Celebrating an exceptional example of cultural fusion, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova presented the certificate of inscription of « Kulangsu : A Historic International Settlement » on the World Heritage List to the Mayor of Xiamen, Mr Zhuang Jiahan, on 4 September, 2017.
The site, inscribed in July 2017 on the World Heritage List, is a tiny island of 13,000 inhabitants, located on the estuary of the Chiu-lung River, facing the city of Xiamen, Fujian Province, China.
After becoming an international settlement in 1903, the island grew into a vibrant center for Sino-foreign exchanges, reflected today in an extraordinary diversity of architectural styles and a fusion of influences, known as the Amoy Deco Style, a synthesis of early 20th century Modernist and Art Deco.
«This island may be tiny in size, but it is great by the values and spirit it carries, » said the Director-General, before an enthused audience gathered in the Huang Family Villa complex, that exemplifies the fusion of Chinese, Southeast Asian and art deco styles. «This Island gives us hope that the coexistence of architectural styles can inspire us and lead us to the peaceful coexistence of cultures. It offers physical proof of intercultural richness, and we need this message more than ever today. »
In a message published upon the site’s inscription and posted at the entrance to an exhibition on the history of Kulangsu, President Xi Jinping said that «the aim of the inscription is to better protect and utilize the heritage property. Based on its own success, Xiamen should learn from international practices and establish a long-term well rounded mechanism to preserve the cultural heritage handed down from our ancestors and pass the legacy on to the future generations. »
Xiamen Mayor Zhuang Jihan referred to these words, noting that «we have adopted measures and politices for the sustainable protection of our cultural heritage. We will fulfill our promise made at the Conference for international practices to protect our heritage like our own life. »
Entirely pedestrian, Kulangsu has preserved the authenticity of its historic buildings and courtyards, together with its natural landscape, with shaded gardens and a lush tropical variety of trees, plants and flowers, to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding universal value.
Ms Bokova toured some of the Island’s emblematic edifices, including mansions turned into museums, music schools, art galleries, bookstores and coffee parlours, some of which have remained in the same family for several generations. She also visited the Kulangsu Gallery of Foreign Artefacts, the only branch of the Palace Museum outside Beijing, which houses a collection of precious official gifts given over the centuries to Chinese emperors.
The historic settlement where East meets West was a magnet for fertile cultural exchanges, reflected in the rich musical heritage of the Island, which houses a museum dedicated to a unique collection of pianos dating back from the 18th century, as well as one on organs, along with a concert hall and music school. Women from the community gathered to celebrate the inscription with the Director-General, dancing together to local compositions played outdoors on piano and guitar.
«The beauty of the natural landcape and the heritage and cultural wealth has made Kulangsu a common treasure cherished by mankind, » said Education Vice-Minister and Chair of the National Commission of the People’s Republic to China Mr Tian Xuejun. « This inscription will be a shining nameword for Kulangsu to be known by the nation and the world. »
Already a popular tourist destination, the World Heritage label could add further pressure to the site, which authorities plan to address by restricting the number of visitors to the island to 35,000 visitors a day.
The ceremony took place as the 9th BRICS summit got underway in the city of Xiamen.
Two commemorative postage stamps were presented on 29 August at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Havana as part of the celebrations honouring the 70th Anniversary of the Caribbean nation’s entry to the Organization and the founding of the Cuban National Commission for UNESCO (CNCU).
Presiding over the ceremony were Cuban Deputy-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abelardo Moreno, the First Deputy-Minister of Communications, Jorge Luis Perdomo, the Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, Katherine Muller-Marin, the President of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, Miguel Barnet, and CNCU President Oscar León González.
Representatives of national agencies and institutions working in UNESCO’s areas of competence and programmes, attended the ceremony alongside former presidents of the Cuban National Commission for UNESCO, former ambassadors of Cuba to the Organization and former members of the Executive Board, as well as Cuban personalities who have collaborated with the CNCU.
