Global Citizenship (GC) in Pakistan: A Brief Aamna Pasha

Global Citizenship (GC) in Pakistan: A Brief
Aamna Pasha
This paper is a summary of a Masters level dissertation for a Masters of Arts degree in
Development Education from the Institute of Education, University of London. The purpose
of this paper is to present a summary of the evidence that emerged as part of the research
on Pakistani student’s attitudes and values to Global Citizenship. This paper is aimed at
policy makers and educationalists within and outside of Pakistan who are interested in the
areas of identity, citizenship, globalization and/or global citizenship. It is envisaged that this
paper will be of value to those designing programmes and/or researching in the
aforementioned areas and used for continuous professional development.
The Research
Around the world, the great interdependence and interaction between countries has
encouraged debate on universal values and the need for a common identity and collective
action. The concepts of global learning, a global identity, global citizenship, and discourse
around these have increased dramatically in the educational arena.
Students and teachers do not exist in a vacuum; there are cultural and societal informed
interpretations existing in overlapping layers, which in my opinion, greatly impact the
success of programmes. It is therefore important to cognize students understanding of their
place in the world and their sense of agency in this regard in order to create more effective
global citizenship programmes.
This research was designed keeping in mind the multi-layered nature of the term and the
complexity of the Pakistani context. In an extremely simplistic outline: global citizenship
stems from a global identity, which is created through knowledge of the world. This research
aimed to address the question of whether the concept of global citizenship is valuable and
appropriate for Pakistani students to enable them to make sense of their role and place in
the global world. Aspects that were looked at included: understanding what perception of
globalization Pakistani students hold; exploring students sense of a global identity and what
an understanding of student’s national identity could contribute to these findings; Students
understanding of the term ‘global citizen’ and their attitude towards the concept in addition to
what student’s views on global citizenship could contribute to the debates on global
citizenship in developing countries were explored.
Understanding the Pakistani Context: What have policy makers in Pakistan been
educating for?
Over time in the five-year plans put forth by various governments, character building,
citizenship education and building human capital have been seen repeatedly as key aims.
Pakistan’s independence from the British raj, its separation from India and its division from
East Pakistan to create Bangladesh resulted in the need for a new strong identity formation
and this need is evident from the policies that seek to embed strong nationalistic values.
Resultantly, citizenship education in Pakistan is producing three kinds of citizens, the moral
and law abiding citizen, citizens for a market based economy and a nationalistic Islamic
citizen. This is pertinent when trying to understand global citizenship education and its place
parallel to a strong citizenship education.
What is the present approach taken to global citizenship in Pakistan?
The most recent national educational policy of Pakistan still directs towards a strong national
identity but now includes values of tolerance and justice. The seventh objective of the aim of
education amongst other things is written to be developing ‘a responsible member of society
and a global citizen.’ Although the inclusion of a global element in the policy is valued, it is
vague at best. There is no explanation of who a global citizen is, what their roles and
responsibilities are and neither does it outline how the development of global citizens will be
achieved. Global knowledge is limited to the confines of economic advantage rather than a
broader understanding of the world, power structures and responsibilities in a global world.
The element of global learning that encourages critical awareness on how our past has
shaped our present and a critical reflection on the future of the global world seems to be
Inclusion of the aim of fashioning global citizens in the national educational policy of
Pakistan makes evident that over a period, the objective of education shifted to match the
needs of the time. In academia, development and other fields, the role of education in a
global world is increasingly being debated with it being seen as playing a key role in
responding to contradictions produced by globalization, essential for teaching creativity and
ease with change rather than well-defined citizenship.
These theories on education and globalization however, come from a predominantly western
lens. Globalization is an unequal phenomenon being led by a few powerful countries, which
necessitates a degree of caution when applying these frameworks and theories to
developing countries. For Pakistan globalization specifically in terms of trade was a
compulsion and not a choice and it has had big implications with regard to inequality and
poverty within the country. Moreover Pakistan has a long history of colonial rule, which has
resulted in the need to build devoted citizens as has its repeated wars with India and the risk
to its sovereignty. Given these, it may be counterproductive to not form stable well-defined
citizenship through education. It is important therefore to try and evaluate the
appropriateness of including such an ideology to education in a country like Pakistan that is
invested in building a strong national identity.
The Research Context
This research was conducted in Karachi, the metropolitan hub of Pakistan. Schools under
the national education system using textbooks published under the Sindh Education Board
were considered as their textbooks are designed for the purpose of educating for citizenship,
which was important to consider. This particular school was founded in 1949 and is located
in Saddar, the business hub of the city of Karachi.
