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Education is the fulcrum for marginalised young people.
The journey from marginalised young person to diverse global citizen.


Within the vocational educational sector young people shine with practical talent and imagination.  However, many are deemed as marginalised through race, gender, disability, academic background and/or socioeconomics.   For many, and for diverse reasons, the compulsory education sector, i.e. Eurocentric/Western education, failed them and they did not shine.  They became disaffected, further marginalised and negative about future prospects.  These learners arrive in the non-compulsory sector brimming with negativity, unaware of the way vocational education can transform them by giving them the skills to connect, communicate and demonstrate life long learning.  Over time their vocational talents are enhanced through discussion, support, positive reinforcements and interactions, objectivity and a safe learning environment.  The learners move from hostile and defensive to working with others and achieving their targets.  What could these learners accomplish next?  This paper looks at the question: “Can a ‘victim’ of Eurocentric education become a global citizen?”


Baker (Baker & Peters, 2012, p.39) refers to being at “the margins (among the victims) of modern ways of knowing and being” – although this refers to his “decolonial experience” in Central and South America it made me think about who are the ‘victims’ within their own systems of Western/Eurocentric education.  Why are people marginalised, why doesn’t the Eurocentric education system always favour its own?  From the Cambridge English dictionary, the definition of ‘victim’ is “someone or something that has been hurt, damaged, or killed or has suffered, either because of the actions of someone or something else, or because of illness or chance.”

Marginalised people, whether it be through race, gender, age or disability, are often marginalised because they do not conform to the Eurocentric education ideal and, therefore, could be seen as ‘victims’ of this form of education.  If young people are marginalised, and are disengaged from society and compulsory education, how could it be possible for them to consider civic participation?

“Children are our terrorists-to-be because they are so obviously not our citizens to come.”  Benjamin R. Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld: Terrorism’s Challenge to Democracy (Peters, 2006, p.1).  This sentence does not just reflect on what is occurring in emerging nations or non-Western countries.  The sentence is also true for Western children, and young people.

Although A.G. Gough (1993) is writing about education in the environmental science sector, this could be extrapolated to education generally: “Since its inception a Western, Eurocentric, industrialized, male and English speaking worldview has dominated statements about environmental education, particularly those made at the international level” (p.1).

Black (2010) describes Eurocentric ideas as being part of most Western governments, government departments, policy, systemic educational inequity, class system and the role of schools.  Westernised or Eurocentric education looks at performance accountability rather than student participation.  In 2013, Neeganagwedgin argued that the education system requires “…serious reconstruction of the curriculum so that learning is not approached solely from a Eurocentric standpoint…” (p.28) and Baker & Peters conclude that “modern Western education systems, designed and maintained to reproduce Euro-American ways of life, are inherently racist” (p.40).

Given that a high proportion of compulsory education is historically and predominantly geared towards male, white and Western, how have Western children evolved into marginalised young people, especially those who meet the criteria of being male, white and Western?  The aim of this paper is to investigate if a ‘victim’ of Eurocentric education can become a global citizen.


Marginalised young people come from all areas of society.  Not all are indigenous, native or from non-Western societies.  Not all are female or live in rural areas.  Many are the products of failing communities, low socio-economic environments, abuse, disability and crime.  Dr Airini speaking in 2012 at Te Papa about Every Child Counts, talks about how responsible foundation education can lift individuals, families and communities.  Summarising Dr Airini, marginalised young people impact on society – financially, motivationally and socially.  There are negative spirals and increasingly compounded poor consequences for future generations.

Winthrop (2011) discusses how the economy benefits from an improvement in foundation skills and life skills, as does society as their future leaders grow and the next generation evolves.  She argues that “investing just four percent of national GDP in education…can lift children out of poverty and improve overall economic success for the country in which they live”.  Economic success brings benefits for the environment, health and security. These run into global economies and therefore global safety is enhanced.  However, this extract was overtly Westernised and did not expand the ‘learning opportunities’ to look at non-Western expectations or include rural skills.

