Page last updated at 23:09 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 00:09 UK

Call for better 'global literacy'

Classroom (generic)
Ministers have said they want more relevance in lessons

A large slice of England's children may be left "globally illiterate" because schools are not educating them about the wider world, a charity claims.

A survey of nearly 2,000 children for education charity DEA found one in five had not discussed problems or news stories from around the world.

And only 50% said it was important to have people of different backgrounds living in the same country.

The government said children were being equipped for the globalised world.

The findings come months after schools took on a new duty to promote community cohesion under the Education and Inspections Act 2006.

The Ipsos Mori poll suggests one in five pupils had not heard about important world events in class but that more than three-quarters (78%) thought it was important that schools helped pupils to understand what people could do to make the world a better place.

Global literacy is another distraction from falling standards and dumbing down.
John Davis, Motherwell
Two thirds of children questioned (66%) felt they could do something to make the world a better place, while 42% said they believed what they did in their daily lives affected people in other countries.

'World class'

DEA chief executive Hetan Shah said: "An education system that leaves English children globally illiterate without a basic understanding of world events or problems and intolerant towards those from different backgrounds is one that sets children up to fail."

He said employers were no longer interested in those with a "little England" mentality and parents felt that their children needed a wider set of skills for life.

Global learning could help, he said, by enabling young people to make sense of the world and their place in it.

He added: "We all want education to be `world class' but if it leaves children with a narrow view of the world and other people then how can we hope them to succeed in the global future that they face?"

'Astonishing' results

Schools minister Jim Knight said: "Thanks to the citizenship curriculum we are putting the 'world' into the world class standards to which we aspire; equipping our young people with the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to live in and contribute effectively to a global society."

He added: "I recently launched the first 'Who Do We Think We Are' week where pupils across the country are encouraged to explore their identity, celebrate diversity and develop an understanding, appreciation and shared values of different cultures and backgrounds."

There were also computer links between England's schools and those overseas, he added.

Liberal Democrat Children's spokesman David Laws said the results were astonishing given the huge range of modern technologies and access to information that were now available.

"Too much of what goes on in schools is dictated by government ministers. This has made it very difficult for teachers to cover many topical subjects in the classroom.

"Teachers need the freedom to teach an engaging and relevant curriculum, which opens children's minds and encourages them to be thoughtful and tolerant citizens," he said.

Ipsos Mori questioned 1,955 pupils aged from 11 to 16 in 82 schools in England in January for the survey.

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