Global citizenship education is a sociological experiment. Most schools promise to create global citizens or global leaders, but what kind of global citizen do we want to create? It’s a blurred utopian vision. Do we want future citizens who feel a moral responsibility to respond to global crises or do we want to encourage a powerful global elite?

The philosophy of cosmopolitanism underlies theories of global citizenship. Cosmopolitanism is the ability to balance a local and global identity. A cosmopolitan individual engages meaningfully with different cultures and feels at home in the world.

There are two potentially conflicting types of cosmopolitanism. One is an ethical sense of responsibility and social justice to the earth and its inhabitants. The other is the practical economic potential you get from cultural awareness and cross-cultural ability.

In the increasingly competitive worldwide environment, schools are expected to produce globally-competent students ready to take on the future economic world as we see it today. And cosmopolitan capital is evident in curriculums everywhere – Mandarin lessons and international field trips, for example, are designed to give students the edge in global awareness.

The cultural understanding gained from these programmes is valuable. They are, however, expensive and exclusive, which is why cosmopolitan capital can be so dangerous. Not only is it only really available to young citizens who have access to these global opportunities, but because of this it can also reinforce social inequality rather than encouraging social mobility.