Global Citizenship Takes Centre Stage at Dubai Forum
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova asserted the capital role of global citizenship education for peace, sustainable development and human dignity during her participation in the fifth Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF) in Dubai, on 18 and 19 March.
Gathering over 2,000 delegates from public, private and social sectors, the Forum focused on the theme “How to make real global citizens.” The Director-General recalled that UNESCO, a partner of the Forum, had fought hard for global citizenship education to be featured as a target in Sustainable Development Goal 4, encompassing “a holistic vision of why education cannot wait.”
During a panel on education in emergencies organized with Plan International, Dubai Cares and the World Food Programme, she stressed the urgent need for political and financial mobilization. “We must look at the consequences of not acting – in terms of poverty reproduction, the destruction of the fabric of communities and societies. This is not only a humanitarian concern but one about peace and security.”
During a parliamentarian-style chamber debate with Camfed’s Lucy Lake, former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and Rebecca Winthrop from Brookings, she defended education as an answer to the rise of populism. This calls for educational transformation through two angles: first universal access to quality education with equity and inclusion as yardsticks; second, a fresh focus on contents that foster new values and skills for new times. “We need education that both provides relevant skills for the markets of today and tomorrow and education that promotes critical thinking, understanding between cultures, that strengthens democratic values, and the resilience of societies and the planet based on new forms of global citizenship.”
She also participated in the first meeting of the Atlantis Group, which brings together former ministers of education to help address global education challenges. Against the backdrop of rising inequality, climate change and technology disruptions, she stated that “the prerequisite should be that education is a public good. This should be the basis of all work to empower teachers, leverage technology, match skills with work, promote social mobility and living together.”
Opening the Forum, Mr Sunny Varkey, founder and chairman of the Varkey Foundation, affirmed that education should help children from every country, culture and faith learn that there is more that unites than divides and provide the inspiration and tools to make a positive imprint on the lives of others. OECD’s Andreas Schleicher emphasized the potential of technology to “liberate learning from past conventions, connect learners and create a more collaborative culture.”
Announced from the European space station in a star-studded ceremony, the USD 1 million Global Teacher Prize was awarded to Canada’s Maggie MacDonnell, who teaches in Salluit, an Inuit community deep in the Arctic. The 50 finalists of the Prize, now in its third edition, were at the Forum giving master classes and participating in debates. The Prize is awarded by the Varkey Foundation, under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.
On the sidelines of the Forum, the Director-General met with the Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance of the UAE, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. She expressed profound gratitude for his contribution to the renovation of Room I at UNESCO Headquarters, as well as his generous support to education through a number of initiatives, including the UNESCO-Hamdan Prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers, a post-diploma course on curriculum design and the literacy and life skills project for youth and women in Somalia. In exchanging views on the refugee crisis, His Highness shared his concerns and commitment to assist in meeting educational needs.
During the Forum, the Director-General also met with Mr Jamiyansuren Batsuuri, Minister of Education, Culture, Science and Sports of Mongolia, Mr Orhan Erdem, Deputy Minister of National Education of Turkey, and Mr Nikolay Denkov, Minister of Education of Bulgaria.
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