The 29th of August marked the 70th anniversary of Cuba’s entry to UNESCO, while 17 November will mark the 70th anniversary of the creation of the CNCU, an entity that has since been responsible for the development of close relations between Cuba and the Organization.
The postage stamps depict the nine Cuban sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and the country’s two inscriptions on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: Tumba Francesa (inscribed in 2008) and Rumba in Cuba, a festive combination of music and dance and associate cultural practices (inscribed in 2016).
The 70th anniversary of relations with UNESCO and the creation of the CNCU, have been the subject of celebrations in Cuba throughout this year, which notably included the sixth edition of International Jazz Day in April and the Rumba Route 2017, which has been travelling to different parts of the country in August.
A Pakistani literacy programme with an online platform for women and out-of-school girls has been awarded the 2017 UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy.
The Citizens Foundation, a literacy programme with an online platform for women and out-of-school girls in Pakistan, has been awarded the 2017 UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy.
The Citizens Foundation was created in 1995 by a group of citizens concerned about the poor state of education in Pakistan. It has since generated positive social change in the country by building and managing schools. Today, the foundation runs 1,441 school units in over 100 of the poorest slums and villages across Pakistan. The community runs 85 % of the foundation’s literacy centres.
“The inspiration for starting an adult literacy programme emerged from the gap in home-school communication as mothers could not read or write, and teachers had no way of reliably communicating with parents,” said Amna Waheed Khalid, the Executive Advisor at The Citizens Foundation.
The programme offers a chance for acquiring literacy, numeracy and basic life skills to help learners become independent and manage everyday tasks related to household management, budgeting and reading and writing. In 2016, the programme enrolled 14,020 girls and women with a completion rate of 77 %.
The benefits of online presence and community engagement for literacy
By going digital, the programme has been able to reach new and wider learner groups through its ‘Aagahi Online’ platform. The management and monitoring has become easier by tracking location, recruiting staff and providing enrolment details of the literacy centres.
The digital platforms open up new possibilities for literacy learning, but the community engagement is as important to advance literacy. “Literacy course materials can be provided at all private schools, they are ready to be downloaded through the website or ordered online,” said Ms Waheed Khalid “If each literate person over the age of 15 years were to teach only one other illiterate person, we would eradicate illiteracy in less than a year.”
An ‘Aagahi’ student, Gul Bano, who mobilized other women and girls in her community to enrol and whose daughter is now a teacher at one of the schools of The Citizens Foundation, stressed on the importance of literacy teaching and learning.
“Everyone feels the need and the will to be literate, but only a few get this opportunity,” he said. “The challenges are the lack of schools, poverty, and social taboos on girls’ education. I think that teaching someone to be literate is a greater service to humanity.”
In terms of the benefits of winning the Prize award and the future of the literacy programme, Ms Waheed Khalid enthusiastically said:
“We have already gotten calls from the Ministry of Education in the Government of Pakistan, wanting to learn more about our literacy programme! The global recognition of our project is such a wonderful and unique opportunity for us to mobilise national and international support for eradicating illiteracy in Pakistan. We plan to use the prize money to help us scale further while focusing on cost efficiencies through digitization of training content and better inventory management.”
This year’s UNESCO International Literacy Prizes will be awarded to laureates from Canada, Colombia, Jordan, Pakistan and South Africa on the occasion of International Literacy Day, celebrated on 8 September. The award ceremony will be organized at UNESCO Headquarters and will be part of the global event. This year’s Literacy Prizes will focus on Literacy in a digital world.
From 3 to 5 September 2017, the Director-General is paying an official visit to the People's Republic of China, where she will participate in the second Award Ceremony of the UNESCO Prize for Girls' and Women's Education.
The ceremony honouring two laureates takes place in Xiamen, Fujian Province, in the margins of the 9th BRICS Summit that is being held under China's chairmanship, on the theme "Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future."
