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Special lecture explores global citizenship and sustainable development

In the third annual Soka Education Research Centre on Global Citizenship (SERC-GC) special lecture, Dr. Namrata Sharma recently delivered a wide-ranging presentation that explored value-creating global citizenship education as a pedagogical approach to education for sustainable development and global citizenship.

The lecture from Dr. Sharma – faculty at the State University of New York and the author of Value-Creating Global Citizenship Education for Sustainable Development: Strategies and Approaches – attracted the highest attendance yet for the University of Guelph-Humber’s series of SERC-GC special lectures, with many educators from Japan, the United States and all over Canada attending the virtual event. 

“I was overjoyed to see so many attendees at this special lecture,” said Dr. Paul Sherman, Program Head of Family & Community Social Services and Director, SERC-GC. “I think Dr. Sharma's lecture resonated with educators and students seeking a greater understanding of the philosophy of Soka, as well as the application of global citizenship education.

“I think more than any other event in recent history, the COVID-19 pandemic has made us realize how interconnected we all are on this planet, because, to my knowledge, there is not one country that has not been impacted in some way by this pandemic. It's a global phenomenon that will require a global citizenship perspective to effectively deal with it.”

The high turnout was also a testament to the urgency of many of the topics covered in Dr. Sharma’s lecture.

“Dr. Sharma made connections between value-creating global citizenship education and issues that are relevant to today, such as climate change and COVID-19,” said FCSS instructor and SERC-GC Senior Research Supervisor Olivia Boukydis. “It was compelling because participants didn’t need to have prior knowledge of value-creation or global citizenship to see the relevance, as it was understood through her presentation and discussion.

“What I personally found most compelling was the actual application of value-creating global citizenship education. At the SERC-GC our research has focused on the theoretical aspect of Soka education and we are now looking more at the application of Soka principles. So, I found Dr. Sharma’s lecture aligned very well with our research goals and what we are exploring at the SERC-GC.”

Thinking globally

Both Dr. Sharma’s book and her lecture at UofGH explored value-creating global citizenship education as a pedagogical approach, with Soka acting as a lens to examine education for sustainable development and global citizenship.

“My book locates the need to engage with less widely known perspectives that have informed various groups of people and led to the development of sustainable communities worldwide,” Dr. Sharma explained. 

“Value-creating global citizenship education has been developed as a pedagogical approach that can be used to enhance the outcomes of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda – the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and beyond. It has six themes for its practice that address global issues including climate change, human rights, peace, and the educational crises posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Students who attended felt inspired by Dr. Sharma’s insights.

“It was a fantastic experience,” said Justice Studies student Afifa Abbaszadeh, one of three student researchers who are current members of the SERC-GC. “Dr. Sharma was very engaging and had the audience captivated from beginning to end with her expertise and dialogue.”

“Having been a part of SERC-GC for the second year now, I was familiar with some concepts she discussed. However, it was refreshing seeing those topics be introduced to other participants for the first time. Something that stood out for me from the lecture was her discussion of how at its most basic level, the value-creating education framework aims to enhance relationships.”

Soka research ongoing

The Soka Education Research Centre on Global Citizenship offers students an opportunity to be part of a small research group that focuses on Soka education's application for educational and community settings – with an emphasis on global citizenship – while also contributing to local and international discourse on Soka education research and practical application.

The only institute of its kind in Canada and one of only two in all of North America, the SERC-GC at the University of Guelph-Humber announced in 2020 that it had received $150,000 in additional funding over five years from the Makiguchi Foundation for Education in Japan.

Further, SERC-GC’s student research assistants presented their research at the annual Soka Education Conference at Soka University of America in Los Angeles in 2019 and 2020.

“SERC-GC is first and foremost an opportunity for UofGH students, who are interested in value-creating philosophy, to learn more about Soka and to enhance their research skills,” said Dr. Sherman. “In the short period of time we have been running SERC-GC, the student research associates have all done a phenomenal job with their respective duties. Because of this consistently high level of productivity in such a relatively brief period, we have been able to disseminate the knowledge gained from our research within UofGH, and importantly, present it internationally at academic conferences, not to mention having our first two studies recently published in a peer-reviewed journal of education.

“I attribute all of this initial success to our hard-working students and faculty members affiliated with SERC-GC, and I expect even more success in the coming years.”

Dr. Sharma too noticed the enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity of University of Guelph-Humber’s students.

“I sensed a keen interest among the UofGH students to contribute to local and global issues,” Dr. Sharma said. “For example, a question was asked on the issues related to inequities and disparities, which I regard as very relevant in the context of these studies and research efforts. I look forward to continued interactions with the UofGH community.”