This draws us to the point of what a ‘global citizen’ may look like.  I believe this is an individual that can move around the globe, accepting and participating in different cultures whilst being accepted within society as a citizen in their own right.  Civic participation and character virtues will generate positive relationships with others and provide communities with confidence and a sense of belonging.  All ages can engage with this and the older members of the community need to be responsible in their educating of the younger members of the community.

Experiential Learning

Following my own experiences, of working with disengaged and disenfranchised young people from diverse cultural backgrounds, I have always been impressed by their fortitude, determination, resilience and selflessness in spite of what is often recorded in the media.

I worked in the post compulsory, vocational sector where many of my learners were carers – sometimes to grandparents or siblings but often to parents who were fighting illness or who were drug or alcohol dependent.  Many learners had their own children and were learning to read and write in order to support them in the future.  Others were fighting to escape problematic backgrounds and ineffective compulsory education.  More than 80% had specific learning difficulties, dyslexia, ADHD, autism and other behavioural issues.

The predominant issue was a lack of communication skills.  This enhanced the existing issues and the majority of the learners, at 16 or 17 years old, felt they had no voice in society and no future.

In my work with the learners, we discussed many difficult subjects in safe and supportive environments.  They chose topics, researched and worked together – taking ownership and responsibility for their discussion group.  There were many examples of how these marginalised young people could be classed as developing civic ideas and character virtues – politeness, manners, respect, active listening, sharing and encouraging others were all skills that were enhanced by the experiences and trust we shared and developed.  However, one learner’s transformation was particularly memorable.

The current news topic was the Japanese tsunami and the devastation that ensued.  The learners saw the images on the television but many were unaware of where Japan was or what a tsunami was.  Literacy levels were low and many had a limited understanding of, or lack of exposure to, other cultures.

The learners were given the topic to research as it gave a spectrum of discussion ideas from civil defence, environment, transport, through to health, families and humanitarian aid.  The learners were not all engaged with the topic but they had the choice of issues to select from.  One learner was not connected with any of the issues until a media item was found showing a school being swept away and then the learner realised that people their age were being affected – where would they go to school led to what happened to their homes which in turn led to what happened to their families?  Haste (2004) states that “issues that have a moral connotation engage the individual through compassion, anger, or moral outrage” (p.420) and it was the learner’s compassion that motivated and engaged her to learn.

When the discussion finally took place, this particular learner had carried out research that exceeded the requirement for the assessment.  The learner had become knowledgeable about civil defence and support issues, humanitarian aid, charities involved with assisting families and schools and encouraged others to find out more.  After the discussion, the learner organised a group of peers with an idea to assist one of the aid agencies.

Research, discussion and awareness improved the learner’s communication skills.  The learner also gained engagement in world affairs and became a concerned civic citizen, opening up eyes and opportunities to develop and become involved.

The learner in my first example was female and wanted to gain employment in the vocational sector.  Her choice of potential career was in a predominantly female sector with few opportunities for promotion and an expectation of a fairly low income.  She was engaged in the vocational, practical side of the qualification but was adverse to much of the, necessary, academic side.  This learner was marginalised during her compulsory education but a more holistic approach, involving critical thinking and the development of life skills within her vocational framework assisted in her transformation from a marginalised young person to a global citizen.  Learning to humanise issues and strip away the national identity gave her the opportunity to see the human being behind the story and generated a strategy to encourage her to look beyond and consider an alternative viewpoint.  Again, referring to Dr Airini (2012), business and education need to care and in this instance they did and there was a positive outcome.  This also ties in with Haste’s (2004) comments that “if we want to understand how children develop those motives, skills, concepts, and social practices that foster “good citizenship,” we must look at what kinds of experience engage them…address the diverse definitions of “participation”.” (p.415).

The learners in my second example put a different slant to education as a fulcrum.  The first example was positive through the use of developmental and holistic education practices.  This second example demonstrates how leverage affects the fulcrum and generates a seesaw effect, reversing the move towards global citizen.

