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Education in the 21st Century: Towards Global Citizenship September 5, 2013 – UN HQ, Vienna

By Dr. Shantu Watt

This informal capacity building session was open to all UN Ambassadors, NGOs and UN staff and was based on a call by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in September 2013: “Education is much more than an entry to the job market. It has the power to shape a sustainable future and better world. Education policies should promote peace, mutual respect and environmental care. I call on world leaders and all involved with education to join this initiative and fulfill the promise to make quality education available to all children, young people and adults. Together, we can empower individuals to transform our world.” Dr. S. Watt served as chair. Participants were welcomed by Dr. Maria Riel, honorary president of WFWP Austria. Dr. Watt reminded the audience that education for all was an unknown concept until 250 years ago.

According to UNESCO, more people will receive formal education in the next thirty years than in all of human history. Today, thanks to instant global connectivity via internet, Eliminate Violence, contd. on pg. 12 even those in the most remote areas have a low or no cost opportunity to learn through distance learning. One key question has not changed: education for what? Individual empowerment is important but it cannot be the sole purpose of education. Nor can preparing people for the job market be the main aim. To make society harmonious and peaceful, it is critical that education contribute to character development and to strengthening solidarity between individuals, groups and societies. Dr. Watt emphasized intellectual development and development toward responsible citizenship.

Dr. Christine Wehringer, Vice-President of Children’s Liga in Vienna, discussed the Austrian government’s role in education; outlining policies, practices and implementation. Ms. Zuzana Jezerka was unable to attend but in her place, a Slovakian colleague spoke about strategies to improve the lives of ethnic Kyrgyz in Afghanistan. Ms. Marion Hopfgartner, who runs a project on Kindergarten and adult education introduced the ideas of Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner. She reminded the audience that we need to train parents and teachers to be proper role models to the new generation. Dr. Zhannat Kosmukhamedova, UNODC, informed about the latest guidelines on gender and HIV-awareness education in Africa. Aleksandar Rudic spoke about the work of the NGO, United for Education and Sustainable Futures. He serves as Executive Secretary of USEF. Dr. Nelli Holler presented her experiences teaching linguistics in St.

Petersburg and Vienna and emphasized the importance of learning languages at an early age. Participants formed working groups to discuss: The role of the family as a place for values education; The role of pre-school education for all; Education as a partnership of parents, teachers and civil society; The role of government in education; Education for a sustainable future. The groups, each led by one of the panelists, reported to the plenary and made  recommendations for future activities.

Taken from WFWP UN Spring 2014 Newsletter

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