United Nations Alliance of Civilizations - Skills and values based education

Published: 19 December 2012

Statement delivered by Francis Markus, East Asia Regional Communications Delegate, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, at the UNAOC Regional Forum for Asia. Shanghai, November 2012

I have here in my hand a mandarin orange and if I ask our moderator to have a thorough look at it, touch it, get familiarized with it and then put your mandarin orange in a basket full of mandarin oranges, I’m sure you will find your mandarin orange again. But if however, I peel the mandarin orange and then put it in a basket full of peeled mandarin oranges, the likelihood that you will find your mandarin orange again is minimal.

Why? Because we focus on differences, we focus on what distinguishes us, on external features; we focus on the skin, not on the fruit of the mandarin orange. Let us change perspective and start looking at the fruit, at what we have in common, at what brings us closer and cultivate the spirit of togetherness

As our young people progress through their lives amid an increasingly challenging social context, we in the Red Cross Red Crescent very clearly see a strong need to move from being locked into differences to valuing diversity and pluralism; from resorting to verbal or physical violence when feeling threatened to constructive dialogue and trust. But we need to know how.

And the key lies in an education that not only drills multiplication tables, verb conjugations or Chinese characters into our young, but also gives them such skills as empathy, active listening, non-judgement, non-violent communication and mediation.

Therefore, on behalf of our youth, we in the worlds’s 187 Red Cross Red Crescent Societies call on all our governments to institutionalize humanitarian skills and values based education in national school curricula.   Otherwise how can our  children and young people, reach their fullest potential as outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child?

Of course our children need to have the practical and intellectual basis to be able to get a job. But they also need to be able to live together harmoniously in our local communities – both with those who come from a similar background and those with whose lives have been shaped by different cultural, geographical or economic factors.

So we need more use of approaches such as peer education, experiential learning processes and non-cognitive methodologies (meaning that feelings, experience, or the physical body, rather than intellectual analysis, learning through games, visualization and simulation exercises, storytelling, arts, music, theatre, dance and sports. .

These elements are at the heart of our programme focused on Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change (YABC). And we are keen to share the expertise and toolkit generated by this programme, containing 75 non-cognitive educational activities, as well as other educational programmes based on humanitarian values.

YABC was originally created for non-formal and informal educational settings such as: junior and youth clubs, youth camps, leadership trainings, vocational training centers and community-based activities.

That being said, YABC has also been brought into schools themselves, for instance in a number of Asia Pacific countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Micronesia, as well as Ghana, Tunisia, France and Martinique.

The school should be a  microcosm of the society we want to build and have our children function in later as adults. Hence, for instance separate schools for migrant workers’ children, may not be the ideal  institutions to foster a culture of nonviolence and peace anchored in dialogue and inclusiveness

We also need to value the positive contributions made by our teachers and pro-actively support them and we need to link parents – especially those from vulnerable communities - more closely with the school system.

 So in summary, the work of adapting educational institutions  and policies to the needs of intercultural dialogue and harmony is a multifaceted challenge – for which we need advocacy directed towards our governments and other stakeholders, we need direct work with the youth, using the tools and approaches which we in the IFRC have developed, and we need a holistic family-inclusive approach for optimimum results.  Thank you.