White, male, Western learners are marginalised by Eurocentric education – the school system fails them.  So, the question must be, why did it not work for the very group most aligned to it?  In my mind map of explanations, learners with disabilities, big picture thinkers or vocation-oriented, along with a lack of differentiation leads to an inability of the compulsory sector to engage with these types of learners.  They become victims of Eurocentric education.

Positively, despite school, the second group of white, male, Western learners remained engaged with their vocational area, choices and civic responsibilities.  In their vocational area (Public Service, Police) they were not marginalised young people but were part of a sector that was equitable, non-gender specific, collaborative and promoted public service, civic duty and responsibility.  Vocational qualifications raised employment prospects and added value to the knowledge economy.  The development displayed positive pointers for neoliberalism and the transformation of marginalised young person to global citizen.

Lever and Fulcrum

A key lever within the vocational sector is funding.  Kazepides (2012) confirms this when he says “educational policy and practice today are more and more determined by the economic and political needs of society than by an ideal of human development and a vision of the good society” (p.924).  Olssen and Peters (2005) also say that “in neoliberalism the state seeks to create an individual that is an enterprising and competitive entrepreneur” (p.315).  Marketization and knowledge capitalism are of interest to the global economy rather than a well-rounded, educated and inclusive global citizen.  However, the strength of the neoliberalism movement from the 1980s was declining by the mid 2000s.  Modernisation (New Zealand’s Aid Programme, 2011) was moving away from “purely monetary economies”, financialisation (Peters, 2013) was driving funding and the context of historical economic growth was changing.

The impact this had on the second group of learners was potentially destructive to their outlook, education and employment opportunities.  Funding moved away from white males, it encouraged participation of non-white, non-UK, non-males.

In 2007 BBC News reported “Chief Constables in England and Wales are to discuss whether to boost the recruitment of black and Asian officers by “affirmative action””.  The police were looking at employment law changes to increase numbers of non-White, non-male police officers.  Some saw this as affirmative action, others as reverse discrimination.  It was also seen as different to positive discrimination and recompense was made to some who had been discriminated against illegally.

The lever being applied to the fulcrum was good in terms of sustainable economic development for all people, regardless of ethnicity and gender etc but what type of globalisation idea were the education, public and funding bodies considering when their political-correctness transformed engaged global citizens into marginalised young people?  The seesaw effect left white males, in this instance, disengaged, disenfranchised and with the potential of no career and a low level poverty heritage.

The white males in my second example had been hurt, mentally rather than physically.  Their future had been damaged because of the actions of the Association of Chief Police Officers.  The cycle of sustainable education, foundation education and effective schooling (New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Aid Programme, 2011) needed to be restarted in order to protect their future.

The majority of my UK learners that were disaffected and disengaged were white, male and English – becoming almost an excluded sector, appearing voiceless and shunned by the government for being white, male and English.  Why?  A high proportion were from low socioeconomic backgrounds, predominantly from rural areas but some were from families and societies that one would think matched the Western/Eurocentric ideal.  Why were they becoming marginalised?


The compulsory education sector damages many learners through lack of support, devaluation of vocational skills and lack of safe environments, for example.  Sometimes physically, but mainly emotionally hurt, these learners are ‘victims’ in a system that had been designed for them, i.e. white, male, Westerners.

A search on the internet for “what is a victim of Eurocentric education” produces an array of results discussing indigenous issues across the globe – Aboriginal, Native American, African-American and Maori students.  Predominant words surrounding the issues are expense, domination, victims of progress and there is an insight into other types of education – Afro-centric and Orientalism.  Hui (2015) discusses “the captive mind is a victim of Orientalism and Eurocentralism which is a consequence of Western dominance over the rest of the world.” (p.20).

R. Black (2010) discusses the social inclusion agenda within Australia. She says that “the policy push for participation has a particular focus on individuals and communities at risk of exclusion” and confirms that the participation of “young people marginalised by socioeconomic conditions” is “particularly vulnerable to contradictory forces and influences” (p.10). On the whole, one would agree but, in the case of my second example, the results of social inclusion agendas and funding etc marginalised citizenship-minded young people, demonstrating how vulnerable they are to the swing of financialisation, education and other factors.

