Written by Abigail Chifusa, Global Schools Project Officer
On Tuesday 25th April, in alignment with pillar one of the report on the 2022 United Nations (UN) Transforming Education Summit (TES), the Global Schools Program (GSP) held a virtual side event at the 2023 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum. The event was titled: Education for Sustainable Development (ESD): An Innovative Way to Model Partnerships and Collaboration in Schools to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The objective of this side event was to bring together youth, students, educators, school leaders, and organizations to showcase examples of partnerships and collaborations amongst schools as well as with their local communities. The session was moderated by Santha Nair, GSP Project Officer for Partnerships and Events.
During her presentation, Amanda Abrom, Program Manager at GSP, highlighted that over the past two years, the Global Schools Advocates have engaged educators, advocates, teachers, community members, and parents in over 100 countries and territories around the world, reaching over 270k people directly. She added that through the Advocates Program, GSP has had the opportunity to see very innovative partnership models within schools, their departments, and their local communities through service learning, as well as within the GSP network. Furthermore, Amanda announced that the third day of the ECOSOC youth forum will be based on the participants’ suggestions and interventions that will shape the review of the SDGs, as this year is the midpoint of the SDG agenda.
Global Schools hosted Melissa Gomes, who is the Co-founder and CEO of Edvolution, as the keynote speaker.
During her presentation, Melissa explained that Edvolution works primarily on SDG 4, quality education, with the hope of improving teaching quality among teachers, school leaders, and system leaders at the state and district level. Melissa applauded the attendees commitment to the goals outlined by the UN SDGs.
However, she added that the COVID-19 pandemic unveiled one of the key challenges in achieving the SDGs, particularly SDG 4. She said that the pandemic brought a realization that to overcome challenges in the education system, the responsibility must not be left on the shoulders of teachers, principals, school leaders, and system leaders in the Ministry of Education (MoE), but it must become a responsibility of each and every one in society.
Melissa referenced a presentation at the 77th United Nations General Assembly in 2022, where a speaker addressed how the world can come together collectively to solve education challenges. Melissa said, “the speaker at the 77th United Nations General Assembly said very interestingly that ‘collectively’ should be one of the key features of partnerships, and the question is ‘what is collective leadership?’ ” She said it is no longer up to the MoE or any other systems to solve problems in education, but it is about different partners coming together to solve education issues on the ground.
Furthermore, Melissa highlighted that the leadership comes from those who have the passion, vision, and desire to make a change but, most importantly, in creating a village; leaders think of ways to consolidate or bring people with similar mindsets together, and work in systems collectively to solve educational problems. She said that one of the key features when partnering is looking for people with the same mindset and not only focusing on raising and mobilizing financial resources, but also collaborating with individuals or organizations who genuinely want to solve issues on the ground for the children. She added that this is how strong partnerships are developed in which people of like minds come together to combine their principles and approach toward solving common issues in schools and classrooms.
In addition, Melissa encouraged educators to explore the following partnership models:
Partnerships with fellow teachers in the classrooms or within the school. For example, how a mathematics teacher can work with a science teacher.
Partnerships with other sectors, including with non-profit or social enterprise leaders, or public-private partnerships, where organizations partner with the government.
Cross-sectoral partnership e.g. those working in the education sector work together with those in the health sector. Combining both skills and expertise will create a solution that will positively impact various beneficiaries.
After the keynote speaker, three GSP Advocates shared their stories and experiences with crafting creative partnerships during the pandemic, and what they have learned about sustaining these collaborations post COVID-19.
Neetu Lunthra is Global Schools Advocate from India. She explained that strong partnerships, to her, means being grounded in common values and goals, mutual respect, trust, and experienced sensibilities. Strong partnerships are about what each partner brings to the table, and it all depends upon hard work.
Furthermore, Neetu shared her experience of how her school worked as a team to ensure continued progress of their students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Neetu and her fellow teachers created a project meaning “HOPE”, which is a new curriculum that started in 2020 to support the students.