During this visit, the Director-General will hand over to Chinese authorities the certificate designating "Kulangsu, a Historic International Settlement" as a new World Heritage site, inscribed in July 2017.
Before a fervent audience, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova presented the certificate of inscription of the Historic City of Ahmedabad on the World Heritage List, the first urban center in India to be inscribed, on 1 September 2017.
“The beauty of Ahmedabad is breathtaking, but the significance of this city lies beyond the physical beauty of its architectural heritage – it lies in its historical symbolism of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistance. The harmony it embraces through its diversity tells a story of religious and cultural exchange and dialogue,” said the Director-General.
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in July 2017, the walled city founded by Sultan Ahmad Shah in the 15th century, on the eastern bank of the Sabarmati river, presents a rich architectural heritage of mosques, densely packed traditional houses in gated street, as well as Hindu and Jain temples from a later period.
“We understand that with the World Heritage recognition for the City, greater responsibility has fallen on us to conserve and preserve the heritage value associated it,” said the Chief Minister of Gujarat Shri Vijay Rupani. “We are firmly committed to ensure the authenticity, integrity and conservation of the Historic City of Ahmedabad as required by the UNESCO. I am sure that this first World Heritage City inscription from India will usher urban heritage conservation movement in India in a big way.”
The Mayor of Ahmedabad, Shri Gautam Shah, affirmed that the city “wants to be a standard to be followed for conservation and management. We should leave no stone unturned to safeguard the outstanding universal value of the city.”
Ms Sujata Prasad, Additional Secretary to Minister of Culture of the Government of India said that “the world heritage recognition was a living testimony to the multiculturalism of the city and will revitalize our approach to conservation,» noting the need for a paradigm shift to protect cities and save them from encroachment and unplanned settlement.”
Accompanied by cultural heritage expert Profesor Ravindra Varavada and local authorities, the Director-General toured the Bhadra Fort and Sidi Sayeed Mosque, characteristic of Indo-Islamic architecture.
«At a time when all socieites are looking for new ays to foster sustainable development, boost innovation and build inclusive societies, we must harness the role of culture and heritage to strengthen the social contract, to create jobs, and most importantly, to celebrate dignity and diversity, » said Ms Bokova.
In presenting the World Heritage Certificate, the Director-General also recalled that Ahmedabad was the landmark city from where Mahatma Gandhi launched his struggle for freedom. Ms Bokova visited the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust – the site of Gandhi’s first ashram founded in 1915, where she viewed one of the largest collections of his original manuscripts, with some 35,000 catalogued items. The Ashram has also developed the Gandhi Heritage Portal, the largest online, open source digital archive on Gandhi’s life and thoughts.
On September 2, the Director-General will travel to Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell), a World Heritage Site located in Patan, Gujarat.
In the present political, social and economic climate globally, promoting media and information literacy (MIL) has never been more crucial. There are simple ways for all stakeholders to get involved and advance the process of “MIL for all”.
As the dates of Global MIL Week 2017 are coming closer, UNESCO is calling all partners and stakeholders from around the globe to join in the Week and celebrate. Global MIL Week celebration will take place from 25 October to 1 November 2017.
Plan a simple MIL-related activity/action, online or offline, around the time of the Week.
Follow our suggestions for low-cost ways to celebrate the Week:
For other types of stakeholders, see 10 ways to celebrate Global MIL Week.
Share your creative actions and promote them globally! Let us know what you are doing! Planned activities/events (online or offline) to celebrate Global MIL Week 2017 should be registered on the website of Global MIL Week 2017. They will be showcased on the Global MIL Week Global Events Map and shared with the global MIL community.
This global call is open across the world. While the Global MIL Week celebration will take place from 25 October to 1 November, its Feature Conference will be held in Kingston, Jamaica from 24 to 27 October 2017.
UNESCO spearheads Global MIL Week 2017 in cooperation with the Media and Information and Intercultural Dialogue (MILID) University Network, the University of the West Indies, the Global Alliance for Partnerships in Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL), the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), and many other partners.
