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My Internship Experience with UNESCO II: Collaboration with the UNESCO Chairs

Thea Zhang is from Hangzhou, China. In September 2013, she enrolled in the HKU MEd programme in Comparative and Global Studies in Education and Development (CGSED), completing at the end of August 2014. She moved to Paris to work as an intern at UNESCO Headquarters. Her work focuses on administration of the UNESCO Chairs programme. Here she shares some feelings and experiences after a month in the job.

For many years, UNESCO was for me just a word without any concrete sense except that it had been mentioned in the textbooks and is doing something great out there for the bigger good. Then, I had the chance to come to Hong Kong for the CGSED MEd programme. Its coordinator, Prof. Mark Bray, holds the UNESCO Chair in Comparative Education. So, not surprisingly I found myself learning a lot about UNESCO.

1At the start, I was just idealistic (and I still am!). One time I shared with Prof. Bray some of my dreams about the world and my desire to contribute to the cause of education. He replied, nicely of course: “You are still young, and should go out to experience the world.” And then he introduced me to Paulina Gonzales-Pose who is my supervisor now at UNESCO. Somehow, I find myself in this internship – it just happened!

I have so much that I could share. But my priority here is my new understanding about “means and ends”.

Before arriving in Paris I thought that being a part of UNESCO meant that I would be sitting in important conferences, helping with educational policy design and evaluation, and selecting and renewing UNESCO Chairs. Indeed I am doing some of that.  I attend meetings with my intern buddies, or sit in my office and listen on the intranet to the interpreters’ version of them. And I have been entrusted with the UNESCO Chairs database which might be the core of the programme. However, most of my daily routine is about the “small things”.

2For the old me, this would have been a disappointment. But the “me” at this moment is happier than ever before. I realize that I will always be the girl who writes long emails to friends and teachers about dreams and doubts; I will always be the girl who believes in the power of education; and I will always be the girl who has faith in UNESCO and related bodies even though they are bureaucratic and slow. The “imperfection of the system” pushes me to do something about it, even though my contribution will be small. I also learned that being true to my dreams does not mean that I have to be stubborn. Instead, as long as I am true to myself and keep the big picture in mind, I will still do some good.

So, what is my summary of moving from the academic environment of the HKU MEd programme to the real world of international work?  It is: not quite what I expected, yet very rewarding in a different way.

And maybe next time I will tell you about Paris….

 

My Internship Experience with UNESCO I: New Dream from Fontenoy

by Lin Shumai

For most of the student interns at Place de Fontenoy (UNESCO Headquarters, Paris), UNESCO is a dream come true, it is the same for me. As a student in the Master of Education programme at the University of Hong Kong, there is no learning experience that can be more valuable than seeing the theories in the classrooms be applied in practice, especially on the platform that leads the key international movements in education.

My three-month internship at UNESCO was with the Education for All (EFA) Global Partnerships Team. The EFA movement, launched in 1990shumai1 (Jomtien, Thailand) and reaffirmed in 2000 (Dakar, Senegal), is a major global initiative that primarily aims at providing equitable access to quality education for all. Up till now, EFA has made significant achievement in accelerating the enrolment rate to primary school in many regions of the world with disadvantaged educational resources. Meanwhile, a lot of work still remains to be done: along with the other main focuses of UNESCO, such as the education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), EFA is moving toward its milestone of 2015, a year in which its goals are supposed to be achieved.

As intern, my role in the team largely depends on the major events that took place: the UNESCO Youth Forum, 37th session of the General Conference, the Regional Thematic Consultation on Education in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, etc. It was unforgettable to witness some of UNESCO’s historic moments as well. From November 2013, Mme. Irina Bokova started her second term as Director-General and Mr. Hao Ping from China was elected as the new president of UNESCO’s General Conference, which was indeed an inspiring event for me and other interns from China.

shumai2Another aspect that impressed me was an inclusive culture created by the colleagues from different countries. Different cultures were respected and appreciated in all forms (languages, clothes, viewpoints, etc.) with a strong common belief that is written in UNESCO’s constitution: Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed. I integrated into the working environment with little effort, not simply because of my French language background, but for the academic training in our faculty and the welcoming culture in UNESCO. Though, just as any other organizations, there is still room for UNESCO to improve, I believe it has set the correct direction for everyone in the world to reflect and to take actions in daily life so as to build the world we want. My goal is to accelerate this process toward a better world through education and both my experience of academic inquiries and this internship are certainly indispensible in this life choice.

