Newsletter January, 2014

Building a Global Citizens’ Movement

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Citizens from around the world are joining forces to create a more just and sustainable world. DEEEP – the project of the CONCORD Development Awareness Raising and Education Forum and CONCORD (European Confederation of NGOs for Development and Relief), together with CIVICUS and GCAP (Global Call to Action against Poverty) organized the first Global Conference to build a Global Citizens’ Movement in Johannesburg in November 2013. Through a participative and transparent methodology, the over 200 participants from around the globe endorsed the Johannesburg Compass: Questions and orientations as a first-step engagement towards the movement. Find the text in its current version (the one endorsed during the conference) here.

The conference kicked off a process towards a global movement, and everyone is welcome to join and actively participate. If you would like to give your input or comments, you are welcome to share these on the online platform, or to join the Compass Working Group.

For more information please visit www.deep.org and http://movement.deeep.org.

Youth of the World!

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The Global Education Unit recently submitted a research assessment composed of two discussion groups, an online survey, and a research analysis report as part of the EU funded Youth of the World project.  The assessment, available here, was designed to discern the needs and tendencies of youth organizations/structures with regard to mainstreaming global awareness in youth work.  Preparations and planning have also begun for the Youth of the World! International Summer School.  It will be held 24-30 April in Nicosia, Cyprus.  Details about this event will be made available in the new year. For more information visit the Official Youth of the World! Website.

Wrapping up the Holidays

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(photo from http://thegreensamaritan.com/2011/12/reduce-reuse-recycle-that-holiday-waste/)
With the Holiday Season wrapping up, and those Christmas trees still waiting to be taken down, ‘What’, you may wonder, ‘can I do with all this holiday waste?’  Don’t let the new year start with a heap of holiday spirit in the rubbish!  Visit these resources to learn how to recycle your post holiday wasteten ways to reuse your Christmas treeholiday recycling tipsthe carbon footprint of Christmas and, if you want to start early…how to make your holidays green in 2014!

Cypriot Education System Last in Europe

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The recent PISA study by the OECD has revealed how low Cypriot schools perform when compared to the rest of the European Union. The PISA Study (Programme for International Student Assessment) assesses the extent to which 15-year old students have acquired key knowledge and skills in the fields of mathematics, reading, science and problem-solving. The study not only assesses whether students can reproduce what they have learned, it also examines how well they can extrapolate from what they have learned and apply this knowledge in unfamiliar settings, both in and outside of school. Sixty-five countries participated in the study, among them all EU member states. Cyprus, together with Romania and Bulgaria, ranges at the very bottom of the scale in comparison with all other EU member states, well below the OECD average. In mathematics, Cypriot students scored second to last in EU comparison, with only 3.7% of students in the top range; in reading skills, Cypriot students are just ahead of Romania and Bulgaria, but are the very last when it comes to sciences. 

What do these results mean for Cyprus? And what do they mean to Global Education practitioners?

Even though the focus of the PISA study may be questionable, with its strong emphasis on knowledge and skills, it is the only comparable study at this moment. And these results should alarm us! They should spark a debate among the educational stakeholders, outrage the Ministry of Education, and anger and worry parents. And yet – no one speaks about it, the newspapers have remained completely silent, with the only exception being the CyprusMail. Why is this? What is wrong with the system?

With regards to the PISA results, reasons and explanations are manifold: 1. Despite the recent educational reform, which modernized the school curriculum, and added a stronger focus on values, independent learning and critical thinking, these skills are yet to be integrated into actual learning practice. Learning seems to still focus on the reproduction of knowledge for a specific exam, rather than on actual understanding of the subject, which would allow using the learning in a different situation than the one practiced at school; 2. The educational system as a whole lacks a coherent strategy and vision – even though there is the curriculum reform, it seems to not include all the stakeholders, it opens the curriculum but lacks the necessary support structures for the teachers, and it is missing the wider vision of where we want to go, including the political support. Moreover, the fact that teachers change schools and do not necessarily know where they will be teaching during the following academic year makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to build a visionary profile of a school; 3. The teacher education system for secondary school teachers only includes a very limited number of pedagogical training hours. In addition, the waiting list to be appointed as teacher is endless, with many highly qualified and motivated university graduates waiting for decades before entering their job; and 4., maybe the most important – the lack of a holistic approach to learning. Learning is taking place very structured, in a compartmentalized way according to subjects, with little interdisciplinary approaches, and thus very removed from real life scenarios and situations. Furthermore, learning is taking place in a ‘top-down’ approach, where the teacher knows everything and the students are there to learn from the teacher, rather than a learner-centered, interactive approach. This is where a global learning approach becomes incredibly crucial and important. However, integrating global learning into schools can only function when the system in its entirety is willing to accept the change and transform.

