As the only United Nations agency in India convening a roundtable at the prestigious summit, MGIEP put the spotlight on building compassion through curricula and institutionalising youth participation in decision making.
December 2016, New Delhi— Last week, UNESCO MGIEP pushed forth the dialogue on Education for Humanity via its roundtable at the prestigious Leaders and Laureates Summit for Children held at the President’s Estate. The first edition of the summit, spearheaded by Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Laureate (2014) brought together the collective leadership of Nobel laureates and leaders, youth and over 150 eminent personalities from various walks of life – academia, business, civil society, sports, arts and culture, for designing a child-friendly future.
Speaking at the occasion, HH the Dalai Lama urged all those present to do their bit to ensure that the 21st century is the “century for peace”. Underscoring that education has a role to create compassion he said, “Training through holistic education can lead to heightened awareness which creates peace.” Asserting that it is imperative that education systems focus on developing compassion and not only intellect, he reiterated, “The basis of inner peace is warm-heartedness and this must be cultivated through education.”
His comments were mirrored by those made by Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands who, in her moving address to the “missing children” at the summit pointed out what continually evades the discourse on achieving a sustainable future— the inclusion and participation of the youth in decision making. Illustrating her point, she drew the attention of the audience to the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015 and underscored that without active youth involvement, the goals would remain hard to achieve.
The MGIEP roundtable on Education for Humanity took forward the dialogue from where the opening session concluded. The roundtable was presided by the 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate Tawakkol Karman, who won the highly-coveted prize for her relentless struggle for human rights and women’s participation in peace-building in Yemen and for organizing non-violent protests that became part of the 2011 Arab Spring movements.
Dr. Anantha Duraiappah, director UNESCO MGIEP drew attention to the results of a study undertaken by MGIEP across India to support the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s revision of the National Education Policy (NEP) in 2015, where majority of the youth felt they were always at the periphery of critical decision making processes.
When asked about “how we can create spaces for the youth to be engaged and have an equal voice,” educator Lata Rajnikanth reiterated that students must be made to feel they are equal stakeholders from the primary education level itself so as to inculcate a sense of joint ownership in the future.
Freeman, a youth activist from Ghana who was rescued from child slavery, offered an alternative by narrating his success with integrating decision-makers with young students by asking the policymakers to engage in a youth dialogue and not vice-versa.
Talking of the key learning outcomes for fostering compassion, Rohit Menezes, partner at the Bridgespan Mumbai office, pointed out that while compassion itself should be an outcome of the education systems it is unfortunately not happening as organically as it should.
Agreeing, Dr. Duraiappah pointed out the disturbing results of a 2015 survey conducted by Bengaluru-based NGO Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness covering about 10,000 high-school and college students from 11 cities across the country. It found more than 65% of young people felt that boys and girls from different religious backgrounds should not be allowed to associate with each other. Worse, over 40% of boys agreed that women had no choice but to accept a certain degree of violence. Eminent journalist N Ram added that to change to change such mindsets, it is essential that the process of “imparting values” in education systems takes on a secular nature and doesn’t further propagate differences.
Drawing the key inputs from the rich discussion, Chair Tawakkol Karman summarised the three recommendations of the table as the following:
—Institutionalising youth participation in decision making that goes beyond soliciting opinions.
—Giving emotional learning equal importance as intellectual development in curricula.
—Multi-sectoral approach for finding solutions to close gaps in current education systems.
–Ms Anamika Gupta firstname.lastname@example.org, Programme Officer
–Mr Simon KUANY, email@example.com, Programme Officer
–Ms Radhika BHATNAGAR firstname.lastname@example.org, Communications Officer