Strengthening governance, action and visibility of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network

11 November 2017

At the margins of the 39th session of the General Conference, a side event on the UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet): “Innovative and collaborative teaching and learning in the context of Education 2030” took place on 3 November 2017.  

The objectives of the meeting were to present and discuss the measures taken to implement the recommendations of the 2016 Evaluation of ASPnet carried out by UNESCO’s Internal Oversight Service, and the means deployed to strengthen its contribution to the implementation of the Education 2030 agenda, in particular SDG 4 and Targets 4.7 and 4.c.  

Around 100 participants - ASPnet National Coordinators, Secretary-Generals of National Commissions for UNESCO and other representatives of Member States, NGOs and UNESCO Institutes and Centers- shared their interest and support for the achievements and the future outlook of the Network.

ASPnet as an effective tool to spread UNESCO’s values and priorities

In his opening address, Mr Qian Tang, Assistant Director-General for Education, underlined the role played by ASPnet in promoting UNESCO’s values and in nurturing respect for diversity and a spirit of international solidarity. He also highlighted the efforts engaged by UNESCO in order to reinforce the governance, management and quality assurance of ASPnet as per the recommendations elaborated in the context of the evaluation of ASPnet in 2016.

Mr Tang gave an overview of the achievements accomplished, including notably the production of a new Guide for the ASPnet National Coordinators and the roll out of an Online Tool for ASPnet (OTA) to boost the network’s potential as a global community of principals, teachers and students committed to transformative education.

Prospects for cooperation and partnership

In addition to reinforcement of UNESCO’s support to ASPnet in building global citizenship and promoting sustainable development, Mr Tang evoked the important contributions made by Japan, through funding for the ASPnet pilot project on the whole-school approach to climate change in 25 countries, and by China, through hosting of an International Conference for ASPnet National Coordinators from 40 countries in April 2017. These contributions have accelerated the revitalization of the ASPnet and opened new avenues for cooperation and partnership, notably the contribution of USD 1 million received from China and the proposal made by the Hainan Provincial Government in China to establish a Category II Center for ASPnet.

In closing, Mr Tang recalled that education is essential to the success of the 2030 Agenda and that ASPnet has a long-standing experience in educational innovation that transforms teaching and learning. Thus, it has the capacity to make a significant contribution to its implementation. He said: “We will make sure that ASPnet will remain a priority in Education Sector.”

Strengthen the identity of the network and support it to stand out

The ASPnet International Coordinator Sabine Detzel presented highlights of the new Guide for ASPnet National Coordinators, which aims to further professionalize the Network through its governance structure, membership and quality assurance. The Guide defines the role and the responsibility of the National Coordinators, appointed and supported by their National Commissions for UNESCO, and clarifies the requirements and process for admission as well as the management of schools’ membership. 

After recalling the history of the network and its mission, she underlined the strong engagement of ASPnet in contributing to the achievement of the SDGs with a particular focus on Targets 4.7 and 4.c of SDG 4. ASPnet’s thematic action areas - Global Citizenship, Sustainable Development and Sustainable lifestyles and Intercultural Learning - were aligned to the SDG context. The network’s contributions will be driven via activities, projects, international celebrations as well as thematic collaboration among the member schools, facilitated through the Online Tool for ASPnet.

Building a central base for knowledge sharing, collaboration and powerful outreach

With the rise of ICTs and social media services, UNESCO has launched in 2016 an Online Tool for ASPnet (OTA) operating in English, French and Spanish. OTA  provides an effective vehicle for interactions and partnerships beyond borders among the Network members. Fouzia Belhami presented the tool, which aims to streamline and improve the management of the Network, strengthen communication and collaboration among its members and increase the visibility of ASPnet and its global community. She underlined the accessibility of the Directories of the National Coordinators and the more than 11,000 members along with news, information and resources from, for and on the members that are regularly updated.

Moreover, Ms Belhami stressed the importance of the collaborative space, exclusively reserved for the ASPnet members to exchange, interact and work together. In addition, OTA is a great open window to find peers with the same interest for twining and collaborating to make their contributions to the Agenda 2030.

Maximizing appropriate channels of communication, participation and cooperation

UNESCO makes every effort to provide the necessary support to ASPnet’s work at national and regional level. Sabine Detzel presented the means deployed to ensure regular communication with National Coordinators, dissemination of information and resources and opportunities in relation to UNESCO’s actions.  In this spirit of guidance and support, she listed some of the important resources elaborated and shared over the last two years, which include a new Guide for the Use of the ASPnet logo, the Tutorial for OTA, three Guides for ASPnet schools and pedagogical materials and action ideas for the celebration of 12 International Days. In addition, she emphasized the success of the project on the whole-institution-approach to climate change, funded by Japan, with over 262 schools in 25 countries participating, and the global art contest “Opening hearts and minds to refugees” where 16 schools have been awarded. Moreover, some 25 countries benefitted from the UNESCO Participation Programme funding support to organize ASPnet meetings and schools’ projects at national level.

Among the innovations of this biennium, Ms Detzel mentioned the participation of over 100 ASPnet Teachers, students and National Coordinators in major international conferences on Climate Change (COP 21, 22 and 23), School Violence and Bullying, Peace and Sustainable Development - the Role of Education, and Girls’ and women's education in STEM.

Finally, she projected an outlook of the workplan for 2018-2020. The extrabudgetary funding of one million dollars will significantly enhance the possibilities of UNESCO to support the global ASPnet community in adding value to the Agenda 2030 by teaching and learning to live together.

Interventions from the audience showed the appreciation and adhesion of Member States and partner organizations with regard to the reform measures taken by UNESCO and the strong prevailing interest for the ASPnet and its important work.

Mr Alexander Leicht, Chief of Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship Education in the Education Sector concluded: “We note your support to ASPnet at international level and in your respective countries and will continue to strengthen the network and provide support to its programmes.”