“Access to information is like access to life, information is life. Access to information […] is the leveler for all inequalities,” said Nnenna Nwakanma as she delivered a speech at last year’s IPDCtalks in Paris.
Nnenna is a free and open-source software activist, community organizer and development adviser. Her interest in information technologies and her determination to make them accessible — especially to women — can be traced to her early childhood. She was born the last of three girls in the Eastern part of Nigeria. “My uncles decided they did not want my mother. They did not want the three girls, because the investment has come to zero.” Nnenna explains. “So I was this kind of unwanted and un-named child. Nobody will invest in your education; you get the gift of poverty, and early marriage. You would not have access to water, or electricity or health service. And most definitely, you would not have rights to inheritance or own property”.
Initially destined to lead such a life, Nnenna’s story is one of a dramatic turnaround. Her father, who had been separated from the family, came back and supported his youngest daughter to establish her own identity. He gave her a name and sent her to the best school the family could afford. Today Nnenna holds several degrees in the fields of social sciences, linguistics, religion, law and international relations.
However, a good education is not the only factor behind Nnenna’s success. “I was one of the very early proponents in Africa to click and to connect. And when I understood the power of technology to give me an identity, to make me a global citizen, and to even serve as a job for me, then I thought: This is me”, explained Nnenna in her speech during the last year’s IPDCtalks.
Today Nnenna is the Senior Policy Manager of the World Wide Web Foundation, an organization founded in 2008 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee to fight for a world where everyone has access to the web and can use it to improve their lives. While the web has been instrumental in Nnenna’s life, many people around the world are still unable to access its benefits. One Web Foundation study shows more than half of the world’s population is still unconnected, with women particularly affected.
With the goal of bridging the online gender gap, Nnenna is deeply involved in fighting for online rights for women, providing relevant content to help women understand their basic human rights, and making the web a safe place in general. To this end, Nnenna strongly advocates for the open data agenda across Africa. She recently pioneered TechMousso, a competition using gender data to bring the tech community together with civil society working on women’s issues in Cote d’Ivoire.
For Nnenna, global efforts to expand internet access, education and online rights can’t come quickly enough. “Let us make it a point of duty that all the people, especially women, should be free and able to access all parts of the Internet all the time.”
In recent years, Nnenna co-founded several organizations working on information-technology issues such as The Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa, The Africa Network of Information Society Actors, and the African Civil Society for the Information Society. She has served as a board member of the Open Source Initiative and as the Information officer for Africa at the Helen Keller Foundation.
Join this year’s IPDCtalks on 28 September at the Paris HQ in order to listen to more stories like the one from Nnenna Nwakanma. For more information on the IPDCtalks, please visit our website: http://en.unesco.org/ipdc-talks
Reading and writing for pleasure in South Africa
The South African project ‘Growing FunDza Fanz readers and writers’ won the 2017 UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize.
The literacy prize goes to The ‘FunDza Literacy Trust’, a non-profit organization that promotes a culture of reading and writing for pleasure in South Africa.
A National Reading Survey from 2016 found that 58% of South African households do not contain a single leisure-reading book, and that similarly there are only few public libraries in low-income areas.
“In this book-poor environment, it is hard to cultivate a vibrant reading culture. This is exacerbated by the fact that there are few books written by and for young South Africans,” said Mignon Hardie, Executive Director at Fundza Literacy Trust. She has been involved with the organization since its inception, and has been instrumental in ensuring FunDza’s growth and success in getting young people to read and write for pleasure.
“The lack of a reading culture is felt in our schools where students struggle to understand what they read or make meaning from text. This results in low academic performance, particularly for students from the poorest backgrounds.”
The non-profit organization created an online platform called ‘Fundza.mobi’ to counter the book-poor environment and provide exciting local reading materials to teens and young adults with little access to reading resources at home or at school across the country. The platform gives them access to reading resources and online courses to improve the readers comprehension and vocabulary skills. The texts range from local short stories to blogs, feature articles and children's stories.
