Global Education | Ireland

GE Definition
On a global level, Global Education (GE) is a heavily contested term with theories, language and definitions around the concept varying greatly by region and country. This is important from an Irish perspective as GE is a term used less frequently in the Irish context. Funders, NGOs and networks prefer the term Development Education (DE).

There has been a long history of Development Education in Ireland which has stretched back over 50 years. In Europe, Ireland is recognised as one of the leaders in delivering DE programmes. DE is practised by many organisations across a variety of sectors including NGOs, voluntary organisations, community groups, educational organisations and many other organisations, networks and individuals.

Like most other European countries, the context in which DE is practised is ever-changing. This context is influenced heavily by national factors such as the recent economic crisis and, in turn, the problems this has caused in employment, housing, health and education. There are also many global challenges which affect DE such as the refugee crisis and climate change. Technology has become a vital factor in DE with social media in particular changing the way we communicate in both scale and nature.

Key Actors
State Policy Makers

Department of Foreign Aid and Trade (DFAT)
DFAT supports the implementation of DE through Irish Aid.  Irish Aid have played an important role in supporting DE projects and organisations throughout Ireland. In 2016, Irish Aid published its Development Education Strategy 2017-2023. This strategy aims to advance Irish Aid’s vision for a sustainable and just world, by working with our partners to provide an opportunity for people in Ireland to reflect on their roles and responsibilities as global citizens and to take action for a fairer and more sustainable future for all.

Department of Education and Skills (DES)
The DES plays a crucial role in supporting the National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development. Furthermore, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) advises and supports the Minister of Education in implementing any changes to the school curriculum in Ireland. Therefore, the NCCA plays a huge role in levels of DE in schools.

Non-State Coordinating Bodies

Irish Development Education Association (IDEA)
IDEA is Ireland’s umbrella body for DE organisations in Ireland.
IDEA has over 100 members which includes development NGOs, community and voluntary organisations, educational organisations and networks, trade unions, educators, researchers and activists.

Dochas is the Irish umbrella group for non-governmental development organisations.
Dochas has a DE working group whose role is to promote DE for and amongst its members.

GE in Youth Sector
Many youth work organisations bring GE into their work with young people. This includes capacity building of youth workers and direct work with young people. There are a wide range of organisations practising GE in the youth work sector including youth work organisations, DE NGOs and formal education organisations. Notable examples of this include:

National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI)
The National Youth Council of Ireland’s Development Education Programme (NYDEP) works to integrate development education into the core programmes of youth organisations. Development education in youth work aims to support young people to increase their awareness and understanding of the interdependent and unequal world in which we live, through a process of interactive learning, debate, action and reflection. It challenges perceptions of the world and encourages young people to act for a more just and equal society at a national and an international level.


IDEA’s ‘Challenging the Crises’ programme was a three year project led by IDEA with partners in five other heavily-indebted countries in Europe (Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Slovenia). The project worked with young advocates to examine the economic crises and offer and lobby for alternatives solutions with a network of over 100 young advocates engaged.

ECO-UNESCO is an Irish environmental education and youth organisation. They offer a wide range of supports for youth workers interested in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and were involved in the national strategy process for ESD. Their ‘Youth Work and Sustainability’ programme aims to provide youth workers with the capacity to integrate ESD into all aspects of their youth work. They also develop programmes which work with young people directly on sustainability issues.


GE Best Practices
Since 2006, Development Perspectives have had a number examples of best practice GE programmes in Ireland. The SDG Challenge is an award winning project which focuses on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Each month, there is a focus on one of the 17 goals with information packs, workshops and challenges related to the goal. The project seeks to engage with people on 4 levels (Awareness Raising, Understanding, Participation and Action). There are approximately 1500 people signed up to the SDG Challenge from over 20 countries. The SDG Challenge won the Dochas SDG Champion award in 2017 and was nominated for the SDG Action Award.

Part of the SDG Challenge includes the SDG Advocate Programme. The SDG Advocate programme brings together 26 individuals from 26 communities in Ireland on an 8-month educational journey. Each of these advocates implement SDG projects in their communities.

In 2018, the project expanded to work in partnership with organisations in Vietnam and Tanzania with each partner recruiting advocates from communities in their respective countries. A unique aspect of the SDG Advocate programme is the reciprocal nature of the educational exchange.Not only do Irish participants travel overseas to share and learn with participants from Vietnam and Tanzania, but, participants from Vietnam and Tanzania travel to Ireland for a similar exchange.


EIL Intercultural Learning is an Irish “not for profit” organisation which provides intercultural learning opportunities through study abroad, volunteer abroad, language training, travel awards, group educational programmes, and other cultural immersion activities for about 2,000 people each year. Their Global Citizen Award (GCA) is a programme that encourages international volunteers to use their overseas experience to take action and raise awareness of global justice on their return to Ireland. There are 3 levels of the GCA, each with various requirements. These will be outlined on page 11 of the handbook.

The GCA is about:

  • Promoting The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Global Justice
  • Highlighting the interdependence of the Global North and the Global South
  • Critically reflecting on global social justice issues
  • Global Solidarity
  • Change Making
  • Advocacy and awareness raising


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