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Feature by Dr. Mathangi Subramanian, Geetika Dang and Anamika Gupta

Measuring Peace:
UNESCO MGIEP’s Youth Speak survey

Dr. Mathangi Subramanian, Head of
Innovative Learning Team, UNESCO MGIEP
Geetika Dang
Programme Analyst, UNESCO MGIEP
Anamika Gupta
Project Officer, UNESCO MGIEP

A cloud formation by people with a message of measuring peace

This is the new frontline for hearts and minds. Young people are learning to hate – we must teach them peace.

Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General


In 2014, when the staff of UNESCO MGIEP were entrusted with designing our work programme, we knew that we wanted to make education for global citizenship a priority. At the time, we had a good idea of what we wanted our approach to education for global citizenship to look like: transformative, interactive, critical, and – most importantly – participatory. Consequently, we knew that we wanted whatever activities we planned to be guided by the real needs of today’s youth.

It was our commitment to listening to the youth themselves that led us to design and administer the Youth Speak survey between September and November of 2014. Our intention was to use the data we generated to get a sense of what young people thought about global citizenship, with a secondary purpose of understanding what our role could be going forward. We were thrilled to receive 1526 responses from 126 countries – a large and diverse sample.

For this online survey, we created a list of statements associated with global citizenship and asked young people to react to them on a scale of 1-5 (1 being strongly disagree and 5 strongly agree). Before coming to these questions, participants were asked to report basic demographic details, including their age, gender, and nationality.

An infographic on the youth survey

We wanted to know the aforementioned information because we thought it might influence the way in which people answered the questions. Someone living in a nation affected by violence, for example, might have a different opinion about the role that the military may play in creating peace. Likewise, a young woman living in a community where tradition restricts her rights might have a different answer to a question about gender equity than a young man who has not experienced discrimination related to his gender. “Youth” is a diverse category, and we felt it was important to capture and understand as many perspectives as possible.

We also asked respondents “To what extent does your curriculum cover topics of peace, social justice and human rights?” We thought that individuals who chose 5 (“quite a lot”) would respond to the survey statements very differently to those who chose 1 (“not at all.”) Here’s where it got interesting. When we conducted statistical analyses, we found that this assumption was not the case. According to our findings, being exposed to education for global citizenship had no measurable effect on answers to questions about global citizenship. When we ran an additional analysis, we found that age was a significant predictor of responses. In other words, age seemed to have a greater impact on global citizenship than actually attending classes on global citizenship.

Since our study was not specifically designed to understand this particular trend – we did not have a control group, a representative sample, or an instrument designed to test hypotheses about the effectiveness of education for global citizenship – it was thus impossible to explain our data with any scientific accuracy. However, we do have some educated guesses about what we discovered and why.

An infographic showing the LIBRE project

Maybe our survey did not measure global citizenship correctly.

The statements on our survey were designed to measure attitudes about global citizenship through self-reporting. However, research indicates that even at a young age, many of us want to answer questions (and, especially, survey questions) “correctly” – that is, in socially acceptable ways. It is possible that as respondents get older, and become more educated, they are more aware of what is considered socially acceptable and are thus better able to choose answers that are expected of them, rather than respond with their actual values and beliefs. Even in an anonymous survey, there is reason to believe that respondents’ need to please the data collectors can often override their desire to be honest.

Two people holding a poster saying ‘there is no planet B’

Youth has many perspectives on current issues plaguing the planet and is voicing them openly. The UNESCO MGIEP Youth Speak survey thus wanted to capture their thoughts and opinions, to understand how to incorporate the values of peace, global citizenship, social justice and human rights in their curriculum.

Critical peace educators are less concerned with imparting knowledge, and more with equipping learners with the skills they need to critically analyse injustice and, ultimately, take action.

Maybe the definition of education for global citizenship is unclear.

Participants may have inaccurately reported their exposure to “peace, social justice, and human rights.” For instance, some may have encountered one paragraph in a single textbook about these issues and felt that this was extreme exposure. On the other hand, others may have been exposed to extensive content on these topics in their classes, but felt that it wasn’t enough to be considered as such. Since we did not give respondents exact guidelines, they may have produced highly subjective answers.

Maybe global citizenship is not being taught well.

If, on the other hand, participants are accurately reporting their exposure to education for peace, social justice, and human rights, then maybe our approach isn’t making a difference. This means that we need to come up with a better, more effective and more rigorous curricula.

For our organization, the most compelling out of all of these potential explanations is the latter educated guess. Too often many types of education conform to what Freire calls the “banking” model of education, rather than more critical models. Scholars like Monisha Bajaj, Maria Hantzopoulus, and Edward J. Brantmeier have argued that practitioners should move towards a pedagogy based on critical peace education. Critical peace educators are less concerned with imparting knowledge, and more with equipping learners with the skills they need to critically analyse injustice and, ultimately, take action. Often this takes the form of constructivist, inquiry-based approaches.

Building on the idea that critical peace education can be a powerful tool, UNESCO MGIEP has developed a project designed to incorporate these principles into a new approach to learning. The LIBRE project proposes a model of inquiry-based learning to encourage global citizens to be more aware and to recognise the interconnectedness of everything, and the consequences arising from every action.

An infographic on VEThe LIBRE project aims to create a liberating learning experience through multimodal online modules and to employ a range of rich, immersive multimedia tools to explore global issues such as migration, climate change and the prevention of violent extremism, and how they are all interrelated and impact on our lives and environment.

Using critical thinking and academic enquiry as its foundation, the module will equip learners with a key set of mental skills necessary to engage with the issue in reality.

LIBRE’s first module on Inquiry-Oriented Education will delve into… global issues such as migration, climate change and the prevention of violent extremism, and how they are all interrelated and impact on our lives and environment.

LIBRE’s first module on Inquiry-Oriented Education will delve into the issues of migration, climate change and the prevention of violent extremism from the perspective of global citizenship through multiple modes of reasoning and enquiry including mathematical, scientific, conceptual and humanistic enquiry. LIBRE will develop the learners’ deep understanding of these global issues and build their intellectual capacities for independent learning, critical reading, critical thinking, and enquiry, and inculcate in them a rational temperament that underlies these, including doubting and questioning, and respect for evidence, clarity and rigour.

The first phase will focus on creating a pilot module consisting of 30 classroom hours, and will be piloted in four schools in India. Through these modules, LIBRE aims to liberate learners from the shackles of their own assumptions, patterns of thinking, prejudices and biases and beliefs, and enable them to develop a sense of oneness and ownership towards a larger community of people and their natural environment.

Numerous scholars have commented on (and critiqued) the UN’s extensive influence over international approaches to international development and, especially, education. Here at UNESCO MGIEP, we welcome the opportunity to use this influence to shift our education system towards more inclusive, transformative approaches. We hope that sharing the results from this survey and LIBRE are steps towards this goal.

People in a group drawing up the globe



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THE BLUE DOT features articles showcasing UNESCO MGIEP’s activities
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