‘Becoming Global: A critical exploration of students’ understandings of Global Citizenship within a private international school in Switzerland’

  • Julianne Brown

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


Global citizenship is a widely accepted notion within the field of education (UN 2015, UNESCO 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018). There is an emerging academic literature on the effects of the ‘global’ in different school contexts (Belal 2017, Yemini and Furstenburg 2018). However, few studies represent the perspective of the ‘privileged’ learner within a possible transnational elite class (Kenway, Fahey and Koh 2013). In order to address this gap, this qualitative single case study explored students’ understandings of global citizenship in a small, private, international boarding school in Switzerland. Drawing on the postmodern social constructivist approach of Michel Foucault, the study critiqued the co-constructive knowledge processes and social power relations involved in constituting students’ ‘global’ subjectivities. Data gathering stemmed from 23 semi-structured student and leadership interviews and documentation.
The reflexive thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2006, 2019) revealed the confusion of participants in their conceptualisations of global citizenship. Nonetheless, five themes were identified that suggested a process of ‘becoming’ global: Living in the boarding school, influencing relationships, the role of language, learning with and from others and future aspirations. The extended analysis adapted from Jäger and Maier’s (2016) ‘dispositive’ approach enabled a broader critique in relation to the wider society arguing that cultural diversity, whilst facilitating intercultural learning, does not in itself address inherent societal inequalities if rationalised within an in-group of privilege; the deconstruction/reconstruction process of cultural immersion has the possibility to destabilise the individual exposing their vulnerability to the dominant discourse of the global economic market; there is a paradox between the ‘good’ student and the call to ‘citizen action’; and finally, the passage from international to global represents a paradigm shift requiring proactive consideration of meanings in context.
A conceptual model for global citizenship, predicated on belonging, the social imaginary and global consciousness is developed throughout. The model itself offers an original interpretative framework for data analysis that facilitates critical inquiry into a possible global citizenship challenging the reinforcement of class based societal and global inequalities.
Date of Award24 Jun 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorTrevor Grimshaw (Supervisor) & Andrea Abbas (Supervisor)


  • global citizenship
  • elites
  • interpretative framework
  • becoming global

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