Fostering joyful learning in Espoo

Espoo, in Finland, was one of 12 cities to receive the UNESCO Learning City Award at the second International Conference on Learning Cities in Mexico in 2015. Annica Isacsson and Annika Forstén explain what makes Espoo special

© Jussi Helimäki/Espoo
Espoo cultural centre and tower in Tapiola

In 2015, UNESCO recognized the Finnish city of Espoo for the outstanding progress it had made in implementing the ‘Key Features of Learning Cities’ since the first International Conference on Learning Cities in 2013. The Key Features describe a learning city as one that effectively mobilizes, creates and reinforces individual empowerment and social cohesion, and economic and cultural prosperity, in addition to sustainable development. In fact, the United Nations has invited Espoo to become a pioneer of sustainable development by attaining the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2025, five years ahead of schedule.

Espoo aims to ensure that all citizens can fulfill their potential, succeed in the uncertain world of the future and participate in the development of their local communities. Learning, creativity and innovation are fostered from an early age. For example, in 2019, Tapiola Sinfonietta, the city’s orchestra, invited all expectant parents in the city to its regular concerts so that their children could experience the positive influence of music while still in the womb. And Espoo’s systematic approach to collaboration between artists and schools has been extended to early education centres, giving all children the opportunity to interact with professional artists and foster creative minds. Continue reading

Make the right to education a reality for all

As we mark International Day of Education, David Atchoarena urges countries to redouble their efforts to ensure no one’s right to education is denied

Today is International Day of Education, a moment not only to celebrate education’s powerful contribution to sustainable human prosperity, progress and peace, but also to assert its wider value – as a human right and as an important public good.

It is an opportune time to consider both what we have achieved in realizing the right to education and how far we have to go to ensure this right is realized for every woman, man and child, wherever they live in the world, whatever their background or personal circumstances.

The global challenges we face are enormous. Some 258 million children and youth still do not attend school, four million children and youth refugees are out of school, and 773 million adults around the world cannot read or write, most of them women. In too many cases, disadvantaged and marginalized groups remain excluded from participation in adult learning and education, as the new UNESCO Global Report on Adult Learning and Education points out. Their right to education is being denied. This is unacceptable. Continue reading

Leave no one behind: Fighting poverty through lifelong learning

Konstantinos Pagratis reflects on how education can support the global struggle to end poverty

© UNESCO/Iason Athanasiadis

Last week, the world marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 – to end poverty in all its forms everywhere – and to highlight the complex, multidimensional nature of the challenges we face in achieving it.

Education is not a silver bullet when it comes to ending poverty, but it has a crucial role to play, both in securing SDG 1 and in fulfilling the commitment made by Member States in signing up to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: to leave no one behind.

UNESCO believes that the fight against poverty demands the strengthening of individuals’ capacities through education, which represents a source not only of employment but also of pride, dignity and agency. As Audrey Azoulay, the Director General of UNESCO, observes, ‘for each year a girl spends in the classroom, her future income will increase by 10 to 20 per cent’. Continue reading

Acting together for refugees and migrants

World Refugee Day 2019 is an opportunity to reject the language of hate and express our solidarity with those living in exile – it is also a chance to think about how education can support migrants and refugees in making better lives for themselves, writes Konstantinos Pagratis

Two Burmese refugee boys at a temporary shelter in Thailand © Seipoe/Shutterstock

World Refugee Day, which falls every year on 20 June, promotes awareness of the plight of refugees and reminds us of our common humanity, of the commitments we have made and of the urgent need to keep them. At UIL, it prompts us to reflect on the kinds of educational opportunities available to refugees and migrants and the best approaches we can take in helping them integrate and flourish in their host societies.

The 2018 Global Compact on Refugees and the 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report, Building Bridges, Not Walls, highlight relevant international efforts to integrate migrants and refugees into the formal education system. But there has been too little action, at the local, national or international level, to address the educational needs of migrating, displaced and hosting populations, or to coordinate actions to ensure education supports people in entering the world of work and participating fully in their host communities. Continue reading

Realizing the potential of lifelong learning

Lifelong learning has a major contribution to make to helping countries such as Greece rise to the development challenges they face. But, far too often, it is overlooked, writes Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter

A Syrian man and his daughter at a refugee camp in Idomeni in northern Greece.
© Giannis Papanikos/Shutterstock

In Greece, my native country, high unemployment and the ongoing financial crisis are combining with mass population movements of migrants and refugees to create huge development challenges for the country. Greece is also undergoing major demographic changes, with its ageing population reducing the number of young people entering the labour market and obliging those already in the workforce to work for longer and move between jobs more often.

These facts point to an urgent need for a much stronger investment in lifelong learning, and particularly in adult education. By supporting adult education and adopting lifelong learning as the key educational paradigm for inclusive and sustainable learning societies, nation states can build populations that are resilient, adaptable, creative and highly skilled. Yet, in far too many cases, lifelong learning and adult education continue to be neglected.

A recent report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Getting skills right: Future-ready adult learning systems, shows that Greece’s adult learning system performs poorly across several dimensions of the Priorities of Adult Learning (PAL) dashboard. The PAL dashboard indicates that my country has the weakest overall performance in terms of coverage of job-related adult learning. In addition, according to Eurostat, only a few adults re-skill through adult education courses in Greece. In 2017, less than 5 per cent of 25 to 64 years olds participated in such courses. Where these courses are offered, often they are often under-resourced and ill-equipped to address the challenges faced by these students. Continue reading