I wish to specifically thank my teachers at HKU for their inspiration and constant support, and to thank the Comparative Education Research Centre (CERC) for offering me the chance to build up my ability through its movie platform. It is every little step throughout the way that brought us to the final destination. With the dream come true, a new dream comes along: I believe the light of humanity and education will shine our way on this new journey.

 

Marking the end of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) 

The UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development  opened on 10 November 2014 in Nagoya, Japan, to celebrateesd a decade of action (2005-2014) and to launch a future global ESD program. The 3-day Conference presented successful initiatives from around the world to help to set the agenda beyond 2014. 

Among these initiatives was the Sustainability Literacy Test in which HKU is actively participating. The test is a tool for assessment and verification of the sustainability literacy of higher education students, and assesses knowledge in economic, social and environmental responsibility. Conducted as an online survey, the test benchmarks students’ basic knowledge on sustainable development. It also aims to promote both individual and organisational responsibility.UN ST

By 17 October 2014, the test had been taken by 24,300 students around the world. A face-to-face meeting was held on 8 November after the GUPES Partnerships Forum in Nagoya University to discuss the next steps. The survey results permitted the first worldwide picture of knowledge on sustainable development of higher education graduates to be presented in the Conference. For information on the Conference, please click here.

 

Visit to Lithuania

3In November 2014, Mark Bray travelled to Vilnius to work with the Mykolas Romeris University. Funding was provided by Lithuania’s Ministry of Education and Science, and included a meeting in the Ministry about policies5 for shadow education.

The meeting was enhanced by participation by Virginia Būdienė, who was one of the co-editors with Mark Bray of the 2006 book Education in a Hidden Marketplace: Monitoring of Private Tutoring. Other participants included Algirdas Zabulionis, who was a contributor to the book. The meeting noted the value of comparative analysis and the desirability of follow-up research to identify trends. ​

 

World Teachers’ Day

Each year, UNESCO celebrates World Teachers’ Day on 5 October. This year was the 20th anniversary of the launch of the events, and UNESCO Headquarters had two-day event. Mark Bray and Ora Kwo were among the participants.

A special feature was the award of the UNESCO-Handan Price for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers. Ora Kwo had been a member of the Jury for the award, examining shortlisted candidatures during a meeting in January 2014.

The events for the World Teachers’ Day were opened by Soo Hyang Choi, Director of the Division for Teaching Learning and Content, and launched by Tang Qian, Assistant Director-General for Education. Participative workshops in the forum focused on life and working conditions of teachers, teachers’ continuous professional development, pedagogical innovations in education, and how ICT can support teacher training. A video of highlights can be accessed here.

 

The UN International Day of Peace

1Mark Bray, as UNESCO Chair, was invited by the UNESCO Hong Kong Association to celebrate the UN International Day of Peace at the Asia Society’s Hong Kong Centre on 21 September 2014.

The event was an opportunity to pause and reflect, and to consider ways to achieve the vision of a united and sustainable community. It brought together 25 representatives of Hong Kong’s international community, including consulates, religious2 bodies, national chambers of commerce, and senior government officials. Cultural performances and an international food festival contributed to a remarkable full-day event. Photographs can be seen here.

 

Collaboration on Shadow Education in Greece and Cyprus

In June 2014, Mark Bray together with Ora Kwo visited Greece and Cyprus, which have the highest participation of shadow education in Europe. 1At the University of Athens, they delivered a talk on shadow education in its historic premises at the foot of the Acropolis. Following that event was the 6th International Scientific Conference of Educational Planning hosted by the University of the Aegean, Rhodes. Mark Bray’s keynote speech was entitled “Symbiosis which Complements, or2 Parasitism which Weakens? International Perspectives on Relationships between Shadow Education and Schooling”.

In both Greece and Cyprus, Mark Bray and Ora Kwo visited tutoring centers and discussed issues with the professional associations of tutoring providers.

