National Coordinators of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network gather to reflect and share experiences


An article from UNESCO

National Coordinators of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network  reinforced the importance of the network as a laboratory of ideas for educational quality, innovation and transformation by endorsing the “70th Anniversary Declaration” as a result of the conference.

From 6-8 June 2023, the German National Commission for UNESCO and UNESCO ASPnet co-organized the global conference “Strengthening international collaboration towards peaceful and sustainable futures!” to gather 80 participants from 60 countries at the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin and online.

In the context of the 70th anniversary in November 2023, the conference provided a unique platform for National Coordinators, representatives of National Commissions and the International Coordination Unit to jointly develop new ideas for the network, to reflect on experiences and achievements from the past and present, and to explore ways and possibilities for a successful path to strengthen ASPnet for the future.

ASPnet – a treasure in our hands

For the opening, Assistant Director-General for Education, Ms Stefania Giannini, valued the network as a “treasure in our hands” and as “one of UNESCO`s most powerful networks” in implementing the organization`s values through education in a video message. She further encouraged the National Coordinators to commemorate the 70th anniversary as important milestone in the history of ASPnet through national celebrations as well as together with other countries to honour the global nature of the network.

Germany was one of the 16 Member States, which participated in the first “Scheme of co-ordinated experimental activities in Education for Living in a World Community” in 1953. This successful collaborative experiment evolved into today´s global network of over 12,000 educational institutions in 182 countries. Mr Luckscheiter, Secretary-General of the German National Commission, highlighted the important role of ASPnet schools as drivers for innovation and societal change:

“The schools are a mirror of society – and at the same time, they are bridges into the future. ASPnet has been this bridge to strong and democratic school cultures – from its very beginning as a little laboratory until today with a strong and important outreach.”

Responding to global challenges – Co-creating the future

For the last 70 years, ASPnet has demonstrated its role as a laboratory for innovative teaching methods and its ability to incorporate new topics and approaches into the classroom in response to global challenges and events.

(This article is continued in the column on the right.)

Question for this article:

What is the relation between peace and education?

Will UNESCO once again play a role in the culture of peace?

(Article continued from left column)

Ms Julie Saito, International Coordinator at UNESCO, drew a line from the first experiments on Rights of Women, study of other countries and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1953, to today’s school projects that retain ASPnet’s character as a laboratory of ideas and that, for example, engage students and teachers in shared learning experiences around the colonial past, promoting global citizenship education and intercultural learning.

“Our experimentation is the constant attempt to develop schools, to innovate, to pioneer, to make learning more meaningful and contemporary, to rethink education, to take into account global events and challenges and to empower all learners to assume active roles, both locally and globally, in building more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive and sustainable futures,” said Ms Saito.

Transforming the network for the future – Strengthening international collaboration

The central element of the conference were workshops by the International Coordination Unit around three core processes in transforming the network for the future. In participatory and action-oriented workshops and discussions, National Coordinators jointly explored possibilities for operationalising the new ASPnet Strategy 2022-2030 “Building peaceful and sustainable futures through transformative education”, tested the beta version of the new ASPnet community platform  or shared ideas for developing an ASPnet Young Ambassador initiative following the adopted resolution at the last UNESCO Executive Board. Further, National Coordinators were invited to share their good practices and engage in dialogues with fellow colleagues on how to strengthen transnational collaborations and school partnerships.

Mr Klaus Schilling, National Coordinator in Germany, highlighted in his closing the strengths of the network in learning together transnationally and in taking action for a better world: „The ASPnet Conference in Berlin was a strong boost to foster international collaboration and transformative learning within our network. New synergies between National Coordinators, new thematic and methodological approaches as well as clear strategies to empower students and teachers will help to dynamize cooperation within the ASPnet and to strengthen its contribution towards peaceful and sustainable futures. The rich presentations of the ASPnet Conference – for example on the pilot projects how to confront the colonial past in transnational dialogues as well as the example of Recreation Projects in solidarity with Ukraine show the enormous potential and commitment of its member institutions. ASPnet makes a real difference for another world.“

70th Anniversary Declaration of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network

At the end of the successful conference, the participants jointly endorsed the “70th Anniversary Declaration of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network”. Initiated by the ASPnet National Coordinator in Greece, Ms Vera Dilari, the declaration was the result of a co-creative process during the conference.

The declaration invites National Commissions for UNESCO, other UNESCO networks and entities, policy-makers, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders to collaborate with ASPnet institutions, National Coordinators and the International Coordination Unit and to support and strengthen the UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet).

UNESCO ASPnet celebrates the 70th anniversary of the network under the theme “Fostering a culture of Peace and Sustainability through Transformative Education” through the country initiatives of ASPnet members as well as with a dedicated exhibition during the 42nd General Conference in November 2023.