Monday, September 22, 2014

UNESCO-schools strive for peace and sustainable development

More than 50 Finnish UNESCO school teachers and head teachers met at the Finnish National Board of Education to network and exchange ideas, as well as reflect on how UNESCO school goals relate to the ongoing core curriculum reform with special focus on internationalization at home.

UNESCO-schools make a global network of schools (ASPnet), which covers levels of education from preschool to teacher training. The network was first established in 1953 to promote peace, equality, democracy and human rights. In recent years, sustainable development and environmental protection have taken an important role, as well as the protection of cultural and world heritage. In practice, the ASPnet activities focus on a variety of flagship projects eg. Baltic Sea, Sandwatch and Learning for the Future.

ASPnet network has got a new strategy for years 2014 – 2021. In it global citizenship (Global Citizen Education) and Sustainable Development (Education for Sustainable Development) are defined as the main objectives of UNESCO schools.  They are implemented through the integration of global education and sustainable development in school curricula, experimenting new and innovative approaches and teaching methods and strengthening the sharing of information, experiences and good practices among ASPnet schools.

I feel extremely pleased to realize that the education system in Finland is well advanced in these areas already today and the upcoming curriculum reform will take us even further. The increased emphasis on intercultural skills, human rights, active citizenship and sustainable development make the basis of the Finnish core curriculum 2016 and help us raise true Citizens of the World. Thus the Finnish UNESCO schools can take an active role in the ASPnet network and share the Finnish know-how in this sector.

According to the new strategy, UNESCO schools will build a virtual environment and netwok designed for discussion and sharing of ideas across the world (ASPNET in Action). In Finland, also, social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) will be used in promoting ASPnet goals, sharing best practices and building regional networks. To achieve these goals UNESCO schools will cooperate closely with the surrounding community, families, organizations, and entrepreneurs. Everyone wants to promote good and build a better world.

The UNESCO school profile is strengthened when the whole school participates and is committed to common goals. Students’ engagement is crucial. Peace education, conflict resolution, human rights and the protection of the environment can be highlighted at school on a regular basis, eg. by monthly theme days  during which cross-curricular and student-centered learning-methods can be applied.

In 2012 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon launched the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), which aims to put every child in school, to improve the quality of learning and foster global citizenship. Education must be transformative (!) and cultivate respect for the world and each other. These objectives are also at the hearts of UNESCO schools. In the words of the Secretary-General:

When we put Education First, we can reduce poverty and hunger, end wasted potential – and look forward to stronger and better societies for all.

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