UNESCO work hard to bring internationalism education into schools and colleges. Richard Ennals looks at their ongoing efforts with Associated Schools Project Network in Education for International Cooperation and Peace (ASPnet)

Amid the daily complexities of globalisation and technological change, our lives are affected by events beyond our shores of which many people have little understanding. The UK has been a member of the European Union for 33 years, but remains very much an offshore island. At the same time, the British population is increasingly diverse. A sustainable future depends on an improved level of mutual understanding and participation in world citizenship.

This will not develop by chance. It needs to be nurtured, at each of the stages of lifelong learning. Minds need to be opened. International understanding needs to be seen as a central priority, not as an optional extra.

This is not a new realisation. In 1939, as the second world war approached, the Council for Education in World Citizenship (CEWC) was formed. From the start it was committed to education for international understanding. Following the end of the war, the new structure of the United Nations was put in place. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) was established, based on the principle that ‘wars begin in the minds of men’. Prevention of future wars, it was argued, would depend on dialogue and mutual understanding between cultures, assisted by a UN agency in which civil society played a major role.

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The withdrawal from UNESCO by the USA and UK in 1985 meant that a generation of teachers, parents, politicians, civil servants, and of course students had less exposure to an international perspective, other than through package holidays, which, though increasingly popular, do not necessarily expand the mind. This also damaged the work of UNESCO, which continued during the years of exile. Only recently have these major countries, members of the UN Security Council, returned to UNESCO membership. This move was driven by the enthusiastic commitment of secretary of state for international development Hilary Benn, and the creative ingenuity of UK ambassador to UNESCO Tim Craddock, and his deputy, Andreas Westerwinter. It has taken time to rebuild the institutional structures. The UK National Commission for UNESCO is now being placed on a legal footing, and it is to be run as a private company limited by guarantee. It operates in five sectors: culture, communication, natural sciences, social and human sciences and education.

In addition, there is important cross-sectoral work on peace and security, which is at the heart of the UNESCO mission.

The education sector of UNESCO is very active. Work is managed through the Education Committee, supported by the DfES. Specialist working groups, whose highly experienced members are volunteers, are supported by civil servants. The work is consistent with the DfES initiative Putting the World into World-Class Education, launched in 2004 by former secretary of state Charles Clarke, now a CEWC vice-president. UNESCO’s education goals are committed to:

  • Education for All (with priority for Africa)
  • sustainable development
  • human rights promotion
  • peace and security
  • world heritage.

Gaining through networking

Through the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network in Education for International Cooperation and Peace (ASPnet), participating UK schools and colleges can now link with 8,000 partner institutions in 176 countries around the world. Members all work on joint projects under UNESCO themes. It is intended that the UK network should comprise 100 schools by July 2007. Already more than that number of schools are involved through direct membership, networks led by partner schools of education, and networks engaged in joint projects. In the UK, ASPnet is coordinated by CEWC on behalf of the UK National Commission for UNESCO. The UK national coordinator is CEWC director Les Stratton.

What can be gained from participating in network activities? The diversity of projects in which schools are engaged is remarkable, and the schools come from all age ranges, all social backgrounds, and from across the UK.

  • Mandeville School in Aylesbury represented the UK at the 2006 UNESCO Youth Congress in Stuttgart. The returning students are giving talks about their experience and helping to organise an ambitious range of foreign visits.
  • Hockerill College in Bishop’s Stortford organised a peace day event (as did Mandeville School), and Largymore School set up a website with peace messages from around the world.
  • The Liverpool Schools Parliament involves 25 secondary schools and 65 primary schools. Through the years of exile from UNESCO they have maintained the tradition of holding Model United Nations General Assemblies (MUNGAs) at Liverpool Town Hall, supported by Philip and Enid Lodge of the Liverpool branch of the United Nations Association (UNA). Future themes will be slavery (2007) and human rights (2008). Links are building with the Liverpool Museum.
  • Aylesbury schools in the Thames Valley, again with support from UNA, have held successful MUNGAs. They have combined lively interactive workshops led by students and question time sessions with visiting speakers.
  • Hampton schools in Middlesex have developed a partnership model which is driven by the enthusiasm of the students. The first school-based branch of the United Nations Youth and Student Association (UNYSA) has been formed, bringing together Hampton Community College, Hampton School, Lady Eleanor Holles School, and Clarendon Special School.
  • Hampton Community College students have developed a tsunami presentation as part of their lunch time World Class Club.
  • Largymore School has developed a web-based rainforest resource in conjunction with the Ulster Museum. Collaborations between schools and MLA (Museums, Libraries and Archives) and GEM (Group for Education in Museums) are being explored through ASPnet.

