Development Education explored

"Every person in Ireland will have access to educational opportunities to be aware of and understand their rights and responsibilities as global citizens and their potential to effect change for a more just and equal world."

White Paper on Irish Aid

The publication 'Essential Learning for Everyone' (published by the Development Education Commission and developed through a partnership project with the Birmingham Development Centre - now TIDE Global Learning and 80:20 Educating and Acting for a Better World), outlines the core components of Development Education and identifies its commonalities with other social and political educations such as human rights, education, peace education, environmental education, etc.

The core areas of common concern and focus - described as 'Essential Learning' by the Commission are outlined below:

Essential Learning - the four key dimensions:

1. Dispositions & Values

  • Respect for self
  • Respect for others
  • A sense of social responsibility
  • A sense of belonging
  • A commitment tlearning
  • An engagement with change

2. Capabilities & Skills

  • Communication skills
  • Critical reasoning and thinking skills
  • Social skills
  • Action skills

3. Ideas & Understanding

  • The centrality of relationships
  • The disparities in human living conditions
  • The importance of technological & economic change
  • The concepts of democracy, governance & citizenship
  • Cultural identities, conflict & conciliation
  • Rules, rights & responsibilities
  • Gender identities
  • Sustainable development & conservation

4. Experiences and Actions

1. Dispositions & Values explored

Respect for self - in a just & democratic society respect for self is central to the flourishing of the well-being of both the individual and the wider community. Respecting oneself brings both the capacity to act autonomously & to be self-motivated. It is an essential pre-requisite to have respect for others & to be concerned about their concerns.

Respect for others - in a pluralist democracy the disposition to respect & care for others is central to living interdependently. The positive relationships forged among individuals & groups are essential to the development of qualities such as cooperation, interdependence and respect for a diversity of people & cultures, which allows us to live and work in the realities of the world of today - and the future.

A sense of social responsibility - in a society geared to the general well-being of all, it is essential to develop a commitment to social responsibility based on the critical scrutiny of information and evidence within an awareness of power relationships, principles and traditions. Such a disposition to social responsibility should also entail a commitment to the sustainable use of the environment.

A sense of belonging - world citizenship depends on a disposition to be part of the enterprise as a whole, a commitment to common purposes that goes beyond personal interests, a willingness to participate as an active citizen, engendered by an understanding of the world as a place where each individual feels valued, and where both group & individual concerns and opinions are respected.

A commitment to learning - in a world increasingly characterised by change and adaptation the need to have a disposition to learning, to making new connections and new meanings, is fundamental. This would also need commitment to procedural values such as: willingness to adopt a critical stance towards information; willingness to give reasons why one holds a view or acts in a certain way, and to expect similar reasons from others; respect for evidence in holding and forming opinions; willingness to be open to the possibility of changing one's own attitudes and values in the light of the evidence.

2. Ideas & Understandings explored

Of relationships and power - the ways in which power relationships share people's lives; their civil, political and social rights and responsibilities; their status as citizens; the implications of an increasingly global and interdependent society; the nature of economic, social, cultural and political relationships and how they affect people.

Of technological change - the opportunities and difficulties of rapid change in international technology and of the danger that it will continue to benefit some and disadvantage many, thus maintaining rather than reducing current inequalities.

Of disparities in human living conditions - the continued existence of inequality at local and global scales and of different perspectives on such divides; the values base of these perspectives and the implications for popular understanding of the issues.

Of the concepts of democracy, governance & citizenship - democratic practices and procedures; the rights of citizens here and elsewhere; the history of the struggle for democracy and the need to nurture it as well as to seek change for it to be more inclusive; ways in which global governance should/could develop.

Of cultural identities, conflict & conciliation - the concept of identity and its implications for individuals, communities, states and internal co-operation; the dangers of ethnocentricity and ways in which it fuels conflict and aggression; different experiences of conciliation and the skills necessary to achieve it.

Of rights and responsibilities - the principles of equality, participation and democracy; ways in which rights are matched with responsibilities and the implications of this locally and globally.

Of gender identities - the nature of discrimination and responses to it (including legal frameworks); 'stories' which have been hidden from history because of gender discrimination and of the implications of gender issues for people's experiences - here & elsewhere.

Of sustainable development - the impact of human action and inaction on the environment here and elsewhere; the concept of responsibilities to future generations not yet born; the global nature of natural environmental systems and our links to such systems; proposals and experiences to improve sustainability.

3. Capabilities and Skills explored

Communication Skills - listening, discussion, oral presentation, debate, interviewing, writing for a purpose, defending a position. Ability to express one's own interests, beliefs and viewpoints through an appropriate medium. Ability to perceive and understand the interests, beliefs and viewpoints of others. Ability to exercise empathy.

Intellectual Skills - researching and evaluating information and ideas, interpreting the media, identification of bias and prejudice, recognition of stereotypes and discrimination, organising information using concepts and ideas. Applying reasoning skills to problems and issues. Communicative competence across a range of media and uses of language. Ability to perceive the consequences of taking or not taking specific actions in a particular context.

Social Skills - capacity for the development of satisfying and interactive human relations in different cultural and power contexts. Taking responsibility, making decisions, establishing democratic working relationships, sustaining dialogue within and across cultures Action Skills - ability to participate in group decision-making and effectively engage in democratic action to try to influence and/or change social situations.

4. Experiences and Actions

Essential experiences, which foster the development of dispositions, ideas, skills and actions, should be a feature of all educational opportunities. These include:

  • Working co-operatively
  • Working independently
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Participation in decision-making
  • Feeling valued
  • Sharing responsibility
  • Knowing a sense of achievement
  • Making connections

While learners should regularly experience many of these as part of their everyday work there should also be opportunities that offer experiences to be made real in contexts other than the classroom. There should be real and/or simulated experiences of participation in decision-making and action in all four domains of power (economic, environmental, political & cultural) - at local, national, regional and global levels.

Such experiences could provide learners with theoretical and practical experiences of many agents of governance - firms, trade unions, consumer campaigns, local government departments, the courts, national parties, environmental protection agencies, development NGOs, media corporations, etc. Involvement in the institutions' governance (e.g. through School Councils) should be cultivated as part of this experience.

Learners should also have opportunities for:

  • group residential experiences
  • joint ventures to enable dialogue and debate focusing on issues in the context of the past, present and future (in our own locality and further afield)
  • taking responsibility (for others) in tasks undertaken on a regular basis in schools, home and the community
  • using Information Communication Technology (ICT) to extend global understandings

For additional information see also and the development education resource:
80:20 Development in an Unequal World