Global Citizenship

Encouraging our students to be global citizens – it’s all about connecting! 


UNICEF defines a global citizen as a person who understand interconnectedness, who values and respects diversity, who acts in meaningful ways, and who has the ability to challenge injustice. When we encourage our students to be Changemakers we are undoubtedly encouraging them to be global citizens. Perhaps the most important skill in becoming a global citizen is the ability to see beyond our own corner of the world and to think critically about it.


As the former principal teacher (now retired) of Donabate/Portrane Educate Together National School, one of the original Changemaker schools, I loved being part of the Changemaker network, I learnt so much and our school benefitted greatly from belonging to this positive, vibrant network.


 Global Citizenship was very central to everything our school stood for and the four principles of empathy, teamwork, creatively and leadership resonated so well with what we were trying to achieve. Ten years ago, we entered an educational partnership with an organisation in Cambodia called ‘PEPY Empowering Youth’ and this mutually beneficial partnership has gone from strength to strength ever since. Students in both Ireland and Cambodia learnt so much through the partnership. PEPY supports young Cambodia students from very impoverished backgrounds to get a third level qualification and gain skilful employment, in turn this breaks the cycle of poverty and allows the young people the chance to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Central to the partnership are annual exchange programmes between both organisations – the exchanges are key to forming real connection, friendships were formed and problem solving and critical thinking about interconnectedness grew naturally and organically. Over the decade the partnership grew beyond the two original organisations and the Cambodia/Ireland Changemaker Network was created.


Over the last decade I have visited Cambodia on eight different occasions. I’ve been on a steep learning curve and on each visit, I learn a little more about this fascinating country and its people. The education system in Cambodia faces many challenges. Over 90% of teachers were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime and subsequent decades of underinvestment in education has resulted in an education system that is not fit for purpose. In Cambodia today less than 3% of children reach minimum standards in literacy, numeracy, and science.


Since retiring in 2021 I have been volunteering with an organisation called SeeBeyondBorders, an organisation working to improve learning outcomes for Cambodian children in public primary schools there. We in SeeBeyondBorders recognise the teacher as the most important resource in any education system and our work focusses on supporting/upskilling and mentoring teachers to help change the stark statistics of the Cambodian education system. We are now a registered charity here in Ireland and connecting Irish and Cambodian educators is central to our work.

In the 2022/2023 school year we piloted a Solidarity Schools programme in 5 schools on the island of Ireland. The programme seeks to teach Irish students all about the Sustainable Development Goals through a Cambodian lens. We deliver workshops to the school staff and each school was visited by a group of Cambodians when they visited Ireland in April/May. This year we plan to expand our Solidarity Schools programme and would love to hear from any school that might be interested in taking part in the programme. (See contact details below).

In August 2023, a group of four Irish teachers travelled with me to Cambodia to take part in the SeeBeyondBorders Connect programme. The Connect programme aims to forge connections and solidarity between Cambodian and Irish educators. It offers a mutual learning experience for Cambodian and Irish educators by sharing life experiences and learning about culture and knowledge of education systems.


The Connect participants spent the mornings in schools observing, mentoring, and collaborating with teachers and staff. We worked directly with a group of ten young women on an Education Changemaker programme – while completing a master’s in education these women are focussed on making much needed change within the education system in Cambodia. In the afternoons we delivered workshops to the staff on a series of topics which they identified as areas of need. These workshops included Special Educational Needs, Making Learning Fun, Literacy, creating a Positive School Culture, planning, and using digital resource. The programme was extremely rewarding and enriching for both the Irish participants and the Cambodian staff and teachers. We hope that 2023 will be only the first of many Connect visits to Cambodia. One of the objectives of the Connect programme is to improve Irish teachers’ ability to support their students in becoming Global Citizens.


Any teacher or school interested in nurturing their students as Global Citizens should seriously consider connecting directly with a school or organisation in the global south. I know that this made a really positive impact on our students and really was a game changer for them in seeing themselves as Changemakers.

I would genuinely love to hear from any teacher, or any school interested in learning more about the work we do, both in supporting education in Cambodia and in supporting Development Education here in Ireland. We will be looking for teachers to take part in the 2024 Connect programme to Cambodia. If you want to know more please contact me at or have a look at our website or