What have we done to promote meaningful and intergenerational partnership in higher education?
As one of the goals from the United Nations Economic and Social Council Youth Forum 2023 was to examine SDG17 (Partnership for the Goals), UNESCO IESALC initiated a South-South intergenerational dialogue: Partnerships to promote innovative higher education: connecting SDG4 and SDG 17, engaging different generations of higher education stakeholders from the Global South.
This thematic exchange for multi-stakeholders helped to explore synergies with youths and for youths and build bridges to innovate higher education to better streamline best practices and educational cooperation in the Global South. Through its focus on south-south cooperation it also aimed to strengthen multilateralism, as sustainable futures in education must rely on collaborative partnerships, coordinated efforts, shared responsibilities, and collective ownership of the transformation process.
Held on April 25, it was hosted by UNESCO IESALC in collaboration with Transforming Education Youth Representatives by United Nations Girls’ Education Initiatives with the support from UNESCO Division of Education 2030, Office of Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, United Nations Office of South-South Cooperation, along with Member State representatives and institutional partners.
What was discussed?
Each participant brought with them critical and useful knowledge and expertise that emerged from both their lived experiences and their academic and professional achievements to synthesize the importance of streamlining key learnings that evolved from it. The regional representation spoke to UNESCO’s legacy of partnership to advance participatory engagement and inclusion.
Chairing the conversation, Dameon Black, Jamaican policymaker and President of UNESCO IESALC Governing Board, shared on the importance of partnerships to sustain action and innovative solutions in education as well as the importance of building the foundation of partnerships through listening and sharing.
Director of the UNESCO IESALC, Francesc Pedro, noted the importance of centering intergenerational realities to create change, ensuring that young people are consulted and partnered with to develop impactful and necessary solutions. Intergenerational realities help to advance best practices across a range of interventions to achieve the goal of quality higher education, one of UNESCO IESALC’s key missions.
Alejandra Ramos Gomez, an educator and member of Transform Education hosted by UNGEI, shared her experience of growing up in Mexico on the US Border, underlining the importance of cultural exchange and the endless possibilities to learn without borders and beyond it.
This sentiment was also evident through Mariama Masha’s experiences, serving as Senior Special Assistant to the President on Humanitarian Interventions in Nigeria, in creating school-based solutions that enabled representations of students and their communities, stressing the importance of context and student-centered approaches, allowing for diverse results to practical problems and avoiding answers that would not fit all realities.
To create sustainable futures for all, Okan Dursun, Youth Leader for Sustainable Development Goals, highlighted the urgency and importance of merging capacities and capabilities of both the public and private sector, stressing that public-private partnerships (PPP) in strengthening and sustaining innovative and social projects to transform education.
Results from audience engagement during the event further reflected the role of PPP as innovative higher education initiatives rely on collaborative processes, virtual and hybrid engagement and creative solutions, especially in addressing the top three challenges for higher education in the Global South:
- Inequalities in access to quality educational opportunities.
- Limited funding for infrastructure, technology, research and innovation.
- Lack of specific policies for vulnerable social groups.
These challenges did not come as a surprise for the panelists as they noted that through their work, they are also faced with these barriers. At times a lack of resources can present as difficulty to achieve programmatic goals but there remain continued efforts to overcome them through creative adaptations.
In Rwanda, the greatest resource is its people and providing educational, library, laboratory, career resources, and technical learning to the people is fundamental for social and employment inclusion, which Eugene Gato Nsengamangu, Founder of Rwanda Youth Tech Informants, advocates and co-creates solutions for.
In India, improved distance learning mechanisms through creating enhanced awareness about teachers’ role in education through social media accounts came as a surprising outcome of the pandemic, explained by Laeek Siddiqui, Research Scientist at International Institute for Population Sciences Mumbai and Youth Leader of the UNESCO SDG 4 Youth Network.
In the Gulf region, Lebanon and Gulf Cooperation Council Countries have made significant efforts regionally to diversify the school curriculum and create innovative interventions that are responsive to their local contexts since the pandemic, experienced by Rafik Amrani, Founder of Beyond Tekhmamek and Youth Leader of UNESCO SDG 4 Youth Network.
Overcoming fears in creating solutions to transform education is crucial as it allows for further exploration of unconventional practices. Miriam Alpizar Santana, policymaker in Cuba and Vice president of UNESCO IESALC Governing Board, highlighted the importance of multidisciplinary approaches to education, lobbying for the inclusion of arts-based solutions.
Beyond efforts made to create impactful solutions, Xiaojun Grace Wang, Director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) shared that opportunities are not a zero-sum game but rather can multiply, advocating for young generations to develop a culture of cooperation as they continue to create change.
Martha K. Ferede, Education Specialist in SDG4 Global Cooperation, highlighted the Global Youth Initiative (GYI), an innovative approach of Education 20230 and the first global initiative aimed at ensuring meaningful youth engagement, leadership in educational policymaking and stressed the importance of multilateral financing support. UNESCO IESALC, as a GYI partner, is fully supportive of GYI and is ready to fulfill the commitment through providing Policy and Project Implementation capacity building to youth leaders.
What can we do moving forward?
Summarized from our participants Bosen Lily Liu, Lead on Young People Transforming Education at UNESCO IESALC, shared six call-to-actions to higher education stakeholders and beyond to promote the link between SDG4 and SDG17.
We need to:
1. Listen for real.
2. Accept and analyze both the commonalities and differences in the Global South contexts.
3. Transit from co-operation to co-creation intergenerational spaces.
4. Further our partnership beyond the knowledge function of higher education.
5. Nativize higher education to the digital world.
6. More support from diversified partnership models.
Proposed by Francesc Pedro, two urgent ways forward for higher education institutions are:
- Integrate educational advocacy, expectations, and solutions from students and youths within HEIs through providing recognition to them as part of the institutional strategies.
- Encourage capacity building to teachers in creating a virtuous circle of engagement and motivation to empower students in innovating their educational activities, starting from teaching-learning and extending to social responsibilities.
UNESCO data as shown that still less than 1% of all higher education students benefit from global mobility In this sense, one way to really embed South-South Cooperation in higher education is to ensure particular agencies, like UNESCO, contribute to capacity development of students and youth leaders and provide them with further mobility opportunities within their educational journeys.
Bosen Lily Liu, Ashlee Burnett, Xueheng Gu, Giulia Ribeiro Barao, Alejandra Ramos Gomez and Jona Turalde