Our theory of change

About Global Learning

In a fast changing, globalised world, education needs to help people understand the wider world around them and make the global connections between issues such as poverty or climate change and their own lives. It should prepare them to live and work in a global society and economy and engage them to make the world a better place.

Think Global defines global learning as education that puts learning in a global context, fostering:

  • critical and creative thinking;
  • self-awareness and open-mindedness towards difference;
  • understanding of global issues and power relationships; and
  • optimism and action for a better world.

This is a broad concept, and Think Global encourages educators to think about the global learning needs of their students, which will be different in different contexts.

There are eight overlapping concepts that are at the heart of global learning:

  • Global citizenship
  • Interdependence
  • Social justice
  • Conflict resolution
  • Diversity
  • Values and perceptions
  • Human rights
  • Sustainable development

Educators will bring these out in different ways depending upon the context.

Why global learning?

We know that people make decisions every day that affect whether the world is moving towards greater justice and sustainability. We also know that when people learn new knowledge and skills, it informs their decision-making. We believe that if we teach people about global issues, and give them the skills to think critically, their decisions, and subsequently actions, will be informed by this learning, therefore helping to create a just and sustainable world. Our Theory of Change reflects this understanding:

“The global element of the IB provided me with confidence to have a real belief in myself; to go out into the world and make a worthy difference, in whatever capacity I could offer. The IB made gave me the distinctive know-how, ability, and necessary tools to begin to be actively engaged in the fabulously diverse world of the 21st century.”

Robert, former student

Which means: when people are taking action, their actions are likely to be informed by their learning, improving the chances of creating a just and sustainable world. 

Research substantiates this idea, as well as showing that there is strong demand from teachers, business people, students and the general public, for global learning:

  • People are 50% more likely to see the point of taking action on environmental concerns, and to get involved in positive activity or supporting overseas aid efforts if they have learned about global issues
  • 86% of the public believe that young people should learn about global issues in schools
  • 80% of teachers agree that “thinking about how teaching contributes to making the world a better place motivates me to stay in teaching”.
  • Without an opportunity to learn about global issues in school, over a third of the population (34%) are neither involved in, nor interested in getting involved in, any form of positive social action. Amongst those who have learnt about climate change, poverty or world politics and trade at school, this figure drops to around one in ten (9%, 12% and 12% respectively)
  • 8 in 10 employers say knowledge and awareness of the wider world is important when recruiting new employees. That’s more than the number of employers who say the following are important: degree subject and classification (74%), A-level results (68%), or A-level subjects (63%).Global education is quality education – high prestige qualification such as Cambridge pre-U and the International Baccalaureate incorporate global learning.

(Figures are taken from Think Global and independent research projects. See Think Global’s resources library.

“It may sound clichéd but we are the next generation and if the world is to be successful and we are to reduce poverty and injustice and deal with all the other issues around the world today, looking at the world from a wider perspective, not just what it can do for you, is one of the most vital things. I think that any child’s years of education will have an immeasurable effect on how they live their life.”

Paul, 16.

The impact of global learning

Think Global / Ipsos MORI evidence shows that global learning has a very real and positive impact on children. Discussing news stories from around the world led to a 35% increase in the number of young people agreeing that it was a good idea for people from different backgrounds to live together in the same country. Discussing what people can do to make the world a better place led to an increase of 48% in the number of young people who want to understand why there are problems in the world, and an increase of 64% in the number who understood that what they do in their daily lives affects people in other countries.

Case Studies

Many of our case studies are taken from Global Matters, a booklet highlighting examples of education for a just and sustainable world, published by Think Global in June 2008 and in 2009/10.