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Common challenges for teachers

Watch this video to hear about the common challenges that teachers can face when applying global education in their practice.
When I started to talk more openly about global learning and bring it into our curriculum, I was really challenged and very surprised and in many ways shocked that I was coming across very closed mindsets. And that was in all stakeholders except for the children, which again, is an interesting experience to this. So the closed mindsets came very much from teachers, who their previous headteacher has been had been very focused on performance, and performance at the expense of many other aspects of the curriculum. So they felt under pressure around that. I had a rejection by the majority of parents of the value of global learning, because of the culture that had been embedded in that school around performance.
So it challenged me to consider very, very carefully how I explain its importance to a range of people who have a range of mindsets. To think about the language I use, it needed me to empathise with them on their stance on this, and that wasn’t easy. That was very frustrating, and at times, quite upsetting, and made me feel a mixture of emotions, including anger. But it’s the responsibility of a school leader to ensure that you take time to be clear about the direction of a school and its ethos and its philosophy, and that then will start to change for the better.
And I would like to say that but now, I am extremely proud of my school and the approach that we have. Children talk passionately about global learning. We have a very strong approach to empathy in my school, and that’s particularly important for the children in the lives that they live and in the contexts that they live, and the impact that it’s had on my school has been quite profound. And parents actually now talk about choosing to send their children to my school because of our approach to global learning, and that’s quite–
it’s an insight into how parents mindsets are starting to change in the education sector now, too. So the challenges that I now experience are much more positive and very much in line with the challenges we have as a school around our performance and government indicators and how we can weave global learning into our curriculum as a golden thread that actually enriches that national curriculum that we have to deliver. And that’s what makes my school quite an exciting place to be.
So without a doubt, I think the biggest challenge is committing to spending time, looking at an issue in a critical, reflective way, where students look at a variety of different views and reach their own understanding, when potentially, it may not benefit their assessments or their final exams. I think students who are very intrinsically motivated don’t mind doing this at all. They quickly see the value in looking at a range of different views and critically reflecting on these views before reaching their own perspectives.
But this isn’t always the case, and it can be quite challenging to motivate a student to look at a topic in a way that maybe they won’t immediately see as beneficial to them if it doesn’t help them pass the final exam. Also, in my context, there’s quite a lot of emphasis on teacher-led learning. So there can be some backlash in the more inquiry-based, student-centred activities from parents, from the school, and even from the students themselves. So it can be quite challenging at times to match the pedagogical approaches encouraged by global learning with both the students’, the parents’, and the school’s expectations.
We don’t have any specific or clear curriculum guidelines to help us implement global education in the curriculum, and a systematic framework to implement global educator programme is good. Besides, for us, most rural school teachers, we don’t have many chances to receive in-service training, particularly relevant to global education and to improve our teaching skills. We do face some difficulties to practise our large programmes of global education. Most important is that we have many classes, because our school lack teachers to involve global education, so they have to invest additional work hours- to develop your global education activities. But you also don’t have any school-based curriculum, and school activities are often allocated to the individual teacher from the school or local government.
Some of the global education activities are not approrpiate for pupils at all, and those well intended, global education initiatives ended up as a short lived benefits or are successful sometimes. So in summary, I think the current challenge of global education is to effectively incorporate into already packed programmes. The biggest challenge I think a lot of school teachers face with this area of work, particularly maybe at primary, but also depending on what subjects they teach at secondary is knowledge. Global issues are very complex.
If you haven’t studied geography or climate science, you might feel as a teacher that you’re very under equipped to help pupils understand these issues in a way that respects the complexity of the issues, but is also age appropriate. So how do you talk to a 5-year-old about the possible effects of runaway climate change and what that might mean for their future? And how do you do that knowing that your knowledge is accurate? The science is changing and moving all the time.
It’s quite hard to keep up-to-date, and if your subject area specialism is not one that has an obvious link to these issues, then there’s an awful lot of work to do as a teacher in order to feel equipped to be able to deal with difficult questions that students will bring. I think the second challenge is that teachers, quite understandably, are very protective of their children in their classes, and some of these big issues are very frightening, and they’re frightening for adults, not just for children. So how do you talk to a 5-year-old about these issues in a way which doesn’t mean they go home scared?
And how do you talk to them about the issues and come up with ways that they can respond, so when a 5-year-old says, ‘Well, what do we do about it? What can I do?’ What is it really that they can do and how are you there to help them deal with that? The third challenge, I would say is that these teachers can’t do this in isolation, so they need the support of senior management in schools, but they also need the support of the school community. It’s very difficult for teachers to try and teach on difficult, contentious topics if parents don’t support them in this.
Children then face the difficulty of hearing one thing at home and another thing in school, and trying to work out how they navigate their way between these two. So there’s a lot for teachers to think about in this area.

In the previous steps, we talked a lot about the importance of teachers within global education and the different roles that teachers can play. However, it’s important to realise that teachers can often face a number of challenges in incorporating global education into their practice. Watch the video above for insights from teachers around the world talking about the challenges they have faced.

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Global Education for Teachers

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