What is needed is the development of a joint, coherent and clear vision shared by all stakeholders within the education system. We need a vision of how we want our youth to be able to respond to the complex challenges of our century. A vision that places the learners, the youth – the future leaders within the community – at its heart. But if this topic is ignored now, and the current structures remain in place, then we will fail as a society to respond to the challenges we are faced with, be it on a local, national or global level.

“Act Beyond Borders” International Conference

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On 22-23 November, 2013 civil society actors, peace builders, business people, local authority representatives and youth from both communities in Cyprus, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories came together for the “Act Beyond Borders” International Conference.  The event was held at the Home for Cooperation in the U.N. Buffer Zone in Nicosia, Cyprus. The culmination of the three year, EU funded “Act Beyond Borders” project, this conference provided participants space to learn through shared personal experiences, jointly develop alternative bi-communal proposals, and challenge perspectives of the other.  A set of presentations, workshops, and a panel discussion explored civil societies’ success and challenges in work across the divide. This concept was contextualized in the cases of Cyprus, the Palestinian Territories and Israel. The conference successfully challenged stakeholders to broaden their view of conflict, develop contact, cooperation, and communication between the two communities , and examine the impact of the past on prospects for the future.  As one participant said: “If we continue dreaming, anything is possible.”

For more information visit the Act Beyond Borders Official Website or the Future Worlds Center Act Beyond Borders page.

The World From Our Doorstep

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On Tuesday the 17th December the Global Education Unit had their first introductory workshop for the project “The World From Our Doorstep”. Educators from Little Gems Montessori Nursery Nicosia and Larnaca, Marina’s Playschool and Little Stars Montessori Nursery participated in the workshop which took place at the EU House in Nicosia.

World from our doorstep is a EU funded 3-year project which aims to raise the awareness and change the attitudes of young children towards global issues and ensure they can take action to support sustainable ways of living.  The project’s overall objective is to Pre-school and Primary practitioners, infant teachers, teaching assistants and other adult helpers.  It is designed to explore three main learning themes: the concept of interconnectedness (local-global links), sustainability, and fairness (through Fairtrade).  It will do so using a range of stimulating learning resources (story books and topic boxes), approaches such as storytelling, outdoor/experiential learning, and enquiry.

The first meeting consisted of an introduction to Future Worlds Center, to the project and an overall look at Global Education. The practitioners then participated in some activities which aim to support early years and infant practitioners to explore and to understand global education issues of interconnectedness, fairness, food, trade and sustainability.

For the last section of the meeting, the Global Education Unit team introduced the five resource boxes to the educators, where each school took one box to use for a four week period with their respective students. The resource boxes cover five different themes: Appreciating the world, Exploring the world, Same & Different, Cooperation and Fairness. These boxes are a culmination of ideas and aspirations created by our UK partners Cumbria Development Education Centre (CDEC) over the years to produce a collection of resources that will enthuse and support very young children to engage positively and creatively with the diverse world around them. The boxes include opportunities for play based, (role play & games) creative and thinking activities, both indoors and outdoors, and link to the book “Meet Zogg‘ based on the themes of understanding and respecting diversity, waste and recycling, sustainable development and games around the world.

The meeting was a successful combination of enthusiasm and valuable contribution from the educators. As one educator shared “We are very excited to have access to all this information and resources to assist us in promoting the very ideas we believe in”.

There will be a second introductory meeting in January 2014, for more English Language Nursery and Primary schools that had expressed interest but couldn’t be present for the first one.

Finally, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education this introductory meeting will be take place for approx. 20 Greek Language Pre-school and Primary schools, from all districts in Cyprus in February 2014.