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ESD or GCE: what's in a name?

In 2014, Djapo resolutely chose Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as the pedagogical framework to realise our vision and mission. Yet we also often talk about Global Citizenship Education (GCE) and seem to use the two terms side by side. Why is that?

Cooperation and exchange

Djapo believes that pursuing a conceptual distinction between ESD and GCE makes little sense. While ESD and GCE are two stand-alone educations, they increasingly show overlap and serve the same social purpose. The concept of 'Global Education' transcends this outdated contradiction. Moreover, the complexity of social issues forces us to cooperate and exchange, not territorialise. Vital coalitions between educational actors, and even with other sectors, are a necessity and an ethical duty.

ESD and GCE are growing closer in content and pedagogy

ESD and GCE both originated from a strong conviction: the belief that something needs to change in society (1). Both offer a framework for responding to the complexity of current and future social issues through education, both starting from a systemic reading of the world. Both ESD and GCE adopt a holistic pedagogy with a strong focus on participatory and activating learning processes.

ESD and GCE differ mainly in that they have different ancestors. Traditionally, ESD is presented as an offshoot of environmental and nature education and GCE as an offshoot of developmental education. ESD would then deal mainly with ecological themes and GCE with challenges such as peace and conflict or North-South relations.

This distinction poses less and less. ESD and GCE are growing closer both in terms of content and pedagogy. ESD bases itself on the sustainable development model, in which the harmonious relationship between ecological, but also social and economic interests serves as a compass. GCE shifted its focus from sensitising the 'North' about injustices in the 'South' to increasing understanding and action competence on common global challenges. Both also attach increasing importance to a pluralistic interpretation of education that focuses on the importance of multi-perspectivity.

'Global Education' concept transcends outdated opposition between GCE and ESD

Global Education, as proposed in "The European Declaration on Global Education to 2050, the so-called Dublin Declaration, transcends the outdated opposition between GCE and ESD (2). Global Education is an umbrella term encompassing a wide range of educations, all starting from the desire for social change and education as a transformative factor and human right. Under Global Education, GCE, ESD, human rights education, peace education, etc. are all given an equal place in the pursuit of a world with more social and climate justice, peace, solidarity, equality and equity, planetary sustainability, international understanding, respect for diversity, inclusion and human rights.

Because of the large overlap, common purpose and transformative nature of both frameworks, Djapo thus advocates for enriching collaboration between GCE and ESD actors: practitioners, academics and policy actors. The concept of Global Education allows to shift the gaze from territorial demarcation between GCE and ESD to the essence of the matter: the transformative role of GCE, ESD but also of other educations in a context of increasingly complex crises and challenges.

Moreover, the complexity of social issues compels us to cooperate and exchange, not territorial demarcation. Vital partnerships between educational actors, but also with other sectors, are a necessity and an ethical duty.

Moreover, the focus on the complexity of societal challenges makes it clear that mere cooperation between educational actors is not enough. We live in a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous), according to some even a BANI world (Brittle, Anxious, Non-linear, Incomprehensible) (3). Education plays an important role towards sustainable development as expressed in SDG 4.7, but the acronym BANI makes it clear that in the transition towards that more sustainable and equitable world, we need to work across sectors and silos to develop a new kind of expertise. We need vital coalitions between players in the transition arena who commit to working together to solve a complex problem or seize challenging opportunities, in an entrepreneurial way, from the observation that we cannot do it alone, with the intention of sustaining this in the longer term (4). In this, GCE and ESD are two pedagogies with much overlap and whose pedagogical expertise can provide impetus to the transition story.


(1) Global Citizenship Education: Issue paper N°2, Enabel, 2021. Accessed 4/1/2024.

(2) The European Declaration on Global Education to 2050: The Dublin Declaration:A Strategy Framework for Improving and Increasing Global Education in Europe to 2050, Gene, 2022. Accessed 4/1/2024.

(3) BANI versus VUCA: A New Acronym to Describe the World, Stephan GrabMeier, 2020. Accessed 4/1/2024.

(4) Vital coalitions ... because sometimes we can't do it alone, Lies Lambert, s.d. accessed 4/1/2024.