Mobilizing young changemakers from across the globe: “The power of YOUth will drive the future of education”

GlobalChangeMakers

Education is at the heart of equipping youth with the knowledge and tools they need to uplift their communities and change the world. Consequently, it is crucial to include young people in the reflections and decision-making processes that directly affect them -- “nothing about us, without us”. In this spirit, UNESCO has been partnering up with several organizations from across the globe to collect youth perspectives on the futures of education. Global Changemakers is one of them and we invite you to learn more about their work and their community’s perspectives.

“Our mission is to support youth to create positive change towards a more inclusive, fair and sustainable world.” Global Changemakers is an international youth organization that supports young people from across the globe by providing skills development, capacity building, mentoring, and grants. Up to date, they have supported young leaders advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 180 countries already, through the funding of over 400 youth-led projects, impacting over 8,3+ million people. 

In the framework of the Futures of Education research and visioning phase, Global Changemakers held three focus group consultations (in English and Spanish) with 102 participants from all over the world, with very diverse backgrounds and a wide range of ages. Such plurality aimed at ensuring that the mobilization process was an inclusive and relevant. Each online dialogue provided space and time to tackle four core areas, namely Human and planetary sustainability; Knowledge production, access and governance; Citizenship and participation; and Work and economic security. 
 
Across all discussion groups, many recommendations and good practices came up, as well as concerns related to threats with regards to school curriculum and reforms. Under the Human and planetary sustainability theme, a common concern was that few young people know the true meaning of sustainability. As a key recommendation, promoting an integral and holistic education curriculum was often pushed forward. Several participants said that skills such as critical thinking, project management and sustainable development should be tackled within classrooms, but also beyond. Education should extend into creativity and a deep connection with surroundings.

“If a child is raised in a way that cares about a green environment
they will pass on that awareness to other generations”

While discussing knowledge production, access and governance, participants saw education as a source of empowerment to enable the next generations to implement the changes that are needed. However, inequalities have been preventing many communities from making that happen. Indeed, in some countries, young people still need to split their time between school and work to support themselves and their families. In addition, very few students have access to skills that are applicable to their realities and their goals. 

It was also flagged that the current pandemic highlights and further exacerbates the existing inequalities in the education sector. Many students in vulnerable regions are struggling with a lack of connectivity and quality infrastructure to continue their studies. “There is a digital divide, and we need to focus on developing systems that do not provide privileged access to some.” Access to knowledge is highly unequal and this represents one of the key challenges, as well as the promotion of a diversity of knowledge systems. “We need to move away from Western-centered education and embrace indigenous and local forms of education.” some said. 

Throughout the discussions, a common recommendation was that education should include knowledge on human rights and citizenship responsibility. Upon these recommendations, the future of education can be inclusive as it would imply that students connected to local and global realities. Inclusive education would prepare learners to face those realities and would not leave anyone behind, regardless of their background, socioeconomic status, neuro-capacities, race or location.

“We need to decrease the cost of education
while increasing the value of education for students.”

 Participants also discussed education as a means to access work and economic security. Concerns were raised on persistent inequalities as well as the gap that exists between the education curricula and the job market. Some students have also expressed their concern when noticing that most workers in their countries are in the informal sector, and unable to be formally employed due to a skills gap. And whereas some educational content is shaped based on the needs of the “economic market”, many students still lack technical and vocational skills to become employable. Consequently, schools should incorporate entrepreneurship and technology into school curriculums from Primary School. Public policies should further promote training and experiential, hands-on learning in schools and non-formal educational centres.

The inputs collected through these online discussions have shown that young people are well-equipped to contribute meaningfully in debates that invite the audience to rethink education. Their inspiring statements, recommendations and alerts have been compiled in a comprehensive report (available here in English | disponible aquí en Español) that was shared with the International Commission on the Futures of Education. 

Whether teaching underprivileged girls how to build robots in El Salvador and Nigeria, facilitating access to drinking water in impoverished neighbourhoods in Venezuela, helping children learn English through interactive Ebooks in Romania or bringing solar electricity to remote villages in Malawi, youth is making a difference, notably thanks to the support of global organizations like Global Changemakers. Learn more about their programmes here.

 

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Division of the Future of Learning and Innovation

futuresofeducation@unesco.org

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