Interview with the ASPnet team within the Korean National Commission for UNESCO: building a new Asian partnership project
In 2009, the Korean National Commission for UNESCO (KNCU) invited UNESCO Associated Schools in the Asia-Pacific region to submit good educational practices to promote Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Nine school-based projects from five countries were awarded with financial support. The winning countries presented their projects during a regional Asia-Pacific ASPnet Forum on ESD/MDGs held in Seoul, Republic of Korea, 24 - 27 October 2009. This Forum brought together MDGs and ESD experts and ASPnet National Coordinators, principals and teachers. It aimed at sharing the selected good practices and at developing a new ASPnet regional partnership project to promote ESD in the region.
How did the team come up with the idea for this good practice development project?
KNCU asked itself how ESD could best be launched at the national level as it considers ASPnet to be one of the important tools to take ESD to scale. In addition, we thought it a good idea to broaden our programme from bilateral teachers’ exchange programmes towards multilateral partnership projects. This creates new exchange opportunities for the Korean teachers and encourages them to initiate further international partnerships themselves, based on a common topic and on personal encounters. During this forum, we have seen that many of the participant teachers such as Korea, Pakistan and Indonesia, exchanged contact details. In addition, the good educational practices of other countries have inspired our Korean teachers to live up to the ideals of UNESCO to be part of the “global ASPnet family”.
Could you describe the challenges that you faced during the project?
To make this Good Practice development project a success, we had to develop criteria and give guidance for good practices in ESD and MDGs. Good ESD projects encourage genuine student participation, deal with local issues, translate values in real life situations and welcome complexity. We also provided examples of good practices in ESD from around the world.
Another challenge was to convince the sponsor of our project, UNDP. During our project proposal they asked us how to find the participating schools and how to disseminate the good practices. Luckily, this task was easy with the global network of ASPnet at hand and the collaboration with the UNESCO National Commissions. The only difficulty was that ASPnet wasn’t known to our UNDP colleagues at that time… but now they even support some of the selected projects at school level.
Why did you carry out field visits on the selected projects?
The field visits to the nine winning schools in five different countries were extremely important. We are always saying that ASPnet is a global school network, but actually we only realized during our visits that this means finding like-minded schools wherever you go, and that there are many things we can learn from other countries!
Our visits also showed the teachers that they are not alone. In fact, the selected projects need outside recognition more than the rather small financial award. For the Pakistani school, for example, it was so gratifying to see a Korean coming all the way from Korea to Pakistan. For our visit, the school invited all neighbouring schools, local authorities and NGOs, and this presence was much more encouraging than the money.
How is this project continuing?
Asia faces huge challenges such as poverty reduction, climate change and the management of limited natural resources, all of which need international cooperation for an effective solution. The international participants of the ASPnet Forum agreed to launch a new regional ASPnet partnership project on climate change education in Asia to carry on the cooperation. Detailed project contents and duration of this project will be confirmed in 2010.