 

Colloquia on Researching Shadow Education

CERC hosted a colloquium entitled “Researching Shadow Education: Findings and Methodological Lessons from Diverse Cultures” on 28 to 29Colloquium1 April 2014. It brought together 20 participants: 14 HKU colleagues who are researching on shadow education and six counterparts from institutions in Philippines, Iran, Jamaica, Croatia, Malaysia, and Mainland China. The two-day workshop was an intensive period for co-inquiry about the strengths, weaknesses and potential of a range of methodological approaches for research in shadow education. It will lead to an edited book on the theme.

Following the spirit of the colloquium, one participant organized a related event in her own university in Manila, Philippines. It was entitled “Researching Shadow Education - Implications to Students' Performance”, and held at the University of Santo Tomas on 27 June 2014. Mark Bray gave a keynote speech which elaborated on the messages from the HKU event.

2

 

UNESCO-HK Peacemakers’ Celebration

Peacemaker celebrationOn Saturday 12 April 2014, the UNESCO Hong Kong Association accomplished a remarkable Peacemakers’ Celebration. Held in the Science Park, the event built on the tradition of the previous year. Local schools and supporting organisations participated in activities that emphasised:

  • Individual Peace,

  • Cultural Peace,

  • Social Peace,

  • Ecological Peace, and

  • Political Peace.

Exhibitions, musical performances, country-focused booths, seminars and drama contributed to a remarkable atmosphere in this full-day event. Some of the photographs can be seen here.

Among the guests of honour was Prof. Tao Xiping, Vice President of the World Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centres and Associations. On Monday 14 April 2014 he visited the University of Hong Kong for mutual briefing on activities. He was accompanied by senior officers of the UNESCO-HK Association.

Peacemakers Celeberation2

 

Regulating Private Tutoring

A new book on regulations for private tutoring (shadow education) was launched on 31 March 2014 in UNESCO’s Asia and Pacific RegionalRegulating PT1 Bureau for Education, Bangkok. The book, written by Mark Bray and Ora Kwo, is entitled Regulating Private Tutoring for Public Good: Policy Options for Supplementary Education in Asia.  The book is co-published by UNESCO and HKU’s Comparative Education Research Centre and can be downloaded here.

The book points out that the so-called shadow education system of private supplementary tutoring has great implications for (in)equitable access to quality education for all. In general, the sector is under-regulated. The book draws on comparative material in Asia and also has much relevance to other parts of the world.

Regulating PT2Gwang-Jo Kim, Director of UNESCO Bangkok, highlighted patterns in the Republic of Korea (ROK), with which he is intimately familiar as he served as Deputy Minister of Education there before joining UNESCO. The ROK government has devoted most effort to regulations over the longest period. “Yet even ROK has not yet found all the answers,” remarked Mr Kim. “Governments can see the challenges as well as useful strategies in the South Korean case.”

In South and Southeast Asia, in any case, conditions are rather different from those in South Korea. UNESCO has long recognised the diversity in the region, whether in the contexts or in the experiences. The lessons in this book highlight the value of comparisons across countries in all categories.

 

Meeting of UNESCO Chairholders in Paris

On 23 and 24 January 2014, UNESCO’s Education Sector convened a meeting of UNESCO Chairholders in the Organization’s Paris Headquarters. It was the first such meeting in recent times, and provided a valuable opportunity:

  • for UNESCO to brief the Chairholders on its newly-approved Medium-Term Strategy,
  • for UNESCO to learn more about the activities and priorities of the Chairholders, and
  • for the Chairholders to learn more about each other, and to plan collaborative projects.

The meeting was opened by Tang Qian, Assistant Director-General for the Education Sector (fourth left in the picture below), and managed by Pauline Gonzalez-Pose, Chief of the Higher Education Section (second right). Other colleagues in the opening ceremony were Francesc Pedro, David Atchoarena and Miao Fengchun from UNESCO HQ and Chairholders Elvira Martín-Sabina (Cuba),  Ibrahima Wade (Senegal) and Tim Unwin (United Kingdom).

Subgroups in the meeting focused on higher education, ICT in education, and teachers. The meeting identified channels for collaborative research and improved networking. HKU’s UNESCO Chair can play a role across themes since it focuses on comparative education and can contribute to methodology as well as substantive analysis.

 

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