“With access to local stories they can start to see their own lives reflected back to them through the content,” says Ms Hardie. “This provides opportunities for self-development, reflection and the stories spark discussion, interaction and debate.”
The power of technology to nurture a community of readers and writers
Ms Hardie emphasizes the importance of interesting content to attract young readers, and that relevant local stories can inspire young people to read more, to develop a sense of self and open a window to a broader worldview.
She also mentions technology as being an important success factor, with the possibility for connecting and creating a community: “We've learned about the power of technology to scale and connect people. But we've also learned how one needs to build systems that work within the environment you are wanting to reach. For us finding ways to reduce the data cost of using our platform has been an important success factor.”
FunDza connects with its readers and writers through WhatsApp, email, SMS and other social media channels. This gives young people the possibility to communicate about new content, highlight inspirational stories and promote a sense of belonging to a community of readers and writers.
“We've learned about the power of community and relationships. We can see that where our reading groups are most successful there is at the centre a strong, passionate reader and leader who inspires young people to read more and who puts fun back into reading,” she said.
With the possibility for emerging writers to display their work and receive comments and feedback from readers, the interactive platform has started developing local writing talent that gives the most talented writers the opportunity to enrol in a mentorship programme:
“The young writers whom we mentor to become contributors to our platform are also role-models for our readers. They show them that they too are potential creators of texts, not just consumers. Many of the young writers tell us that being published on the fundza.mobi platform boosts their confidence and encourages them to write more,” said Ms Hardie.
This year’s UNESCO International Literacy Prizes will be awarded to laureates from Canada, Colombia, Jordan, Pakistan and South Africa on International Literacy Day, celebrated on 8 September. The prize-giving ceremony will be organized at UNESCO Headquarters and be part of the global event. This year’s Literacy Prizes will focus on Literacy in a digital world.
Critical inquiry, mindfulness, empathy and compassion: these are the four competencies that the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development in New Delhi, India has identified as the key to empower youth to address 21st century challenges, including violent extremism, based on recent advances in brain research.
Empowering educators and teachers to build these competencies and prevent violent extremism through education brought together participants from 10 countries for a three-day workshop organized by MGIEP in New Delhi.
Addressing the closing session of the event, Director-General Irina Bokova higlighted the leading role of MGIEP in building the capacity for educators across the globe, online and offline. Drawing on existing research in neuroscience, MGIEP has started work with pilot schools to integrate socio-emotional skills, empathy training and values-based education into curricula.
“I believe what you are doing here in fostering a culture of tolerance and non-violence, expresses the core mission of UNESCO, to build peace in the minds of men and women,” said the Director-General.
“Violent extremism seeks to destroy the foundation of humanity,” continued Irina Bokova. “’Hard power’ is not enough to counter a threat that draws on exclusive visions of the world and builds on false interpretations of faith, hatred and intolerance, we need ‘soft power’ to win this battle. We need to educate a new generation of peace fighters […] with the skills and knowledge they need to respond to those who distort history, culture and religion.”
In this context, the Director-General called for new political will, new partnerships, new policies and concrete pedagogical tools to take this forward.
On the same day, the Director-General participated in a “Talking Across Generations” dialogue, organized by MGIEP and India’s YESPeace Network which focused on ‘Harnessing the Indian youth demographic bulge for a true dividend: Vision to Action for 21st Century’.
Both through social media and on site, students exchanged with the Director-General and Dr Karan Singh, Chair of the MGIEP Board, on skills to navigate rapid change driven by technology and create more just, peaceful and sustainable societies.
“We need a broad perspective, an integral education encompassing body, mind and emotions,” said Dr Karan Singh. Recalling his participation in the Delors Commission on Education for the 21st Century, he emphasized “learning to live together” as the bedrock of human and social development.