Human Development

Income security, life expectancy and education are the original key indicators in the Human Development Index as discussed by Cremin & Nakabugo (2012).  They also discuss sustainability, both environmental and human development, and how “participation of the people in decision-making …. was recognised as an essential element…(DSIE, 1997)” (Cremin & Nakabugo, 2012, p.501).  They conclude that “education is both a goal of development and a means to its achievement” (p.505), reiterating the importance of education to equip individuals for the future.

Frazier and Goodman (2015) look to a future of dialogue and discussion in order to address issues and move forward.  Their ideas involve “multicultural education strategies”, a “variety of modes of learning”, creating “a sense of equity and pride among all students in the class” and throughout their paper they promote inclusion, advocacy, “innovative approaches”, “collectively brainstorming”, discussion, active listening, development of “effective coping skills” and empowerment strategies.

Moving forward, Kazepides (2012) reiterates the need for dialogue and explains what genuine dialogue looks like: [It] “is extremely demanding; it requires respect, trust, open-mindedness, a willingness to listen and to risk one’s own preconceptions, fixed beliefs, biases and prejudices in the pursuit of truth.  The aim cannot be to win an argument but to advance understanding and human wellbeing”.  He continues by stating “the world today is not in trouble because it lacks the trained professionals it needs or the indoctrinated and the fanatics it does not; what it needs desperately are men and women who are willing and able to engage in dialogue” (p.915).

Global Citizens

Black (2010) argues that “young people [from low socioeconomic backgrounds] typically demonstrate less civic knowledge than their more affluent peers.” (p.11).

However, I tend to agree with the Jubilee Centre’s statement (2014, p.1): “Young people’s social action should not start from a deficit model: many young people are already active and engaged, and many more would be engaged if appropriate support and guidance were in place.”  I believe that young marginalised people can be transformed into global citizens through empowerment, ownership, responsibility, reflection and appropriate support with relevant education.  Education is important to help them “build a vocabulary that enables them to engage” (Jubilee Centre, 2014, p.2), show them how to develop reflection techniques and teach “transferable qualities relevant to a range of situations and contexts” (Jubilee Centre, 2014, p.2).

There is a theme that global and local citizens are beneficial for the common good (Black, 2010).  There are universal barriers to communication but equally there are methods to find common ground with which to begin engagement with young people.  Music and football/soccer are very useful subjects to start re-engaging, even with those who have no opinion on either topic.  Some use these subjects as their communication medium and they can learn to share information with others through this.  Intelligent dialogue can aid understanding and development of acceptance and tolerance.

Throughout the literature, there seems to be current themes to generate citizenship, there is potential to encourage people to become more engaged and involved.  Context and dialogue appear to be key words in this reconstruction.  Other vocabulary that Haste (2004) uses is self-identity, appreciation, narrative, connection, participation, informed, engagement.  She questions how do “we foster efficacy and agency through education?”.   She concludes “by according children the right, and the expectation, to make their voice heard, we are positioning them as efficacious and enabling them to position themselves as such” (Haste, 2004, p.435), producing successful and effective learners.  Education does impress on children in a variety of ways.  To ensure they are able to confront issues, and be confident in their decision making in the future, education has a high level of responsibility to do this in such a way as to promote an informed and educated civic society.

Lifelong learning plays an important educational role in engaging marginalised young people.  It demonstrates to them how every experience or interaction can be shared and used as a learning opportunity, taking education back to its grass roots.  Similarities and cross cultural information can develop and be taken home to family and friends.

However, “being educated is a way of being in the world and a way of living one’s life.  Looking at education through the criteria of dialogue enables us to see more clearly the centrality of character development in our educational institutions and the importance of the virtues and principles that ought to govern interpersonal relationships” (Kazepides, 2012, p.924).

