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How does global citizenship education connect with the learning areas of the New Zealand Curriculum?

Global citizenship education (GCED), which encompasses issues such as climate change, Indigenous rights and humanitarian need, has never been more important than it is today. So where does this essential subject fit within the curriculum? This article explores how GCED connects with all of the learning areas.

Before exploring the curriculum subject areas, it is worth noting that the curriculum asks that natural connections should be made between learning areas and notes that learning crosses apparent boundaries. Authentic contexts rarely fit into neatly siloed learning areas. It is also important to take your local curriculum into account.

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Social sciences

When thinking about the place of GCED in the curriculum, many people would first think of the social sciences learning area. This area is about how societies work and how we can participate as informed, active and responsible citizens. It provides students with the opportunity to learn about different cultures and perspectives as well as to develop the skills they need to take action on global issues such as sustainability and human rights. Exploring Indigenous perspectives is an important aspect of GCED.

Another way in which global citizenship education is evident in the social sciences curriculum is in the use of social inquiry. This student-centred approach encourages students to ask questions, explore the world around them and explore and analyse the values and perspectives of a diverse range of people. It enables students to develop the critical thinking skills they need to understand and engage with global issues and participate in social action.

Social sciences at senior level could include the following subjects, which all have links with GCED: accounting, business studies, classical studies (e.g. Plato’s Cave Allegory), economics, education for sustainability, geography, history, legal studies, media studies, philosophy, psychology and senior social studies.


  • How might you support your learners to explore their own identity and culture?

  • How might you support ākonga in your class and school to share their culture with others?

  • What do you know about the local iwi and history of your local area? What about the protocols, stories, events, celebrations, waiata, karakia and whakataukī of the people in your community? How might you find out in ways that are reciprocal and don’t place an undue burden on community members?

  • How can you find out the issues facing your local community and support your learners to explore solutions to these issues? What might that look like when expanded to a global community context?

  • How can you support ākonga to explore the issues that are facing Indigenous people in Aotearoa New Zealand and in other countries to develop their knowledge and understanding? 

  • What current connections exist between Aotearoa New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific region? How could these be developed further?

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Global citizenship education provides many authentic contexts for science. There are many opportunities for ākonga to explore scientific solutions to global issues. Sustainability, climate change and resource management are just a few of the issues where science understanding and knowledge are essential before learners can move to creating possible solutions. This video is an example of a class using the design process and scientific principles to find solutions to the issue of unclean drinking water.

At senior level, the following subjects all have links with GCED: agriculture and horticultural science, biology, chemistry, Earth and space science and physics.


Support ākonga to: 

  • investigate the science underlying issues such as climate change

  • explore the impact of some of these issues on your local community – support ākonga to think scientifically and apply knowledge and understanding to the problems

  • explore how climate change is impacting the Asia-Pacific region

  • discover the global impact of these issues and explore possible solutions using scientific knowledge and understandings.


English as a subject is closely linked to communication and understanding, which are key components of global citizenship. The English curriculum includes the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for engaging with complex global issues such as climate change and injustice. Being able to critically analyse literature from a variety of sources in order to gather robust information and then take actions based upon that information are must-have skills.

Through the study of literature, students are exposed to diverse perspectives, cultures and histories, which help to build empathy and understanding. Literature plays a key role in preserving cultural heritage and can enable ākonga to explore what it means to be a New Zealander and a citizen of the world.

Persuasive writing and persuasive speech skills are essential skills for ākonga who are hoping to change minds and promote positive courses of action. 


  • How might topics such as climate change, sustainability and human rights be used as authentic contexts for persuasive writing?

  • How can you support ākonga to explore the position of Indigenous people in the Asia-Pacific?

  • How might your ākonga communicate with those in other countries in the Asia-Pacific region?

Picture books with a global citizenship theme

The following are some books with themes related to GCED. Think about how you can use some of them with your ākonga. How might you use picture books with older students?

  • All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

  • Pou and Miri Tackle Climate Change by Dom Sansom

  • The Grandmothers of Pikitea Street, Ngā Kuia o te Tirititi o Pikitea by Renisa Viraj Maki, translated by Kanapu Rangitauira

  • Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del Arcoíris by Linda Elovitz Marshall

Books for older children and young adults

  • Greta Thunberg (Little People, Big Dreams) by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara 

  • Journey to the Heart of the World by John Lundin – an award-winning young adult fantasy novel that shares the spiritual and environmental message of the shamanic elders of the Sierra Nevada of Colombia.

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Mathematics and statistics

Statistics and data analysis  are important elements of the mathematics curriculum. These skills are essential for understanding and interpreting the data underpinning global issues such as poverty and climate change. Topics such as geometry and measurement are essential for understanding and engaging with the physical world, particularly when it comes to issues such as environmental sustainability. Mathematics education promotes logical reasoning and problem-solving skills, which are essential for addressing complex global issues. 


  • Brainstorm with ākonga which statistics would be useful to explore and compare.

