The Opportunities and Challenges for a Critical Global Citizenship Education in One English Secondary School

  • Chloe Blackmore

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Within global citizenship education (GCE) theory, policy and practice there is much emphasis upon the ‘critical’. However, existing research shows that a critical approach is limited within schools (Bourn and Hunt 2011; Bryan and Bracken 2011; Hunt 2012; Mundy and Manion 2008). This research seeks to explore this perceived ‘reality gap’ through an in-depth ethnographic study at one English secondary school, drawing on the perspectives of teachers, students and parents. It is guided by two open questions: how is GCE understood and practised in one secondary school? What are the challenges and opportunities for a critical global citizenship education (CGCE)? Drawing on critical pedagogy and postcolonial theory, two areas of critical theory that have contributed to GCE, this thesis proposes a framework of CGCE. As an ideal, CGCE critically examines knowledge, promotes dialogue across difference, encourages self-reflection, and leads to informed responsible being and action. In order to understand how GCE plays out in practice, this research reports a detailed ethnographic study of GCE at one English secondary school with a strong reputation for GCE, using a combination of participant observation, interviews, discussion groups and document analysis, to explore the perceptions of teachers, students and parents.Using thick description, this thesis illustrates opportunities for CGCE within a formal school context. Although the relationship between GCE and the curriculum is ambiguous, it argues that there are potentially more opportunities for CGCE within the formal curriculum than within informal whole-school initiatives. However, instrumental economic, moral and cultural agendas within the school limit the opportunities for CGCE, posing tensions between critical engagement and the school’s need to achieve good examination results, produce well-rounded people, protect the school reputation and empower students. Practising CGCE can also pose practical and ethical challenges pertaining to cultural relativism and moral universalism, managing uncertainty and complexity, and managing uncomfortable emotional reactions. In conclusion, this thesis calls for greater practical support for schools in practising CGCE, as well as more research to provide further theoretical tools, better understanding of CGCE in relation to curriculum-making, and insight into how students and teachers deal with complexity, uncertainty and emotional discomfort.
Date of Award7 Nov 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorHarriet Marshall (Supervisor), Kelly Teamey (Supervisor), Seth Chaiklin (Supervisor), Alan Reid (Supervisor) & Jill Porter (Supervisor)

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