People in the UK who have learnt about global issues are more than twice as likely to see the point of personally undertaking social action, according to research published today (2 March).
The Ipsos/MORI study, conducted for the charity DEA, was welcomed as evidence that education can play an important role in tackling social and political apathy.
DEA warned that schools and the media must take the research on board and realise that they can help people to tackle major world problems by promoting global understanding.
DEA, a coalition which promotes global learning, brings together development and environment NGOs, as well as education NGOs based around the UK.
The charity said the research shows that “global learning encourages awareness and critical thought about issues such as poverty, climate change, different religions and cultures as well as world trade and politics”.
The study suggests that people who learn about global issues feel more empowered to tackle them, rather than being overwhelmed by the extent of the problems.
Whereas one in three of the UK population feel powerless to take action against climate change, this falls to only one in six of those who have studied the issue.
Global education also appears to be connected to respect for religious difference. Forty-seven per cent of those who had not experienced global learning in school said that they were not comfortable with there being so many religions in Britain today. This dropped to 31 per cent of those whose school experience included global learning.
The researchers found that political views are affected by global education. Fifty-two per cent of those who have learnt about poverty since leaving school believe that the UK should meet its commitment of spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on international development by 2013, compared to only 20 per cent of those who have not studied the issue.
“Learning about the wider world leads to people who are more open-minded towards each other in the UK, but also encourages care for the rest of the world,” said DEA’s Chief Executive, Hetan Shah.
Shah said that schools, the media and other institutions needed to recognise that they can “give people opportunities to learn more about global issues to prevent us from turning inward in a globalised world”.
The report follows the launch of a Global Learning Charter, signed by over 200 organisations, including schools, charities, councils, trades unions and businesses. Signatory organisations, including Amnesty International, the Eden Project and the British Red Cross, emphasise that learning can help to tackle key international challenges such as climate change, poverty and lack of understanding between racial and religious groups.