Research was conducted using qualitative methodology. 6 semi-structured, In-depth
Interviews (IDIs) were conducted with students in the 9th Grade from privately run schools
under the national educational system using a case study approach. Both male and female
students were part of the study. Semi structured interviews were also conducted with 5
female teachers (there were no male teachers in the pool) who had recently undergone a
global citizenship programme under the Connecting Classroom programme conducted by
the British Council. The teacher data was not the core focus but was rather used to further
understand and appreciate student responses. Given that the ideology and programmes
being designed are predominantly western, it was felt that this information could add
significant light to how pre held beliefs and concepts can influence understanding of an
With regard to globalization, responses yielded that students had not formally grasped the
concept. Their answers were narrow, with a very positive and economic perspective to the
concept. The ideology was seen to be something that happened at a macro level with little
reflection or understanding on what that meant for them or on whether or not this
phenomenon had any impact on their life. Although, media was acknowledged as a way of
knowing about the world, it was not identified as a vehicle of globalization. Globalization was
seen as something that happened ‘out there’ rather than a phenomenon of which they could
all be a part. Further, it was something that was received rather than a contributory process.
Teachers responses moved beyond economics but were similarly limited in that is was
mostly viewed as a one way process in which Pakistanis were on the receiving end. More
concerning, globalization was viewed entirely positively with little reflection on its possible
dangers and the uneven advantages it was yielding.
Global Identity
In order for there to be identity formation there needs to be a feeling of connection. However,
there was little indication of any kind of association with the wider community. A common
underlying theme was that knowing what was happening in the world did not mean feeling a
part of that global world. Analysis of responses showed that there was a general viewpoint
that there was little interaction with people of other countries and more of a one-way
diffusion of culture through media.
It was clear that there was a general lack of knowledge about the world. Secondly,
information about the world that was being taught was related directly to Pakistan; that is,
how cultures differ, whom trade is done with and history relative to Pakistan. In addition,
interconnectedness of states was limited to the environment. All of these collectively signal a
very narrow understanding of the world. With this, the lack of interaction with the wider
community, results in a feeling of disconnection that does not encourage the growth of a
global identity. What is strongly developed however is a national identity.
Global Citizen
There were two main findings from student’s responses about a ‘global citizen’. First, the
range of responses clearly indicated a lack of familiarity with the concept, which may be
attributed to the lack of clarity on what it means to be a citizen. Responses were narrow in
scope reflecting a lack of understanding of the concept of a ‘citizen,’ with generally a shared
history, society or some other similarity being considered essential. Secondly, with regard to
participation, the general opinion was that without action one couldn’t be a global citizen.
Students seemed to identify ‘global citizens’ as those individuals who will at some point in
the future travel or live outside of Pakistan. This inevitably excluded those who will not be
having any kind of interaction outside of Pakistan in the future. What is concerning here is
that teachers who had undergone a formal training on the concept felt likewise. Just as
globalization was something that took place out there, global citizens were also out there.
There was little connection with the ideology in the absence of opportunity to interact.
Stemming from the above, there was little value given to knowledge without action. This
again limits the ideology to very few, making the concern of global elites being global
citizens, a reality. It is worthwhile therefore to re-explore the definition of a global citizen from
a local context, having understood the realties and limitations in terms of interaction and
opportunities in addition to understanding how ‘static’ identities in Pakistani context are. So
that, in addition to trying to create global citizens we also broaden or redefine who a global
citizen is in local contexts.
With regard to global citizenship, students evaluations were limited to the local; when
thinking of global citizenship students seem to link it directly to the possible benefits it could
bring to the country. The idea of possibly being a global citizen was seen as aiding their
present identity and not as one that would exist parallel to their national identity.
In addition, for some, GC education was embedded in a training of skills that would equip
them to partake in a globalizing world. It is not so much a sense of responsibility to the world
that they saw as the foundation, but more the ability to operate in the world as the basis for
GC. This could be because of the concept of economic interdependence between countries
that they are most familiar with.
What do these findings contribute to the understanding of this ideology for
developing countries?
Developing countries are most likely struggling politically, economically and/or socially for
which reason there is clear importance citizens give to their own survival and progress. For a
concept like global citizenship where responsibility of the world is emphasized there can be
a lack of wholehearted acceptance given the struggle within the country. Because of which
students can fail to understand their role, feel a lack of ability or opportunity to contribute and
can view the ideological framework as a tool for helping them portray a better side to their
country or gain information and ideas that help them to progress.
Pakistani students and teachers participating in this study seemed to display a general
passive acceptance of phenomenon’s relating to the world. There was a general not
contributory association felt with the world where things are received rather than a two-way
Furthermore there was a strong national identity and more than a
responsibility to the world, there was a sense of urgency felt in displaying a positive side of
the country for which global citizenship was seen as an avenue. In addition, the absence of
a clear understanding of ‘citizenship’ itself meant a very loose understanding of what GC
could or should entail. These findings communicate the need to rethink GC in Pakistani
context and call for a challenging of global assumptions and a redefinition of the ideology
within local contexts.
It is clear that students have a strong national identity given that Pakistan’s educational
policy has been advocating for the same since its inception. This coupled with the lack of
global knowledge and opportunity to interact with the wider world has resulted in a weak or
absent global identity with a passive sense of involvement in the phenomenon of
globalization and of responsibility to the wider world. Collectively, these do not signal to a
failure of the ideological framework of GC but rather they reason for a reevaluation and
redefinition of the framework for a local context in addition to a reassessment by policy
makers of local education to suit contemporary realties and requirements from which it can
be argued, the system is a little far removed at present.
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