Youth and senior decision makers embrace UNESCO MGIEP’s iTAGe modality to engage in honest dialogue on role of education in sustainable development

At the iTAGeAYUDH, organised by AYUDH Europe at its annual summit in Germany, participants examined the critical contribution of education systems and its implications at the individual, societal and policy level

22 July, Brombachtal, Germany

iTAGeAYUDH, was the culmination of what had been a week of intense reflection on issues related to education, mindfulness, citizenship, sustainability and peace for the 250 youth activists who had come from across Europe to participate at the 13th European Youth Summit. However, the infectious enthusiasm of the youth representatives belied their fatigue, if any.

iTAGeAYUDH was  not a stand-alone event; in the four weeks leading up to #iTAGeAYUDH the summit participants took part in an intense online dialogue via AYUDH Europe’s social media platforms.  These discussions were moderated and summarized by AYUDH team members. Equipped with the outcomes from the online global dialogue, the participants further discussed these questions in working groups, facilitated by international experts.

After five days of discussions, 9 representatives from the working groups were selected to take the opinions and feedback from online and face to face discussions to a panel with 3 senior decision takers during iTAGeAYUDH.

As the 9 youth representatives— from diverse backgrounds such as fashion, medicine, law etc.—took the stage alongside the senior decision makers for iTAGeAYUDH, the hard work of the preceding week definitely paid off. They were joined by Judith Klein, Rorg Org., Norway, Dr. Daniela Worek, ENTEP (European Network on Teacher Education Policies) and Veronica Fedorchenko, UNESCO, SHS Division.

The dialogue, which was on ‘The Role Of Education To Foster Young People’s Active Citizenship’ was steered by Veronika Soboleva, ‎Founder at VS Consulting and Head of Business Development at Harbour Space University who effortlessly wove in the experience of the senior decision makers with the personal testimonies of the youth for a 360 degree understanding of the issue.

While discussing how education can support young people to practice their active citizenship and contribute to the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals, the panelists agreed that while there are many challenges in implementing the SDGs such as accessing the ministries of education, a universally adopted goal such as the SDG4.7 has helped by serving as a reference point.

“However for the implementation of the SDGs, the youth have to be equipped with the tools that will enable them to be part of the policy-making processes,” said Veronica Fedorchenko of UNESCO.

Bringing in the critical role that teachers play, Aiknaath Jain, a medical student from the UK opined that to be perceived as role models, teachers need to lead by example. “Teachers should approach students on the same level so that they feel respected, heard and valued,” added one of the students on the panel, Sarah Keil.

While discussing how education could inspire young people to cultivate empathy, mindfulness, self-reflection and self-transformation in order to contribute to a culture of peace and nonviolence Judith Klein added that while the challenges of including empathy in the classrooms are many, the silver lining is that there is now a global agreement on its importance.

The panelists made some valid points about including practices of empathy and mindfulness in curricula and followed them up with policy recommendations.

“Emotional intelligence should be a module included in curricula of the EU region and globally too,” said Shabiha Rahamat , a psychology student from Netherlands.

Talking of the disconnect from nature the iTAGe panelists suggested that if education helped foster an emotional bond with nature, then the disconnect that a lot of young people feel later on would not exist.

Closing the dialogue with a discussion on the concept of global citizenship Dr. Daniela Worek, ENTEP (European Network on Teacher Education Policies) urged everyone to think of themselves as an agent of change, while the youth argued that they were often not taken seriously by other stakeholders in their pursuit to impact change.

The dialogue concluded with a mutual consensus on the importance of engaging in a free flowing, no-holds-barred dialogue with all the relevant stake holders and truly “listening” to what each has to say.

“During the Summit in general, and the iTAGe dialogue specifically, it became clear to me that it is us the seniors (and decision makers) that really has something to learn from these young leaders, that truly are change makers in their way of being, living, thinking, feeling and acting sustainable. We – the seniors needs to learn to listen, to unlearn and to be re-educated, so that we can become part of this change that is already happening. By listening more carefully, and by opening up, we can become part of the change and the solutions, rather than sticking to our own world views and decisions for the old way of thinking,” revealed Judith Klein in a reflection note about the experience.

Drawing from the outcomes of the discussion on the social media engagement as well as those of the iTAGeAYUDH dialogue, the AYUDH youth are working on a draft Youth Statement on Education (see link below) that will be used to further disseminate their recommendations to policy-makers.

About iTAGe:

With an aim to maximise its global impact, UNESCO MGIEP has designed the iTAGe series (Independently organised Talking Across Generations on Education events) that will enable youth-led organisations, intergovernmental organisations, etc. to host their independent TAGe sessions as part of education conferences, summits or as standalone events. UNESCO MGIEP hopes that, by democratising the TAGe, the ultimate goal of mainstreaming the collective voice of the youth in the highest levels of policy making will be achieved.

About AYUDH:

AYUDH is an international youth movement founded and inspired by renowned spiritual and humanitarian leader Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi). AYUDH seeks to empower young people to make social and political change for more inclusive and peaceful societies through self-development, inner transformation and collective action, developing compassionate leaders with a sense of tolerance, solidarity and global responsibility.

Watch the live stream:

Related articles:

Statement of AYUDH Youth on Education (Working Document)

Reflections on iTAGeAYUDH by Judith Klein, RORG, Norway:

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