Creating a new way of learning

Schools or universities do not have the monopoly of knowledge anymore. A tremendous amount of information is now reachable from your own computer or smart phone within seconds. Harvard has many of its courses online through free webcasts, Ban Ki-moon is available to chat online every once in a while and new ideas can be viewed from new Ted-talks daily. Quite frankly, the information is out there for those who know how to find it – and that is exactly where the current educational systems often fail.

Yes, indeed many students are taught to use the Internet and search for information but these are mere tips that too get old. In many schools and universities are the students transferred information and not skills – skills that last and make them autonomous individuals in our global world.

Our living environment is changing rapidly and the individuals who learn in school or later in life to teach themselves the necessary knowledge will tackle the future challenges easily. Our educational systems must support this cause more thoroughly. This could be easily done if enough students realize to ask for it. Why? Because at the moment the political will is actually out there. And how do I know this? Because I have been there and seen that.

I had the privilege to be the first person in the world to address the UNESCO Commission of Education – the forum where 195 world countries discuss education and shape the future of it. As one of the two elected representatives of the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum I had a fruitful discussion on education with all the member states for four hours. As a result I can say that the momentum exists for reshaping the educational systems to better respond to the massive youth employment, poverty and inequality of the world today.

So instead of the public debates on the content of the National Curriculums we should be talking how students everywhere could teach themselves better– on every possible subject. How could we educate more people to take responsibility over their own lives and societies also after the last day of school is over? Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that there is an essential role for the teachers as well – actually much greater than now as just messengers. Great teachers today all around the world are already showing the way to self-learning. Students must support them and drive towards a world where learning is an active, not a passive act.

Original text published at:


Speaking to the world

My colleague Nasma Dasser from Switzerland and I have now had the honour to hold speeches to the 195 Member States of UNESCO on seven official occasions in all the Commissions and the plenary of the 36th General Conference. We were the first people ever in history to have the chance to address all the Committees on the results of the Youth Forum. I especially enjoyed the Education Committee, since UNESCO is the educational organization of the world and this committee the place to have that debate. Both of us represent world’s youth, which counts up to half of the world’s population. That is quite a task and responsibility.

We have talked a lot about better access to quality public education, the importance of sustainable development, enhancing youth participation, gender-equality, youth-led student democracy, making youth as UNESCO’s global priority and regarding young people as co-decision-makers. You can read the recommendations in detail at the end of my previous post.

In all committees we have been welcomed in such a positive way that no one could imagine. The debate in PRX and EDU for example completely evolved around the Youth Forum and the recommendations were cheerfully accepted. Our speech at the plenary was personally thanked by the Director General Irina Bokova and many more. With the difficult situation in the global economy and UNESCO’s budget perspectives the important work is to secure the tools to implement the positive atmosphere into real action.

unesco/ foto : Thierry Rambaud

Read more and watch videos on our thoughts about the Youth Forum from this post by Martina Castigliani, an inspiring youth blogger.

I will also attach my speech from Tuesday here:

Education Commission, Tuesday 1st October, Speech By Miika Tomi

Monsieur le Président

Les excellences,

Mesdames et Messieurs,

Today, we have the honour and pleasure to represent the voice of young people at the General Conference. My self Miika Tomi and Nasma Dasser, who is currently attending a parallel session, have been elected to represent the Final Report of the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum. The Forum was held from 17 to 20th October 2011 bringing together 211 delegates from 127 Member States around the world.

It is one of the world’s highest-level formal decision-making body for the youth and as a result we came up with 18 concrete proposals and 11 of them deal directly with education. I have been told that this commission could be interested in hearing more about them. Therefore I will take the courage to discuss access to education, gender-equality, youth-led student democracy and new learning methods to tackle the youth employment more in detail. As the youth count up to half of world’s population I hope that our recommendations will receive the weight they deserve.

Firstly, we urge Member States to ensure access to equal quality public education as a basic human right and to ensure free, universal and mandatory education to secondary level, especially in rural areas. As you might notice, we don’t settle with only the primary education but call upon free, universal and mandatory secondary level education. I believe that you are in this room for a reason and understand the necessity for this cause.

We, the youth, believe that in order to have a complete education we need access not only to quality formal education but also non-formal education. We request new approaches to be adopted in learning methods. Learning should more often be human rights-based, informal, intercultural, value-based, and civic education. E-learning is a tool that we need to better utilize as more free knowledge is available and youth have better access to it through Internet. The role of sport and arts education must be also recognized as key elements to prevent violence and to promote a culture of peace.

Secondly, we stress the importance of gender equality. We strongly request Member States to ensure women’s and girls’ empowerment, and also encourage gender equality in acquiring essential life skills, as well as including literacy and sex education. The world cannot waste half of its potential by excluding females from right to education, work and life. In Finland 56 % of the PhD students are women and for their intellectual capacity rightly so.

Thirdly, we believe that ensuring that all students at all ages must have the right to participate in youth-led student democracy at both local and national levels. Young people learn to be active or passive at an early age. Through student run school democracy they can learn to become active citizens and responsible men and women in their communities.

Lastly, In response to employment challenges, we strongly encourage Member States to expand the scope of education by including entrepreneurial skills and training opportunities, and intergenerational partnerships for youth aligned to rapidly changing labor market needs, particularly in non-traditional fields, such as e-learning. My generation is very capable of taking the initiative into its own hands as we have all read from the news. We can teach them to direct that energy in a positive manner into the construction of the society. If we fail in this task an unemployed, frustrated and disappointed young person can have a very negative impact in his community.

We are very honored to present you our recommenda­tions, as we both know that UNESCO was the first UN System agency to define and develop specific programs for youth. It has acknowledged the fact that we, young people are assets and integral parts of development processes.

Therefore we are ready to engage in a constructive discussion in order to ensure the implementation of our recommendations and to find together a solution to our world’s unprecedented challenges.

Je vous remercie!