Claire Bennett reflects on the ethics of students volunteering abroad – what steps can young people take to ensure they find a responsible placement with positive outcomes?


Claire has worked in global education for the last 10 years. She worked on the Global Youth Action project in collaboration with Think Global and worked with teachers to embed a global dimension to the classroom. Now living in Asia, she is working with advocacy group Learning Service.


For many teachers, global citizenship education is not something we see as ending at the walls of the classroom. Whilst it is important for students to intellectually explore the issues facing our interdependent world, and reflect on connections between themselves and others across the globe, the aim of this kind of learning is that awareness translates into action. That is, learning outcomes can be measured in changing behaviour in everyday life – such as helping out the new student in the classroom or turning down the heating at home – or the larger actions it inspires – such as a student-led campaign or service projects.


Many schools encourage students to become active in their communities, some even weaving local volunteering into their curriculum. A growing way for young people who are passionate about changing the world to engage in global citizenship education is for them to take this volunteering further afield, to go abroad and offer direct ‘help’ in addressing global issues such as poverty. Your school might already have, or be considering, a partnership with a volunteer travel company offering trips for school groups.


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