Palestine: World Education Forum
The World Education Forum (WEF) to be held October 28 – 31 in Palestine, as part of the World Social Forum, will shed light on pressing social and educational issues and challenges of people struggling for peace and social justice around the world and more specifically in Palestine. The Forum will provide a platform for cross-border dialogue, practical experience exchange, theoretical discussions, debating of ideas around the role of education and its economic, social, political and environmental impact at the local, regional and international level. The aim is to help ‘make a new world possible’ by challenging the dominant educational mindset and its institutions and systems, informed as they are by neo-liberal economics, competition, marketplace globalization, consumerism and domination of peoples and nature. Furthermore the forum will assist against the Israeli occupational practices towards Palestinians in general and their education in specific.
Since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the Palestinian people have been systematically denied their basic rights and independence on all levels of life, such as mobility restrictions because of the wall and the military checkpoints in addition to the impossibility to have access to the most basic services. The right to education is continuously violated: schools are shut down, schools are used as a military base, teachers and children are harassed and arrested, travel permits are denied, and school schedules are interrupted. Because of all of this students’ and teachers’ attendance rate is lower, which can lead to not completing the curriculum. General-Director of the Teacher of Creative Centre in Palestine, Refaat Sabbah explains that the organizers of WEF “are trying as much as we can to bring people from the outside to Palestine, and to integrate the Palestinian within [the activities], hoping that Palestinians will be aware about how to deal with the problem[s] that they face in education”.
Promoting the right to education
One of the fundamental principles of the World Education Forum in Palestine is promoting the right to education, a right which has been recognized since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and has since been enshrined in various international conventions, national constitutions and development plans. The right to education is more fundamental than ever for building equal and just societies.
Promoting it is essential: as over 75 million children do not have access to primary school, learning outcomes are poor in many countries and some 776 million adults lack basic education.
The WEF is proposed in the spirit of a firm commitment to the World Declaration on Education for All (1990, World Conference on Education for All, Jomtien, Thailand), which aims at bringing the benefits of education to “every citizen in every society”. In the Dakar Framework for Action (2000, meeting in Dakar, Senegal) a broad coalition of national governments, civil society groups, and development agencies such as UNESCO and the World Bank expressed their commitment to achieving six specific education goals:
1. Expand early childhood care and education.
2. Ensure all children, especially girls, complete free and compulsory, good quality primary education.
3. Ensure equal access to learning and life-skills training for young people and adults.
4. Achieve a 50% improvement in adult literacy rates.
5. Achieve gender equity in primary and secondary education.
6. Improve the quality of education – especially in literacy, numeracy and life-skills.
Education as a liberating tool
“Education is a constant process for the liberation of human beings.” (Paolo Freire)
This quote from the Brazilian educator Paolo Freire captures the very essence of education as a vital component for the construction of values based on solidarity, justice, equality and the full deployment and practice of citizenship. Good education provides the knowledge, skills, motivation, understanding and respect for others which are crucial for the constructive resolution of conflicts and the creation of a more peaceful and equal world. It sharpens the awareness of the existence of bias, and non-peaceful or equal relationships among individuals, groups and communities, as well as providing people with the tools for critical and independent thinking. Awareness of one’s own situation and role in society is a precondition for human development and democracy.
Education in the 21st Century
New forms and concepts of education and knowledge are essential if we are to lay the foundations for human development and peaceful co-existence. Children and youth need to be prepared and empowered to deal with the challenges of the 21st century, such as globalization, poverty, climate change, gender inequality, racism, new mass media, etc. Quality and relevant education can be life-saving and life-sustaining, providing protection, psychological support, and a basis for social and economic development and peace building. Especially in crisis and conflict areas, children and youth are more likely to be inclined to violent behavior and psychological distress. Schools can lay the groundwork for peace, tolerance, conflict resolution and human rights. Moreover, education can help in preventing, mitigating and responding to future crises.
Therefore the content of what is taught, the teaching methodologies and the evaluation of learning outcomes should be more adequately addressed. Enrolling learners in a program is of little use, and may have serious longer term ramifications, if the program lacks substance, relevancy, and/or quality teaching. Governments, communities and partners like NGOs and UN agencies should develop teaching and learning of new skills and values, such as the importance of inclusive education and participation in the social and political processes.
OBJECTIVES OF THE WEF:
- To provide a meeting space marked by the diversity of its representatives and themes, as well as by the convergence of hopes and the fight for a society and a world where there is more justice, more democracy, and more solidarity.
- To generate new and expanded high quality educational knowledge and tools in promoting greater social justice and equity between nations.
- To explore how individuals and organizations involved in the WEF can become experienced change agents and change advocates to the extent that they can help effect qualitative improvements in teaching, educational policies, school and community dynamics.
- To build new and strong alliances for mobilization and effective action between national, regional and international social movements and educational organizations.
- To launch worldwide campaigns such as, campaigns against: commercialization and privatization of education; poverty; aids; political use of education; as well as campaigns for national Palestinian rights; women’s rights; new media campaigns which portray non-violent alternatives; human rights in education.
- To promote international solidarity with the Palestinians in their legitimate struggle to freedom, self determination and an independent state.
The events will be spread over 4 days between October 28 – 31 and will simultaneously take place in Ramallah, Haifa, Gaza, Jerusalem and Beirut (Lebanon). The first day there will be an opening ceremony with speeches by well-known personalities in education from Palestine and abroad, followed by a cultural show.
The following days the participants can participate in the following activities:
- SEMINARS on international experiences and practices in areas related to formal, informal education, higher education and societal linkages of education, guided by the thematic axes (see below). These seminars will be centrally organized.
- SELF-ORGANIZED ACTIVITIES demonstrating real experiences and success stories of practices and methodologies applied. These activities are run by Palestinian and international organizations.
- EXPANDED ACTIVITIES organized by people all over the world with an interest in education. These “expanded activities” will be interlinked with activities of the WEF in Palestine through videoconference.
- CAMPAIGNS launched within the context of the educational forum, including campaign against: commercialization and privatization of education; poverty; aids; political use of education; as well as campaigns for national Palestinian rights; women’s rights; new media campaigns which portray non-violent alternatives; human rights in education.
- CULTURAL ACTIVITIES organized every day of the Forum, including musical concerts, photo galleries, film exhibitions, movies, documentaries, dance shows, theatre performances, cultural heritage (debka, clothes, food), etc. There will be creative workshops for children and youth.
- SOLIDARITY MARCH (at the beginning or end of the Forum)
• Education, arts, culture and identity
• Education, religion and secularism
• Popular and conventional education
• Education, power and mind decolonization
• Environment, ecology and nature
• Education and Neo-liberalism
• Peace with justice and equality
• Education for liberation, emancipation and social change