Embracing global citizenship

Survey reflects pupils’ positive attitudes and respect for others.

Pupils in Scotland have higher than average awareness of global issues, according to an international survey.

Data from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) on ‘global competence’ - the ability to examine global and intercultural issues and understand and appreciate different perspectives – also found pupils in Scotland have very positive attitudes towards immigrants and respect for people from other parts of the world.

The 2018 assessment included a test which measured pupils’ knowledge and understanding of global issues and the world views of others. Only two countries out of 27 who took part scored higher than Scotland.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:

“One of the core aims of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is that Scotland’s young people become responsible citizens, with knowledge and understanding of the world and Scotland's place in it. This survey shows CfE is working - our pupils are highly aware of issues beyond our borders and they are respectful of people from other parts of the world.

“Since this data was collected, a wide-ranging action plan has been published to make it easier for schools to cover important global issues such as climate change and a sustainable economy. This continuing work will help teachers equip our young people with the skills and knowledge to be active global citizens so they can contribute to sustainability goals, flourish in the global economy and contribute to the international community.”

The survey showed:

  • Scotland’s average score in the global competence assessment was 534. It was one of five countries to score at least 50 points above the average
  • Two countries (Singapore and Canada) achieved an average score higher than Scotland, two countries/economies were similar (Hong Kong and Taiwan), and 22 countries were lower
  • Twelve per cent of students in Scotland were at Level 5, the highest level in the assessment, compared to 4.3% of students across all countries. Only two countries had a higher proportion of students assessed at Level 5
  • Based on responses to a Global Competence questionnaire, students in Scotland had an above average respect for people from other countries, including respecting their values and opinions
  • Students in Scotland were among the 10 countries/economies (out of 66) with the most positive attitudes towards immigrants


Read highlights from the Scottish results

The PISA assessment was conducted in Scotland in 2018 across 107 schools and 2,969 pupils. Students in 27 countries/economies, including Scotland, sat both a Global Competence cognitive test and completed a Global Competence questionnaire. Students in a further 39 countries/economies completed the Global Competence questionnaire only. The other UK nations did not take part in the Global Competence test or questionnaire.

Journalists can request an advance copy of the survey under embargo by emailing embargo@oecd.org.

Scotland’s curriculum – Curriculum for Excellence – helps children and young people gain the knowledge, skills and attributes needed for life in the 21st century, with the skills associated with global competence an important part of the curriculum framework. The Refreshed Curriculum Narrative for Scotland’s curriculum is available here.

An important cross-curricular theme within Scotland’s curriculum is the theme of Learning for Sustainability - an approach to life and learning which enables learners, educators, schools and their wider communities to build a socially just, sustainable and equitable society. Further information on Learning for Sustainability is available here.


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