The Director-General discussed evolving approaches to education promoted by UNESCO, centred on changing mindsets and developing new skills not only for jobs in growth areas, from cultural industries to the green economy, but also for intercultural dialogue, tolerance and understanding. This calls for sustained investment in teachers, in relevant online content, and in broad community and social mobilization to make education a priority. She praised the youth present for championing peace and for their sensitivity to advancing social justice and education for all.
Message from the outgoing Secretary of the MAB Programme and the Director of the Division for Earth and Ecological Sciences, Mr. Han, Qunli.
Distinguished President and Members of the International Co-ordinating Council of the MAB Programme (MAB-ICC) and its Bureau,
Distinguished MAB National Committees and National Focal Points for MAB,
Distinguished managers and partners of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves,
I am writing to you to inform you that, today is my last day on duty as the Secretary of the MAB Programme of UNESCO. I will be retired from tomorrow and return to my home town Beijing on 7 September 2017.
Taking the opportunity, allow me to express my most sincere thanks to you, for the confidence and trust you have extended to me and to the MAB Secretariat team over last four years. It is by your strong and collective support and cooperation, we have made good progress for the MAB Programme and for the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR). Now the MAB Strategy 2015-2025 and Lima Action Plan 2016-2025 are both in place, and our WBRN is under the new contexts of Agenda 2030 to explore new and innovative solutions for sustainable development.
Serving MAB and its WNBR, the UNESCO network of ecosystems over seven million square kilometres of land and water and more than 200 million local and indigenous populations, is an overwhelming honour. I am confident that MAB and its WNBR will become more recognized and will evolve as a true global facility for sustainable development. I am sure very soon that UNESCO will soon appoint a strong professional as the Secretary of the MAB Programme.
While I am leaving the office of MAB Secretariat for retirement, I will not be retired from this noble mission. I will continue, as many of my predecessors did, serving MAB and WNBR, but from China as a volunteer.
I wish you all the success, in your MAB national programmes, in your Biosphere Reserves and in your new effort in the implementation of MAB Strategy and Lima Action Plan.
Your most sincerely,
Despite large efforts made over the past decades to narrow the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, major inequalities still persist. Socio-economic, cultural and other obstacles still prevent female learners from completing or benefiting fully from good quality education of their choice in many situations.
UNESCO’s new publication, Cracking the code: girls’ and women’s education in STEM, which was launched at the UNESCO International Symposium and Policy Forum on the same issue, deciphers the factors that hinder and facilitate girls’ and women’s participation in STEM education. It provides an in-depth look at the challenges, learning achievements and progression. Here are some highlights from the report:
What is the overall status of girls in STEM education?
The gender disparity in STEM education is striking. In higher education, only 35% of all students enrolled in STEM-related fields are female. Today, only 28% of all of the world’s researchers are women. Gender stereotypes and biased attitudes compromise the quality of the learning experience for female students and limit their education choices.
What are the barriers?
What is the role of socialization in these trends, and to what extent do girls and women internalize negative stereotypes?
How can we help girls and women understand that gender stereotypes are artificial constructs and that studies and careers in STEM are open to them?
The new report is a resource for education stakeholders and others working to promote gender equality.
Learn more facts about girls’ and women’s education in STEM.
On 30 August 2017, UNESCO and India celebrated a new chapter in their 70-year partnership with the inauguration of premises designed by one of the country’s most renowned artists and architects of the post-independence era, in the presence of the Director-General Irina Bokova, H.E. Shri Prakash Javedakar, Union Minister of Human Resource Development, Dr Karan Singh, Member of Rajya Sabha and Member of UNESCO Executive Board, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mr Kailash Satyarthi.
“This is a special moment for UNESCO, and I wish to express deep gratitude to the Government of India for providing this wonderful space at the heart of this outstanding city,” said the Director-General, also thanking Mr Satish Gujral, present at the ceremony, for designing the building, which blends contemporary and traditional features with passion and talent.
