Two-Ways Street Teachers & Learners: New Minds on Global Citizenship, Empathy & Gender Equality

We have all found ourselves, at least once in our lifetimes, taking children to school, while babysitting, while being the parents, while being the cousins or the aunts & uncles. Or at least, taking them to the bus stop and waving and kissing them goodbye, on their journey to learning.

We all know how it feels like to leave the children in the schools, to constantly think “How are the kids?”, “What will they learn?” “Who will they become?”. With thousands of questions in mind, we, as parents or guardians, we trust the education system in which we choose our kids to get an education, learn, study, play and be good, responsible and empowered citizens of tomorrow. “Be who you want to be” and actively contribute to society, in a participatory, just and democratic system, created by them, the people of the future.

For this “Future Society” to realistically happen, where inclusiveness, respect of cultures, religions and diversity, open dialogues about sensitive issues can peacefully take place, we must start & continue thinking about the education system of the countries, in a more global way, taking into consideration new classes and a renewed curriculum that covers citizenship, global responsibilities, gender and empathy.

Sociologist Ras Lesser Blumberg, from the University of Virginia, has been studying textbooks from around the world for over a decade, and found many stereotypes of males and females camouflaged in what seems to be well-established roles for each gender. Despite the progress of gender equality (in terms of women’s rights, women’s movement, women’s contribution to society) in textbooks, as 2016 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM) highlights, “sexist attitudes are so pervasive that textbooks end up undermining the education of girls and limiting their career and life expectations”.

“Be who you want to be” our mind keeps repeating to itself while thinking of our kids in school.

As correctly puts a 2016 UNESCO Policy paper, textbooks are the entry points for a child’s education, accompanied by the quality of teachers’ academic preparation, hands-on experience and motivation. For this, if practical tools and instruments shape children’s and young people’s minds, these tools must be well-thought all through, updated to the global environment of the XXI century, accompanied by “enlightened” compassionate, open-minded individuals who can welcome and guide conversations and reflections about challenging events, by acknowledging facts, process and name emotions, connect students to resources and give them opportunities to take action.

How to teach?

Empathy and simplicity in the making. Peace and dialogue start by appreciating differences in attitudes, values and beliefs. By being role models for the students, teachers need, first of all, to embrace Empathy as the foundation for a better world. It goes beyond passively observing others despair and suffering. It requires Listening, and, if it is not possible to provide immediate practical solutions, it can be about compassion, tolerance and inclusivity. Empathy creates a more resilient culture of peace through intercultural dialogue.

When issues get complex, stick to the KISS principle, keep it simple (and stupid). Continue engaging in dialogues and ask how people feel and what they need.

What to teach?

Updated manuals for teachers need to be used, coupled up with digital tools at their disposal to make games and teaching more technological and interactive. A Great example Is the ECOWAS Reference Manual for a culture of peace, human rights, citizenship, democracy and regional integration, (here the reference manual in local languages) divided into seven modules on culture of peace, conflict prevention and management, human rights, civic awareness and citizenship, democracy and good governance, gender, environment and regional integration.

Another great tool, to learn and discuss the role of women and their invaluable contributions to society is the UNESCO General History of Africa, and an Open Educational resources and tools to discover the Women in Africa’s History.

A third tool can be the use of cartoons and comics , as well as a more gender-neutral characters and pronouns (oceans, animals) to encourage the effective learnings of children. An example that grabbed my attention comes exactly from the UNESCO GEM report, on the importance of people and planet, places, prosperity, peace and partnerships, taking into consideration environmental awareness, civic education, education , peace, equal rights, green cities, mutual understanding and cooperation.

A New Curriculum

A new curriculum, including all these elements, from empathy and dialogue, from compassion to active listening, including environmental studies, gender equality, women in history, human rights ( everyone treated in equal dignity, rights and opportunities) no stereotypes, and gender roles collaboration instead of competition, can create a better society of tomorrow.

A society whose core is Global Citizenship, id est, from my point of view, the consideration and the realization that we all belong to this planet and we must all do something and contribute to a greater cause, for the good of the people around us and the environment around us. Taking care of every aspect of our life. Cascading knowledge and learning for the Greater Good.

Be who you want to be”. This will be our Mantra. Our kids will grow with an open-mind and an open-heart to face all situations and life challenges. Together, they will make the world a better place.

Starting from the Education of Today. Let ‘s make their journey to learning worthwhile.


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