06.12.2017 - UNESCO Office in Jakarta

UNESCO Workshop Identifies Pathways towards Improved Water Education

All participants to the Pathway towards Improved Water Education Curricula, 27-28 November 2017, Penang, Malaysia

UNESCO Office Jakarta, in partnership with River Engineering and Urban Drainage Research Centre (REDAC) Universiti Sains Malaysia, organized the workshop “Pathway towards Improved Water Education” in Penang Malaysia, 27-28 November 2017.

The workshop took place in the framework of UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (IHP) phase eight, and also served as the final workshop of project “Upscaling  Water Security to meet local, regional and global challenges“ financially assisted by the Government of Malaysia through Malaysia Funds-in-Trust. The workshop was participated by a total of 34 participants (15 female participants) from Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Portugal, and Timor Leste, comprising of UNESCO category 2 water-related centres, IHP Committees, universities and other water stakeholders.

The event was opened by Prof Dr Shahbaz Khan, Director and Representative of UNESCO Office Jakarta, followed by remarks from Prof Dr Nor Azazi Zakaria, Director of REDAC, and Dato’ Ir. Hj. Nor Hisham bin Mohd Ghazali, secretary of UNESCO IHP Malaysia. Dr Hans D Thulstrup, Senior Programme Specialist of UNESCO Office Jakarta, set the scene for the workshop and highlighted the expected outcome of the workshop: 1) Have compiled and shared best practices on water education curricula; 2) Identified gaps in and challenges in the development of improved water education curricula; 3) Made recommendations and shared ideas for intra- and inter-regional cooperation.

The workshop also witnessed the formal launching of two publications: 1) Water Management Curricula using Ecohydrology and Integrated Water Resources Management (in three volumes); 2) Customising IWRM at the River Basin Level. The publications were officially handed over to representatives of Least Developed Countries (Cambodia, Timor Leste), Indonesia, and UNESCO Category 2 Centres (click here for more details). Following the launching, each of the topic was presented by the respective authors.

In the following sessions, the participants shared experiences on existing water education. For secondary education, while seen as the biggest challenge given the bureaucracy in the Government system, the experience of East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia and RC-IRBM Nigeria may be drawn upon. In East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, participatory approach was adopted involving teachers, local education department, and National Curriculum System in enriching existing syllabus with ecohydrology materials for schools, ensuring locally suited content given its semi arid ecosystem. For higher education, the experience of RC-IRBM Nigeria and Cambodia which had finally been able to offer Master’s degree in IWRM and Water Resources Engineering respectively, may be drawn upon. As a summary, the participants agreed that education materials need to be fitted to the different level of education – school, university, or higher level.

On the second day, the discussions were focused on ways to strengthen collaboration and elaborating the strategic roles of regional centres in promoting ecohydrology and integration into education curricula in the region. Adj Prof Jeffrey Keith Camkin from University of Western Australia, presented findings and recommendations of all of the activities from the Upscaling Water Security to Meet Local, Regional, and Global Challenges project since its inception in 2014. Findings highlighted include that the uptake of IWRM is uneven across countries, implementation is case specific, policy change needs optimal governance, partnerships are key for knowledge building and problem-solving, and that ecohydrology is a promising customization tool.

Following the presentation, a panel discussion took place with all UNESCO water-related Category 2 Centres in attendance, which are Humid Tropics Centre Kuala Lumpur (HTC-KL), Asia Pacific Centre for Ecohydrology (APCE) Indonesia, Regional Centre for Integrated River Basin Management (RC-IRBM) Nigeria, discussing the centres’ perspectives on South South Cooperation, and roundtable view of how the role of the centres can be strengthened.

Emerging messages in the panel discussions were there are certain challenges in bringing research and publications, including potentially the education curricula itself, into Government system for widespread adoption, due to the bureaucracy and the lack of institutional memory within Government. The workshop concluded with the commitment of the centres, the universities, and IHP committee, within their own professional capacity and affiliations, to promote the education curricula both into the Government and outside of the Government. By strengthening cooperation among research centres, universities, and with UNESCO, we will be empowered in advocating changes towards IWRM and improved water education curricula in particular.

Following the end of the workshop programme, a technical visit was arranged to UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, Georgetown, which had recently been experiencing flooding due to heavy rain.

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