“Today, we do not just inaugurate a building, we celebrate the values shared by India and UNESCO, we celebrate our belief in the power of education, the sciences, culture, communication and information, as foundations for sustainable development and a more just and peaceful world,” said Ms Bokova. “I believe the message carried forward by India and UNESCO has never been so important – that peace must be build in the minds of women and men through education and skills, respect for human rights, building on humanity’s great cultural heritage and diversity.”
“This building cements the releations between India and UNESCO,” said H.E. Shri Prakash Javedakar, Union Minister of Human Resource Development. “I believe in multilateral exchanges and working together, in learning from each other. This is the role of UNESCO and this is how we grow,” he said.
Affirming that “education is the only real empowerment,” he said that, after decades of massive expansion, India’s priority is to improve education quality and encourge research and innovation, expressing hope that the new UNESCO House would be a magnet for proactive cooperation on this front.
Dr Karan Singh stated that “the founding of UNESCO in 1945 was an act of faith, recalling that Prime Minister Jawaharal Nehru had spoken of the Organization as the ‘conscience of humanity’. “This building reflects the significance that India, a founding member of the Organization, places on education, culture and science. It will be a tremendous asset for us all.”
Thanking UNESCO for its efforts over the past decade to build bridges with civil society and mobilize a wide range of partners around education, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyharthi called for a bolder stance and a more coordinated approach to advance the Sustainable Development Goals. “The measure of any progress is how we are reaching out the last child in our society, and my dream is that the poorest of the poorest children looking for freedom and education, of youth desperate to live in peace, may come to your door and be welcomed with respect, and take back confidence and hope.”
In an earlier meeting with the Director-General, Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javedakar outlined new initiatives to promote open source learning, train teachers, improve learning outcomes, increase literacy and foster cooperation through academic networks. He also referred to the ambition to create 20 world class universities.
Calling for deeper cooperation, he expressed readiness to share these experiences and to learn from others, identifying teacher motivation as a foremost challenge. He noted that India spends 5% of GDP on education for a system serving 290 million students and 10 million teachers and professors. The Director-General concurred that every country is grappling with reforms to make education more relevant, effective and inclusive, highlighting UNESCO’s role to accompany governments in the implementation of SDG4, and to encourage values-based curricula through global citizenship education.
UNESCO’s contribution to India was also highlighted by the Minister of State for Culture and Tourism, Dr Mahesh Sharma, who drew attention to celebrations around the nomination of the historic city of Ahmedabad as a World Heritage Site; Varanasi and Jaipur as Creative Cities and Yoga as intangible heritage of humanity.
“Our richest strength is our culture, and we need to showcase it to the world and our county, to preserve, protect and promote it,” said the Minister.
He referred to an effort underway to map the cultural assets of thousands of villages across the country in order to showcase cultural heritage and traditions through a portal. He noted that cultural tourism contributes 6.8% to GDP, a figure on the rise. The Director-General commended the Minister’s approach to preservation and promotion. She underscored that cultural industries contribute to social cohesion, sustainability and growth. She also expressed appreciation to the Minister for supporting heritage conservation in neighbouring countries.
On the same day, the Director-General addressed the closing session of the Regional Consultation of UNESCO National Commissions in South Asia. The meeting aimed at enhancing cooperation with the UNESCO National Commissions in the cluster Member States, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
“National Commissions are powerful advocates, raising the UNESCO flag, reaching out to new audiences. They are key actors, helping to take forward UNESCO’s values and priorities in ways that are meaningful to each society,” declared the Director-General.
“Your vision, leadership and cooperation are essential to shape meaningful action for meaningful results -- especially across this region, which is undergoing such tremendous positive change,” said Irina Bokova highlighting the essential role played by National Commissions to take forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement.
The Canadian project ‘Using Educational Technology to Develop Essential Educational Competencies in Sub-Saharan Africa’ has been awarded the 2017 UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize.
