I am honored to stand in front of such a distinguished group. It makes me relaxed to know that I have such power behind my words as a representative of the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum. I was elected among 211 youth delegates coming from 123 different countries. The final recommendations of the forum are the most representative document on the aspirations of the world’s youth that exists today. If I have understood correctly this forum has something to do with youth. I assume it is therefore proper for me dare to say a few words on what the youth of the world wish.
My message to you is that there are three measures we need to take in order to truly engage youth in educational planning.
- Move from a youth problem to a youth solution
- Empower our learners to teach themselves
- Being ici en France: To use the ICI-method
What do I mean when I speak about the youth problem? I am talking about the feeling that all the young people get when they read the newspaper or open TV. Youth are seen as a major problem for their governments. Take unemployment or social disorder for example. Governments today are afraid because they have a problem with their youth.
Our vision of youth obviously translates into how we educate, listen and seek to employ young people. This passive image of our learners is problematic because according to studies it also has an effect on their performance. In one study just the mere fact that African American students were asked to identify their race in a GRE test questionnaire reduced their results to half of those of the control group. In another study the students who were asked to imagine being a professor scored significantly higher that the students who associated themselves being a football hooligan. How we are seen affects us unconsciously with significant consequences.
This is why we were determined to ensure that youth is included as one of UNESCO’s global priorities. UNESCO can only fulfill its mandate if it works with the youth. Not for the youth but with the youth.
The rapid economic transformation means that the skills learned in school by a vocational student in China will become irrelevant in only 20 years. We have to admit that schools cannot equip our children for a life time anymore. (SLIDE) The only skill that will last is the skill of learning new. The modern student needs a strong foundation.
Each country must therefore ensure access to equal quality public education as a basic human right and to ensure free, universal and mandatory education to secondary level. All people must have an equal opportunity including girls, migrants, refugees, people in rural areas and students with physical limitations.
The youth of the world are resolved that having adequate opportunities is equally important. Possibilities to volunteer, guidance from good mentors, learning by doing sports and arts. The state must become a real Opportunity Creater for its citizens.
Education is everywhere; we must see non-formal education such as intercultural education, values-based education and civic education, as equally important parts of general education. And thirdly we must ensure that all students at all ages can participate in youth-led student democracy at both local and national levels. Engagement equals participation.
Madames et messieurs,
Let me finish by explaining the ICI-method. Ici et maitenant. Institutionalizing means creating formal structures so that youth voices can be heard. In my city the political decision-makers give money to the democratically elected youth forum so they can arrange activity for their peers. They are the experts of their own lives after all. This works due to proper support structures and guidance. Secondly, legalizing intention equals solifying it into a lasting promise. If you really mean it then make it into a law. These two measures create a culture of listening youth that transforms into an expectation. When youth participate and are listened to, they will become the drivers of positive change in their societies.
To be or not to be; that is the question – asked Shakespeare in Hamlet. To be afraid of a youth problem or rejoice the possibilities of a youth solution – is an equally essential question for each modern state. I can however assure you that when in twenty years we will all look back and examine the countries that truly succeeded; they were the ones that were able to realize their immense youth potential. Which one you’re your country be?
P.S. Check out my presentation here: Global Perspectives -Engagement Equals Participation