ASPnet also includes FE colleges. The Learning and Skills Network is interested in ASPnet in order to add an international dimension to citizenship education and to gain access to the enormous potential global market which awaits their materials once the UK has fully rejoined the international debate. For too long there have been conferences and meetings around the world, concerning international citizens, conducted in English, but with the British absent.

FE colleges increasingly partner with higher education institutions on new joint programmes. They train teachers for further and adult education, and often host students from secondary schools on vocational courses. They could be seen as the missing link in lifelong learning for international understanding and world citizenship.

  • World Heritage Sites. Anjana Khatwa of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site has developed a network of schools in Dorset. Via ASPnet, she has linked with schools in St Lucia (featured in the National Curriculum), as well as with schools in Southall. Exchange visits have been arranged. World Heritage in Young Hands resources for KS 1-4 can be found on the Jurassic Coast website. Further possibilities for linking ASPnet Schools with UNESCO World Heritage Sites are being explored.
  • Education for rural people. Liz Thomas of The Temple of Peace in Cardiff has been involved in helping an ASPnet group of schools in Wales to link with schools in Zanzibar. This project concentrates on education for rural people (click here to go to that article). The schools have been exchanging lesson plans, gaining rich insights into life in other countries, and developing contacts with other countries including France and Italy. Interest in participation is now being expressed by Norwegian schools.
  • Human rights education. Hilary Hunt, formerly of Amnesty International and cofounder of the Belize Centre for Human Rights Studies, is developing a programme of human rights education with ASPnet schools. Activities start with research into what is currently taught in the classroom. She has been consulting the Liverpool Schools Parliament and has circulated a questionnaire, and is planning Inset with all 55 teachers at Hockerill College.
  • Regional ASPnet networks. These are building in Wales, Northern Ireland, and soon, we hope, Scotland. ASPnet is working with the National Commission and Devolved Administrations, and with partners in CEWC Northern Ireland and CEWC-Cymru. A conference is planned for April 2007 in Wales, funded by the Welsh Centre for International Affairs. The potential across the UK is exciting.

International citizenship and the global dimension are also on the agenda for adult education. CEWC is a partner in the current Uniting Humanity project. This international consortium addresses global issues including climate change and human rights. The project is led by the Scarman Trust, and funded by the European Commission Directorate-General for Education and Culture.

Pilot courses have involved adult educators and facilitators from across Europe. These have included the team from Rendezvous of Victory (RoV) whose focus is on cross-community dialogue. The programme of events is linked to the bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1807. Jointly, with CEWC, RoV organised a successful conference at Kingston University called 2007: The Challenge of True Dialogue in Education. RoV has contributed to the CEWC citizenship project which includes the book From Slavery to Citizenship (Ennals, 2007). This tries to break some of the silences surrounding the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition.

CEWC is working with Kingston University to build a national consortium of universities to develop a Centre for Global Citizenship by embedding international citizenship into the curriculum and practice. We hope to secure funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and the active participation of private sector partners such as Microsoft and Wiley. Our student bodies are international: it is time for the institutions to catch up, recognising the experience and expertise of their students.

Kingston University, together with other universities around the UK, is responding to the government’s call for increased citizenship education. Building on their experience with the European Comenius Association, participation in Uniting Humanity, and successful exchange programmes with India and South Africa, the universities are launching new continuing professional development modules in citizenship in early 2007 in association with CEWC.

Intergenerational learning

Across the board, through all the stages of lifelong learning, from primary schools to adult education, via secondary, further and higher education, CEWC is engaged in its historic mission to encourage education for international understanding. This is helpful when we consider intergenerational aspects of learning for life, as we have networks in each generation. As attention switches to lifelong learning for older workers, we recall that teaching is a good way of learning. We learn from differences, and from encounters.

There are major international challenges for intergenerational learning. These attend the retirement of the ‘baby boomer’ generation and the more recent birth-rate decline. In South Africa the generation of young workers is being ravaged by HIV/AIDS. In eastern Europe the impact of the changes since 1989 is still being felt, and a generation of older workers has failed to adjust. The UK is part of the same small world, and has no divine right to isolated stability. When changes and discontinuities strike, it will be helpful for all people to understand the wider context and be able to participate.

The small non-governmental organisations which are working for internationalism and sustainability education are themselves an endangered species. A set of CEWC feasibility study projects are now demonstrating what can be done, and preparing to publish their results. It may be our last chance to see such alternative approaches.

  • DfES (2004) Putting the World into Word-Class Education www.globalgateway.org.uk/pdf/international-strategy.pdf
  • Ennals, R (2007) From Slavery to Citizenship. Chichester: Wiley http://eu.wiley.com
  • Professor Richard Ennals is chairman of CEWC. He has taught in middle and secondary schools, as well as in further education, and is now at Kingston University. He is a member of the National Steering Committee of the UK National Commission for UNESCO.
  • For more citizenship and international links, see our Developing Citizenship section.

First published in Learning for Life, December 2006