Introduction by Sandy Morrison

on Posted in ICAE Documents and Publications.

Global citizenship education: A voice from the Deep
President ICAE and Associate Professor: Sandra L.Morrison

Located in the deep south of the Pacific Ocean it is hard to think of Aotearoa New Zealand, my small country being connected globally. As a country with two main islands, a total land area of 268,000 square kilometres, a long coastline and a population of 4.5 million we find ourselves surrounded by the immense Pacific Ocean, in the water hemisphere. We regard ourselves as a South Pacific nation with strong cultural, political and economic ties with many of the other Pacific states especially those known as Polynesia. Australia though is our closest neighbour. The rest of world seems so far away. Distance, time and space is relative and technological advancement brings globalisation directly into our living spaces. Compared to the continents of Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Antartica and Australia, it is still hard to refute the notion of smallness.

A distinguished Tongan philosopher Epeli Hau’ofa in his seminal work ‘Our sea of islands’ urged people of the Pacific to not buy into the perception of the smallness and the remoteness of our part of the world:

      “…but if we look to the myths and legends and oral traditions, indeed the cosmologies of
    the peoples of Oceania, it becomes evident that they did not conceive of their world in
    such microscopic proportions. Their universe comprised not only land surfaces but the
    surrounding ocean as far as they could traverse and exploit it, the underworld with its
    fire-controlling and earth-shaking denizens, and the heavens above with their hierarchies
    of powerful gods and named stars and constellations that people could count on to guide
    their ways across the seas. Their world was anything but tiny.” (Hau’ofa 2008, p 31).

For many peoples and cultures of the Pacific, global citizenship education is epitomised in how one reads and understands their worlds interconnected from the heavens to the earth, spiritually and physically, lands and oceans encompassed in these traditional narratives which speak to a holistic connection seen in the totality of their relationships. This gives rise to a Pacific notion of global citizenship education expressed in the idiom of  a “sea of islands” rather than ”islands in a far sea.” (Hau’ofa, 2008).

Torres and Dorio (2015) would have fun with this concept in their vision for GCED for adult education that is grounded and contextualized in localities but combines multiple knowledges and multi-civic virtues that transcends borders. Indeed as they state, there can be no one theoretical understanding rather it becomes a search for new approaches that has as its end goal tolerance and respect for all living things and having regard for sustainable development. Being connected through a’ sea of islands’ also means that there is acknowledgement of a common humanity, that an action in one part of the world will still have impact in another part of the world therefore GCED must promote our interconnectedness and a sense of responsibility as central to relational perspectives.

Foaleng (2015) focuses on his experience and insights in advocating for being grounded in the local reality before one can become global, “Global citizenship is only possible when individuals are able to engage locally in the identification and solution of their basic problems.”

The notion of global citizenship education then starts first in our minds, our perceptions and our realities. Boundaries and borders erected during times of imperialism contracted a world that was previously boundless, restricted natural exploration and mobility and limited  access to the vast resources which were attained through mutual understanding of interdependence, cooperation and reciprocity. As we fast forward to the complicated world of now, we are challenged by Baldeh (2015) to think carefully regarding what issues have emerged through the passage of time: changing attitudes, a penchant for individualism, a priority given to economic development over sustainable development. These have culminated in Baldeh articulating the disadvantages of what the global village has created which she states to be “Information technology has succeeded in turning us all into citizens of the global village. However, it has come at a high price. People are no longer satisfied with their way of life but aim for the dream of a good life to be found only in the Eldorado of Europe or America.” ( p.92).

These continents for us in the Pacific are a 12 hour flight and more away with most of the journey looking over the vastness of the Pacific ocean, an ocean in which our ancestors sailed and rode the high seas taking goods and treasures to other lands, understanding the relationship to the moon and stars. Their quest and taste of adventure was for improved wellbeing for themselves, their families and their communities and nations.

GCED elevates us to re-think of who and where we are and to re-examine the present in the hope of changing a future (Thaman, 2009). The world order is in constant change and in the process of GCED we must have the critical thinking skills to decipher and to negotiate our global citizenship, while being informed by our local citizenship and upholding the integrity of our cultural citizenship, that which defines us and connects us to our source of belonging.

May I invite you all to participate in the Virtual Seminar on global citizenship education in offering your own insights and reflections from your contexts. Such insights are fundamental to our “becoming” global citizens and valuable in helping us understand others’ realities, others’ challenges so that we can commit to finding solutions together.


Baldeh, K.J. (2015). From Half-die to half the world.  DVV International. Adult Education and Development. Global Citizenship Education 82/2015 4-11.

Foaleng, M. (2015). Education for global citizenship in a postcolony:lessons from Cameroon.  DVV International. Adult Education and Development. Global Citizenship Education 82/2015 4-11.

Hau’ofa, E. (2008). We are the ocean. Selected works. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Thaman, K. (2009). Making the good things last. a vision of education for peace and sustainable development in the Asia Pacific region.

Torres, C.A. & Dorio, J.N (2015). The do’s and dont’s of global citizenship education.  DVV International. Adult Education and Development. Global Citizenship Education 82/2015 4-11.