  • Which statistics might be useful for identifying inequity within and between countries in the Asia-Pacific region? Which statistics are used to track the development of countries. Why these statistics? Are there other statistics that could be included?

  • Have ākonga explore the statistics related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

  • Once ākonga have explored relevant statistics in Aotearoa New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific region, prompt them to discuss what stories these figures tell.

  • Have ākonga track statistics over time then challenge them to find causes for these changes.

  • Support ākonga to explore how the way data is represented can be manipulated, why this might happen and what the consequences could be. Encourage them to create their own representations from raw data.

Some books with GCED themes that include maths.

  • This Child, Every Child: A book about the World’s Children by David J. Smith a book of statistics and stories that compare the lives of children around the world.

  • I’m a Global Citizen: We're All Equal by Georgia Amson-Bradshaw this book explores inequality around the world from how resources are unfairly shared to why race and gender matter and more.

  • What is Scarcity of Resources? by Jessica Cohn in this book, emphasis is placed on how most resources are of limited supply so producers and consumers must make choices when things they want or need become scarce.

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The technology curriculum is strongly geared towards developing technological solutions to problems. One of the ways that solutions can be developed is through the design thinking process. The video about unclean drinking water above illustrates how science and technology come together to develop solutions to problems. 

Digital technologies could also be used to create solutions to challenges. In addition to physical solutions such as water filters and sensors used in conservation efforts, digital solutions such as creating websites and coding activities can be used to educate and raise awareness of global challenges and perspectives.


Support ākonga to explore:

  • issues that could have technological solutions

  • the nature of technology and technology’s impact on the social, economic and environmental issues affecting societies in the Asia-Pacific region

  • ways that technology could help the environment and humanity

  • ethical issues in technology – just because we can do something, does that mean we should? 

Learning languages and te reo Māori 

Language is an integral element of any culture and is deeply linked to identity. Language is an important  means of communicating values, customs and beliefs. Communicating in another language offers insight into the values of a group of people, allowing us to develop a much deeper understanding of what is valued by them. 


Support ākonga to:

  • develop a deeper understanding of the power of language and its role in GCED

  • explore how languages link people locally and globally and play a role in shaping the world and world views.

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The arts

The arts curriculum provides opportunities for students to develop a deep understanding of cultural diversity, appreciation for artistic expression from different parts of the world and the role of the arts in promoting social justice and positive change. The curriculum encourages students to explore different art forms, including traditional and contemporary art, and to engage with a range of cultural contexts. Ākonga can explore a variety of ways they can express themselves through music, dance, drama and the visual arts.


Support ākonga to:

  • explore underlying GCED-related concepts across different types of expression and encourage innovation and non-conventional expression

  • explore what it means in different cultures and societies for something to be a work of art and whether these ideas are personal or social

  • explore the relationship between culture and art

  • create their own representations of global citizenship concepts and issues through music, dance, visual art and drama.

Health and physical education

Four underlying concepts are at the heart of this learning area: 

  • Hauora – a Māori philosophy of wellbeing that includes the dimensions taha wairua, taha hinengaro, taha tinana and taha whānau, each one influencing and supporting the others.

  • Attitudes and values – a positive, responsible attitude on the part of students to their own wellbeing; respect, care and concern for other people and the environment; and a sense of social justice.

  • The socio-ecological perspective – a way of viewing and understanding the interrelationships that exist between the individual, others and society.

  • Health promotion – a process that helps to develop and maintain supportive physical and emotional environments and that involves students in personal and collective action.

All four concepts are essential elements of global citizenship education.


Support ākonga to:

  • explore social expectations in relation to personal identity, empathy and a sense of  self-worth in different cultures 

  • develop responsible attitudes towards others and the environment

  • develop their sense of social justice and explore what this could look like in action

  • explore how their choices may affect others

  • explore the relationships between themselves, other individuals and society in local and global contexts

  • explore and compare how wellbeing is perceived and valued in various cultures

  • explore the concept of hauora including the Te Whare Tapa Whā model and how this might relate to global citizenship education

  • explore the effect of GCED issues on wellbeing

  • explore how they can take action to promote supportive physical and emotional environments locally and globally.

NZ Curriculum and GCED-related links

Global citizenship education in the New Zealand Curriculum

GCED & the Key Competencies

To explore how GCED fits with the Aotearoa NZ Histories curriculum, have a look at our webinar on GCED and the Aotearoa NZ Curriculum

GCED and Indigenous perspectives

Design thinking process and GCED  

The New Zealand Curriculum

Sensors used in conservation efforts

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave 

Oxfam article exploring science and GCED

Oxfam article on teaching English with a GCED approach

Oxfam guide to Maths and GCED 

Everyone Counts, a maths resource for 8–12-year-olds 

Te Whare Tapa Whā model

Global Citizen is a worldwide movement working to defeat extreme poverty, demand equity and defend the planet. Find out more how you can get involved and discover what Aotearoa New Zealand is doing to make the world a more equitable, just and sustainable place.

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