Federica Quartesan is a Global Schools Advocate and high school science teacher at Centro Studi Casnati, and she is the Project Chief at Casnati for ESD.
The Casnati for ESD project is configured as a new bilingual (Italian/English) school website that collects school-wide activities and builds storytelling to inform, educate, and inspire anyone who wants to connect with the activities of Federica’s school, either online or on the affiliated social media channels.
To Federica, strong partnerships mean collaboration on multiple levels of vertical and horizontal cooperation that connects the highest number of variables in a complex system and in a holistic way. During her presentation, Federica highlighted that in this world, there is a need for more holistic models in education. She said the building of holistic models in the educational field is inevitable so that we can address many different social, economic, and environmental challenges that impact humanity.
Federica said, “My school [developed] a strategy for ESD integration that could make us teachers coordinate our efforts…[and allow] our students to become protagonists of the learning process, taking proper action.”
Furthermore, she explained that her school incorporated social-emotional learning, with the aim to improve the school’s ability to assess the psychosocial and emotional needs of the students, fostering effective collaboration between students, teachers, and families.
Mohamed Helmy was the last speaker among the three Advocates. He is an extra-curricular and events director at his school in Egypt, who successfully planted 1000 trees with his students.
Mohamed believes that strong partnerships should start within the school community, consisting of the school administration, students, and parents. These stakeholders are already creating projects that can convince other partners to start supporting the school.
Mohamed recognized all partners, organizations, and individuals around the world that put in efforts in transforming education to be virtual during the pandemic. Additionally, he explained that his school’s first concern during the pandemic was the mental health of its students. He shared that one of the challenges in his school was that the pandemic put a stop to their sustainable development projects, and they saw the need to partner between different departments within the school to transform everything to become virtual and to protect the students’ mental health. Hence, Mohamed’s school started running activities like sports, music, and other competitions, for the students to team up and start to show up for each other.
He added that, “One of the ideas of my school was to have an international communication exchange program with schools in other countries for the students to meet other learners around the world virtually.”
After the three advocates’ presentations, Samuel Isaiah from Malaysia, head of Education Initiatives at YTL Power International, engaged in a fireside chat with moderator, Santha.
With a background in the teaching profession, Samuel shared his experience in partnering with the students, the school community, and different schools as a teacher. He explained that the experience felt genuine in the partnerships when everyone was doing things with a common interest.
As Samuel transitioned from being a teacher to his current role, he learned that a lot of organizations are now moving toward hyper-local collaborations; this means working with different people in a small demographic area to understand their needs and wants, elevating their voices, as well as elevating their needs. He explained that this is a way to structure a proper collaboration instead of coming up with prescription solutions where communities have to adapt in order to implement.
In addition, Samuel emphasized the importance of recognizing and celebrating teachers for their ingenuity in their practice. He said that everything that teachers have done and are still doing has worked in practice. There is no theory or framework behind it, which is why organizations and individuals can learn a lot from the collaboration of teachers with their learners, with their school leaders, as well as with their school communities.
Furthermore, while concluding his presentation, Samuel elaborated on the importance of truly understanding and defining the problem as well as understanding the need attached to that particular problem identified before fostering any type of partnership.“Once you have clearly defined the situation, you can then find multiple partners to work on small areas that you want to improve, and it will help you find multiple solutions,” he said.
He added that it is important to not only focus on one partner when working toward solving a problem because many fail due to the reliance on one partner.
Samuel gave tips for education systems to consider when prioritizing strong partnerships and collaboration. He said schools should:
Prioritize working with one another.
Not create things parallel to what the government is doing. Education systems can start finding better ways to work with their respective government.
At the end of the presentations, GSP Project Officer for Partnerships and Events, Hafiz Jawad Sohail, shared how individuals and organizations who participated in the GSP ECOSOC side event could partner with GSP.
To conclude the event presentations, the moderator, Santha Nair, officially announced the opening for applications for the next cohort of Global Schools Advocates, which started accepting applications on 25th April, 2023 and will close on May 25th, 2023.
To apply for the next cohort of the Advocates program, please click here.
Watch the recording of the event.