How should education be transformed? Let’s hear from the youth!
Together with the Ministry of Education and UN Armenia, UNICEF holds a national consultation with young people and adolescents.
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What should education look like in 2030? How should the education sector be transformed to meet the demands of today and tomorrow and contribute to having a competitive society? UNICEF, together with the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports and UN Armenia office, held a series of national consultations with over 100 adolescents and young people of 14–23 ages from across Armenia to discuss these and other issues and jointly think of possible solutions.
The consultations were held ahead of the Transforming Education Summit, to be convened in New York City this September by the UN Secretary-General. The Summit will seek to mobilize political ambition, action, and solutions to transform education by 2030. As a UN member state, Armenia has committed to carry out national consultations with all stakeholders, including young people and adolescents, which will shape priorities and commitments of the Government in this sector.
Over the course of July, consultations with young people were held in Yerevan, Gyumri, Spitak, Armavir, and Etchmiadzin. The discussions focused on three main areas: the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on schools, the education system, and students; the impact of the pandemic on entering the labor market and life skills; and how to enhance digital literacy.
“We have held many summits and discussions related to education. We know what our problems are, but it is important to find solutions together. We expect to find one or more solutions and ideas that will contribute to the transformation of the education system—not only for Armenia, but for the whole world,” said Lila Peters Yahya, Acting UN Resident Coordinator in Armenia, calling on the young people not to focus on “the what,” but rather on “the how.”
“The development of education is highly important first and foremost for the young people. It’s crucial to maintain and develop a relationship with you, dear young people, so that we can receive feedback and objectively assess the impact of this or that step, method, or toolkit,”
“In addition to identifying the problems, we will also discuss young people’s recommendations to different bodies. The problems and solutions will be presented during the Summit, and the state will develop its priorities in the field based on that,”
23-year-old Zarine Kostandyan is one of the young people participating in the consultations. During the meeting, she pointed out the problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the negative aspects of online education. “In many cases, there was no supervision—the students were present, but their cameras were turned off, and they wouldn’t participate in the class. Some would even have their books out during exams, and the teachers wouldn’t realize,” Zarine said. According to her, face to face learning is critical. She says that in-person communication between teachers and students positively affects the educational process.
“It’s a great idea. No one knows the shortcomings and problems of the educational system better than we do. We are in it; we see what is good and bad and what can be done to make it better,”
“I’ll start off by saying that I was pleased with the discussions and the fact that the adults trust the youth, ask our opinion, value it, and take it into account. I would like to highlight that unfortunately, many students and teachers did not know how to use a computer, which is why classes were often interrupted. I think younger personnel should be involved, and courses should be organized to improve digital skills,”
“Education becomes more accessible with online options, since, for example, you can sit at home, participate in informal education courses, a camp, in which other young people from different countries participate. If there was no pandemic and everything was done offline, you wouldn’t have the same opportunity to get educated in that way. Through online means, you can reach places that were once unreachable,”
“Education is a basic human right; its continuous development and adaptation to the demands and challenges of the modern world is necessary for all states and societies. Young people live in the education system every day and have a lot to say on how to reform it. It is a priority for us to discuss the problems and solutions with young people. We are moving forward with one of UNICEF’s core principles: nothing [should be decided] about young people without their participation.”