The Centre for the Study of Learning & Performance (CSLP) at the Concordia University in Canada is awarded the Prize for their project that develops literacy skills in Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly among Kenyan elementary school children, through its innovative combination of technology and literacy learning.
To improve teaching, learning and especially the low literacy levels in the world through innovative uses of technology, the Centre develops and distributes globally, without charge, accessible pedagogical tools through its Learning Toolkit Plus (LTK+) as part of the project ‘Using Educational Technology to Develop Essential Educational Competencies’. The evidence-based and self-regulating learning software program helps developing literacy, numeracy and other competencies of learners around the world.
In 2016, the project enrolled more than 5,000 learners, including 50% of girls with a completion rate of up to 80%.
“Years ago, the inspiration began when I realized that conducting and publishing high quality educational research was not the end game. Wanting to make a difference led to understanding the importance of literacy and the potential of educational technology,” said Philip C. Ambrami, director of the Centre for the Study of Learning & Performance at Concordia University.
Planting the seeds for early literacy through ABRACADABRA
Launched in January 2012, the project focuses primarily on developing literacy skills among Kenyan elementary school children. A local team of coordinators and LTK+ ambassadors have been involved in training and supporting hundreds of teachers in Mombasa, Nairobi and Kwale, and through partnerships with World Vision Canada, World Vision Kenya and I Choose Life, the use of the software has also expanded to remote regions.
All the tools in the LTK+ suite are bilingual (English and French) and include teaching of early literacy and numeracy through ABRACADABRA and a digital library called READS. While ABRACADABRA covers alphabetic, fluency, comprehension and writing activities, READS is a source of free digital books that, thanks to a partnership with African Storybook, also includes dozens of Kenya stories.
“The school children with whom we work love ABRACADABRA and teachers tell us that attendance skyrockets when the kids knew there will be an ABRACADABRA lesson that day. But more importantly, children who use ABRACADABRA learn better and sooner how to read and write. It is a way up from and out of poverty. It is a way of brightening the future,” said Mr Ambrami.
Teacher trainings and regular follow-ups ensure that the implementation of the LTK+ is effective, and a data collection supports the monitoring and evaluation of impact. An expansion of the project to other countries in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa is planned in the near future.
“There is no question that this prestigious international prize from UNESCO will create enhanced visibility and credibility that will open doors in other jurisdictions and countries around the world for us to keep implementing our project,” said Mr Ambrami .
This year’s UNESCO International Literacy Prizes will be awarded to laureates from Canada, Colombia, Jordan, Pakistan and South Africa on the occasion of International Literacy Day, celebrated on 8 September. The prize-giving ceremony will be organized at UNESCO Headquarters and be part of the global event. This year’s Literacy Prizes will focus on Literacy in a digital world.
At the invitation of UNLEASH, a global consortium including among others the Carlsberg Foundation, Dalberg, Deloitte, Microsoft and the United Nations Development Programme, UNESCO Young Talents took an active part in the UNLEASH Innovation Lab 2017 in Aarhus, Denmark, from 13 to 21 August 2017.
Aiming at finding smarter, faster, and cheaper ways to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a 1000 talented young women and men worked together on seven SDGs – Food, Health, Education, Water, Energy, Urban Sustainability, and Production and Consumption. Innovative solutions and projects have been elaborated and went through a competition process based on innovation, impact potential, viability, and presentation performance criteria.
A group of UNESCO talents brought their insights and knowledge to various themes related to the Organization’s fields of competence. A particular contribution was made to ensure that solutions for sustainable development include cultural diversity, human rights, gender equality, and intellectual and moral cooperation as key drivers of change.
7 projects have been selected as Gold Winners and will be supported by the consortium of partners for implementation in the coming years. HRH Princess Mary of Denmark honored the participants with closing remarks.
UNLEASH is a global non-profit initiative aiming to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by bringing 1000 young talents together each year until 2030 to innovate and collaborate on new solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.