Interview with the national coordinator for Austria – Südwind
In light of the announcement of the Global Education Week for the year 2021, an event which represents a collective effort of the whole Global Education Network to organize activities during the third week of November with the goal of popularising the Global Education concept, we have started series of interviews with National Coordinators for Global education from different countries. Now we present you interview with Susanne Loher in front of the Austrian national coordinator – Südwind.
Good afternoon Susanne. How are you? Thank you for meeting us and taking your time to answer our questions. To begin with, could you tell us something about yourself, your position, and your role in Global Education?
I’m working for Südwind, one of the major organizations working in the field of Global Education in Austria. Südwind has also been in charge of coordinating the Global Education Week in Austria since from the beginning. Since 1,5 years I am in charge of the national cohttps://www.suedwind.at/ordination of the educational work of Südwind and thus, I’m representing Südwind in the Global Education networks on the national and international level.
What does Global Education represent to you, and in which way/s has being a member of the Global Education Network influenced your organization?
Südwind’s mission has always been to raise awareness on the interlinkages of global issues and on the responsability of the Global north and of consumers’ societies for an inclusive sustainable development respecting human, labour and environmental rights on a global level. Thus, Südwind is running campaigns on global justice topics such as supply chain legislation, living wage for the garment sector or fair procurement of electronic devices.
On the other hand, with its educational projects, Südwind tries to strenghten learners’ competences to get orientation within the complexities of the globalized world and to make meaningful contributions to solve the global challenge, to connect local action with global consequences. Global Citizenship Education aims at critical thinking and active participation. Still, one of the main aspects of Global Education for me, is to learn to think beyond the box of one’s mindset. It’s about widening the horizon and including new perspectives. It’s about and rethinking “what is normal”, deconstructing stereotypes and questioning fake news.
The Global Education networks supports us in discussing the pedagogical approach and framing it with guidelines on the international level.
Why do you think Global Education is important for young people, and how can they benefit from it?
I believe that Global Education aims at the 21st century skills and at the knowledge and competences young people need to get along in this world in a good way. Humanity needs to change towards sustainable options as the Agenda 2030 marks. And societies need to become more inclusive in all dimensions. Young people need to discuss and negotiate discriminating patterns, starting from school. Young people need to anticipate the consequences of our lifestyle for their future, for their perspectives of their future life. Global Education opens space for these processes of “re-thinking” and “engaging”.
Could you reflect on the progress of advocating and implementing Global Education in the Republic of Austria and how has the COVID pandemic influenced the realization of your plans/goals
Global Education in Austria has quite a long tradition and many aspects have been kind of integrated in curricula, text books and teachers’ training on the content level. Nevertheless there is little support for the approach as such on the institutional level. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Civic Education are much more anchored and they have integrated many aspects of Global Education in their approaches. In Austria we set up a common digital platform for ESD and GE in 2020, launched just when distance learning became reality for the whole educational sector, which was an important step to put efforts together (bildung2030.at). On the other hand, the process of development of new curricula for secondary schools has been held back within the pandemy. In total, during the lockdowns of schools, Global Education had a hard time to be heard. (Free) digital offers of GE providers were received quite well – as high quality “emergency” solutions but within a frame of restrictions for participation, for social interaction, for experiental learning etc.
Besides the COVID pandemic, what are the main obstacles that you faced during the implementation of Global Education in your country, and what can be done to overcome those obstacles?
I already mentioned some points before. In total, one of the main problems, dealing with schools is the increasing pressure on teachers with centralized exams and curricula, growing tasks and expectations from different sides and the need of training on many levels which leaves less room for Global Education.
What are your plans for this year, and how will the state of the COVID pandemic influence them?
We try to get back to live trainings with teachers, to live workshops at schools – according to the actual restrictions and to strenghten the digital offer to support GE work. During the Global Education Week we focus on teachers’ training and on highlighting their ideas and efforts related to Global Education activities via the GEW website (globaleducationweek.at).
How informed are young people in your country about the concept of Global Education and how interested are they to participate in activities regarding Global Education?
As said before, for us, Global Education is a pedagogical approach to strenghten GE competences and skills. Young people may not know that they have experienced GE in their classes but they may talk about a lot of things related to GE. Our target group for the GEW are teachers and educators who should participate in the GEW and they engage young people in activities along the GEW.
Global Education Week is being held this year also, from November 15th until November 21st. This is a week during which all country members will organize different activities, with the aim of raising awareness about Global Education. How do you plan to mark Global Education Week; which activities are you going to organize, and how do you plan on conducting them?
We have an online training session on 16th November for teachers we promote nation-wide and we will be present on the 3-days educational fair for teachers and educators from 18th to 20th November to promote SDGs, Global Education tools and the digital platform bildung2030.at on a stand. On the globaleducationweek.at website we gather different activities, offers and ideas that teachers and educators may participate in or take up – during this week (plus surrounding dates).