Growing up, the terms education and schooling were always synonymous with marks, percentage, ranks, and a cut-throat competition between children to determine who could rote learn entire textbooks better and faster. The processes of intellectual growth, curiosity nourishment and ability development were never paid attention to. Asking norm-challenging questions in class was frowned upon and alternative methods of teaching and learning were virtually non-existent.
Eight years after completing my formal schooling, I realised that these education systems not only hindered the critical thinking abilities of millions of children but also robbed them of the simple joy of learning and discovering new subjects sans the added stress of acing examinations. For these very reasons, I believe a holistic approach to education is direly needed with inputs from educationists, psychologists, neuroscientists, sociologists and a diverse group of other experts. The programs at UNESCO MGIEP aim to tackle these problems along with a host of other issues plaguing modern society, for education is truly the most effective tool in understanding and conceptualising practical solutions for such complications. And the most novel (but much needed) approach undertaken by MGIEP in this field is the incorporation of young voices to devise solutions for problems that primarily affect the youth. The UNESCO MGIEP-SSIS Campus Ambassadors program is one such initiative, which empowers the youth to take action in order to promote more peaceful societies on the basis of intercultural dialogue, empathy, and compassion fostered through education. The aim to introduce mindfulness and meditation (which have been scientifically linked to developing empathy and compassion) in school curriculum have opened up exciting new avenues to cultivate intercultural dialogue and understanding; something which is so severely needed in a violent and divided world seen today.
The path towards implementing such reforms is long and arduous, but one that nonetheless must be undertaken to facilitate the next generation. Education systems must be well equipped to deal with future problems that may become increasingly complex due to the ever-changing role of technology in our lives. The need of the hour is to enable schools, teachers, parents, families and the community at large; to aid the overall development of children who can go on to become global citizens capable of working and living in rapidly changing multicultural society, and who can simultaneously tackle issues of climate change, violent extremism, and new economic challenges while collectively striving towards a more sustainable and peaceful world.
UNESCO MGIEP Campus Ambassador
Photo credit: EPA/Vincent Jannink