Education for Homeland Earth is a formula for a transformative, postcolonial, socially critical, ecologically enlightened Global Citizenship Education (GCED). The formula comes from the title of a book written by the French philosopher Edgar Morin and Anne Brigitte Kern in the 1990s. In it, he argues that we humans form an earthly community of destiny among ourselves and in a community with all other living beings in the face of today's global threats. The consequence to be drawn from this is global solidarity among humans, despite all diversities, i.e., global citizenship, and with all non-human life, i.e., planetary citizenship. "Global solidarity" must not be misunderstood as a false reconciliation between rich and poor, between "the masters of the universe" and the dominated peoples. It is precisely the knowledge of Homeland Earth that is an incentive in the struggle against an unjust world order, against blatant economic inequalities, against continuing colonialist structures, and against any form of racism or sexism that justifies these structures. Education for Homeland Earth must empower the learners to work for a just world without manipulating them or imposing preconceived conclusions. All (political) education — and in particular, GCED — remains an adventure with an uncertain outcome.
Laying the Foundations for an Innovative Master’s Program
Education for Homeland Earth is roughly how one can describe the philosophy of the GCED (Continuing Education) master's program, offered at the University of Klagenfurt (Austria) since 2012. The three-year course (120 ECTS), which is taught partly in German and partly in English, includes regular attendance phases; online teaching and learning in between; an internship and a one-week study trip, in addition to smaller papers, and a master's thesis. The participants come from Austria, Germany, and Italy’s German-speaking part (South Tyrol). The course is now in the last year of its third round, which means that soon more than 80 graduates will have been trained, who will pass on their knowledge as teachers, teacher trainers, researchers or NGO leaders and form a network that has already begun to change the Austrian educational landscape.
The course is committed to the following goals:
- Cosmo-political education with cosmopolitan responsibility;
- Overcoming methodological nationalism (a world view that looks at everything through the national lens);
- Reflection on one's own (often privileged) life situation and the imperial way of life of the West;
A pedagogical contribution to a major socio-ecological transformation of the society. The Klagenfurt University’s core team engages in teaching the course, which ensures continuity and coordination, while speakers from all over the world, from the Global North as well as from the Global South, are invited frequently.
Some special features distinguish this university course:
It is largely financed by the Ministry of Education and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), thus serving the mainstreaming of GCED in the Austrian education system, but is the product of the NGO KommEnt and a university, which jointly developed and implement the concept. The initiative has come from civil society, but not without academic support, and signifies mainstreaming in that the Ministry of Education explicitly recommends the course— and thus officially supports it— making it possible for ordinary teachers and other interested people to complete the course for a small participation fee.
It starts at a strategic point,— in the training of active teachers and other multipliers— thus ensuring the fastest possible dissemination of the contents to the target audience.
It is based on a sophisticated didactic approach: it draws on postcolonialism as a meta-theory, on cosmopolitanism as a methodological basis, on global justice as a normative goal and on cosmo-political education as a pedagogical foundation.
A Nucleus to Advance GCED Activities
The course has proved to be the backbone for a number of other educational activities, such as the production of teaching materials and of research articles; an annual national education conference and other shorter training initiatives on GCED. The course also gave rise to the UNESCO Chair for Global Citizenship Education, Culture of Diversity and Peace at Klagenfurt University in 2021. Today, the course is led by the holder of the UNESCO Chair.
With this course, the management team and growing number of graduates are actively advocating for the comprehensive introduction of GCED in the national education system. In this context, the work of the ‘Strategy Group on Global Learning’ and the ‘Advisory Board on Transformative Education’ at the Austrian Commission for UNESCO are particularly important. These are consultative bodies that institutionalise a permanent exchange of experience and dialogue between the education authorities on the one hand and civil society organizations and academics on the other.
Finally, the course is also an instrument of international exchange with researchers, teachers, and students from the Global North and South. For example, contacts have been established with Ethiopia, Iran, Congo and South Africa.
The course has already been awarded twice for its innovative approaches, once with the Sustainability Award 2018 (teaching and curricula) in Austria and once with the European GENE Global Education Award 2021.
The Course Inspires ‘Homeland Earth’ Campaign
The Homeland Earth campaign of the Austrian Peace Research Institute (ASPR), launched in 2021, also owes much to the preparatory work of the course. The occasion is the 100th birthday of Edgar Morin, the inspiration comes from his book of the same name mentioned above. The campaign, which several organizations on all continents have joined, wants to promote planetary thinking with a manifesto. The ideas were deepened by a summer academy, with the most important lectures documented on the website Homeland Earth - ASPR. Specifically, on the topic of education, the Open Letter to Youth has received numerous responses in schools from across countries.
As a way forward, the GCED team plans to expand the international networking of the course further, primarily through contacts with the Global South and the preparation of a comprehensive manual on GCED.