Peters’ (2015) suggested “vision” of a “world civic space” (p.3) may “invoke a kind of cosmopolitanism that can still be shaped through participation, dialogue, and exchange of world cultures”.  Therefore, continuing to emphasis that dialogue is key to progression.  This “world civic space” of the future will inherently be multicultural and filled with citizens.  However, in 2015, Peters observes that “multiculturalism and citizenship education” are education’s “two dominant political forms” (p.3).  To achieve the civic space, leverage on the fulcrum needs to take into account Peters’ comments and “actively reach beyond the confines of the modern state and the project of nation-building” and credit “philosophy and theology” as “more powerful tools of mutual transformation than bombs, missiles and military force”.

Tully (2008) also writes about civic spheres and worlds where “the civic citizen manifests the freedom of participation in relationships with other citizens” (p.29).  Tully discusses the abilities, competencies, character and conduct of citizens where civic negotiation, and therefore dialogue, is an important aspect of participation.

As a result of my experiences I have been able to engage with the unengaged, encourage the disenfranchised and demonstrate resilience.  Marginalised young people respond to those acting responsibly and leading by intelligent example.  Kazepides (2012) reminds us of the “power of mutual respect and understanding to develop the caring, critical and creative capacities of the participants” (p.915).

As well as Kazepides (2012), I found Roberts’ discussion (2012) on Freirean and Taoist ideas interesting.  “Gentleness and humility are valued highly in both the Tao Te Ching and Freire’s educational philosophy.  In Taoism, as in Freirean thought, there is an acceptance that human beings are, or ought to be, integrated with the wider world” (p.157).  He expressed the challenges of wanting to educate – “for many in the educational world, this is akin to examining afresh our very reason for being.  That process is worth undertaking, despite the risks such an enterprise holds”.  This relates to a global citizen who has the courage to face the challenges often involved when raising educational issues, be it front line humanitarian work or working with others to stand up to discrimination.  This is not the same as training for a purpose, and the integration being discussed is not the same as integrating into an economic world.  However, elements from each can be blended to generate a pathway that is suitable for both economic function and a civic society.


In answering my question, “Can a ‘victim’ of Eurocentric education become a global citizen?”, I have had to look at what a ‘victim’ is, question what Eurocentric education is and means, and what does a ‘global citizen’ really look like.

Examples of victims can be easily found due to the continued issues of bullying and harassment and through the discriminations made against disabilities, gender, ethnicity, faith etc but has Eurocentric education really failed them and made them true victims?  Generally, Eurocentric education has failed many learners that should match with its ethos and context of being by white, male, Westerners for white, male, Westerners.  Eurocentric education has not failed everyone that is not white, male and Western but a shift in a new direction is required to incorporate the multiculturalism that is the current global stage.  Neoliberalism may be being restructured but it has historic contexts that need to be left behind.  This is possibly too difficult to do.  Ultimately a Utopian society is also possibly too difficult to do, by virtue of human nature and the economies of state and business.

However, ‘global citizens’ may also be ones that have a more economic power – being educated in roles or technology to drive the workforce and business to more prosperous times.  They may be the power players in global politics, controlling and directing communities.

Responsible education, intelligent dialogue, placing things in context and participation will encourage others to partake in a shared vision for a global citizenship or civic sphere.  Our marginalised young people are open to being lead and many have only been marginalised due to the failing Eurocentric systems and the neoliberalism of the world they have grown up in.  If systems are transforming, maybe fewer young people will become marginalised and there will be fewer victims.  Informed discussion and debate will bring forward issues into the public arena, allowing young people the opportunity to talk about how these issues could be deemed marginalising.  An emphasis on dialogue will promote ideas and future courses of action.

Young people are often already involved in civic participation and their communities need to retain that and learn from their young.  Engagement will promote education and reduce marginalisation.  These learners could accomplish anything they choose.  They are the leaders and citizens of our future rather than terrorists-to-be.  In answer to the original question, “Can a ‘victim’ of Eurocentric education become a global citizen?”, I believe that, yes, ‘victims’ of Eurocentric education can become global citizens but the fulcrum needs to be levered responsibly, with an eye to the past and an eye to the future.




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