jager, 1996)”.The most important task of learning is to transport knowledge and abilities and the preparedness for constructive action in conflicts and to prepare and make available appropriate programmes (Eckert et al., 1992; Gagel and Jager, 1997). Political education has always promoted sustainable development, and so is critical to the subject of global learning. Fien et al (1996, p.129) argue that “global education is based upon the assumption that the social and structural changes needed to make this a more peaceful, jus,t and ecologically sustainable world will not occur without fundamental re-education.”

Globalization is having a major impact on education and learning in three fundamental ways, these relate to: • financing • the job market • quality of education In the financial arena, where some governments are under increasing pressure to cut spending on areas such as education and health. Globalization has resulted in a ready supply of highly skilled labourers. Highly skilled foreign individuals are willing to work for lower wages than those demanded by high end workers in that particular country. Governments of poorer countries hope that these highly skilled workers will not only work and gather the necessary experience but will also take back the latest technology to their own countries, where they will earn higher wages for their knowledge and experience, and remit money back into their home country, strengthening their country's economy.

Global Learning in Post Secondary Institutions

The quality of education is constantly being compared internationally (see rankings [1] and [2]). This competition leads to the commercialization of education, altering the intended focus of supporting the growth and development of a nation's citizens. The true effects of education's commercialization are seen in increased tuition costs and evident debt among secondary education graduates.

There are many post secondary institutions which strive to achieve a global learning environment; or Educational Sustainable Development (ESD). Within Canada, many provinces have shifted educational focus toward a more holistic and globally minded educational environment with the intention of creating global citizens with the knowledge and tools to affect great change, especially in terms of sustainable development. Many secondary education institutions display websites presenting (or selling) globally influenced educational environments intended to appeal to students wanting to attend a "global minded" institution. Either presented or displayed, few such institutions are able to achieve their promises of creating a global learning environment beyond a superficial level (for example see Okanagan College website, OC).


Brunold, A. O. (2005). Global Learning and Education for Sustainable Development. Higher Education in Europe, 30(3-4), (pg295-306). Retrieved from

Ebeid, W. (2005). A Paradigm Shift in Mathemeatica Education in the service of sustainable Development. Retrieved February 28, 2009, from UNESCO Education- The Science and Technology Education Programme:

GUGEL, G. and JA¨ GER, U. ‘‘Friedenspa¨ dagogische U¨ berlegungen zum ’’Globalen Lernen’’ [Peace-Educational Considerations on ‘‘Global Learning‘‘], in, LSW/SCHULSTELLE DRITTE WELT/EINE WELT (Ed.). Unser Bild vom Su¨den. Kritische Medienanalyse [LSW/School Agency Third World/OneWorld, ed., Our Picture of the South. Critical Analysis of the Media]. Soest, 1996.

John Fien, J. W.-F. (1996). Global Perspectives in Studies of Society and Environment. In R. Gilbert, Studying Societies and Enviroinment: A Handbook for teachers (pp. 125-140). Melbourne: Macmillan. Retrieved from

Spariosu, M. (2004). Global Intelligence and Human Development: Toward an Ecology of Global Learning. Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press.

Useful Links

McLean, N. and Lynch C. (2004). Interoperability between Library Information Services and Learning Environments – Bridging the Gaps A Joint White Paper on behalf of the IMS Global Learning Consortium and the Coalition for Networked Information

  • Discusses the strive towards connecting students in e-learning environments through the use of library services and resources.

Rubenstein, I. Educational Expectations: How They Differ Around the World: Implications for Teaching ESL College Students.

  • Examining sociocultural impacts on teaching ESL students and comparing various approaches to teaching and education worldwide.

The Getty Museum website.

  • Under the education portal, educators can find resources for integrating art into their classrooms with options such as art education games and examples of artwork found at the museum. This is how the Getty addresses global and cultural sustainability issues, "in working to understand and preserve our cultural heritage" (Getty Center Orientation Film).

Third Place Learners

  • Online global perspective educational environment where educators can share ideas and discuss their practice.

So you Want to Compare Educational Systems From Different Countries? Where to Start?

  • Discusses difficulties of comparing educational systems.