Cover image: Global Learning at early years through another’s lens

Global Learning at early years through another’s lens

Xun, co-founder at GrowAlong Education, blogs about their work in promoting Global Citizenship at early years through developing international friendships between UK and Chinese children. For more information, visit to learn about their unique approach to nurturing global citizens for children across the UK and China. Children form ideas about who they are and how they fit into the world around them early on. As noted by a report from the Institute of Education, children begin to develop prejudices at an early age, but also that they start to understand concepts such as fairness, empathy and justice early on. At an early age, it is the family and immediate environment that shapes a child’s initial perception. GrowAlong, an initiative started by a team of educators based in London, has been working over the past year to bring Global Citizenship Education into homes all across UK and China. A unique family-centred online global learning programme, GrowAlong connects families with young children in UK with families in China to broaden children’s worldview and explore global issues, taking advantage of the diverse cultural perspectives of both families. Through the lens of a Chinese friend, children start off understanding that there is a world beyond the UK and start to think critically about themselves, their wider community and the interdependence of the world. Through interactions and guidance, children become inquisitive learners who are able to empathise with the broader community, fostering the skills and attitudes that will enable children to go on learning about complex global issues. “Making new friends from somewhere new, my child realises that many of the things she experiences and goes through on a daily basis (friend issues or difficulties at school) are universal experiences.” explains a London mum. Project and Play-based learning Here at GrowAlong, we introduce children to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a series of age-appropriate learning activities that encourage them to explore and build their own understanding on issues surrounding each of the SDGs before exchanging ideas with their overseas friends. An example is a project exploring how climate differs across UK and China, which forms the basis for introducing the concept of climate change and questioning our inaction. By relating to children’s everyday experiences, they are provoked to internalise the idea that issues represented by the SDGs affect their daily lives.   Our learning activities are structured upon the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme framework:

  • Who we are.
  • Where we are in place and time.
  • How we express ourselves.
  • How the world works.
  • How we organise ourselves.
  • Sharing the planet.

Family at the centre of a child’s learning We focus the programme on the principle of family-centred education with the purpose of allowing parents to be engaged with their child’s development. While parents take the lead in guiding their children around home-based activities to explore complex global issues, it is indeed children that has shown to be a catalyst for enhanced sustainability behaviours within the households in our programme. By influencing parental behaviours and putting simple lifestyle changes onto the family agenda, children provide the spark to put into action the ideals of responsible behaviours. After all, it is often these curious children who will question parents about the use of energy saving fluorescent lamps or ask about paper recycling. Indeed, there has been research done elevating children as a critical agent of change for sustainability, influencing adult and local community behaviours. We challenge parents to help children in rethinking their values, everyday routine and act as role models for taking on responsible actions as a family. Intermingling of cultural perspectives Each pair of families is assigned a dedicated bilingual educator to facilitate interactions with the goal of building a lifelong friendship. As they interact, we foster global competence in children by encouraging them to be unafraid to voice their viewpoints, develop arguments, appreciate each other’s perspectives and engage in open interactions to act for a collective well-being. UK children also get to be immersed in Chinese culture and traditions while picking up simple Chinese phrases to communicate with their Chinese peers. What’s more, parents exchange viewpoints around international issues and challenge their perceptions of raising children through intercultural conversations. We have been fortunate enough to have been working with many like-minded public and private entities across the UK and China. The likes of World’s Largest Lesson, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Department of Education of Guangdong has been crucial in allowing our programme to be where it is today. Special thanks to our education partners, schools and nurseries who have brought our programme to their students in a concerted effort to engage parents in their children’s early learning about the world. As we continue to help families engage their children through international conversations, we like to warmly invite you to join our endeavours in mobilising a global effort to nurture the next generation of global leaders who will lead the way against the pressing challenges facing our world. If you are an educator seeking to engage parents in global learning or wish to partner up to bring a unique global learning programme to your students or would like to connect with a Chinese school, please email us at ???????????????. Hand in hand, we will build a sustainable future. Blog by Xun, GrowAlong