Adolescent engagement and 21st century skills
We work to help teens develop the skills they need to adapt to the various challenges they may face in the future
In Belarus, school graduates do not always have the skills they need to overcome the challenges of the 21st century. Today's education system was created in the 19th century, and it does not fit into the 21st century. It has a teacher, a classroom, an audience, a specific curriculum, and memorization of the taught material. This system has become obsolete: we can find all the necessary information with a few finger movements.
The purpose of education should be different: to give young people the skills that will help them develop themselves and lead others. It should develop the skills that will help them adapt to various challenges and problems they may face in the future.
Children and young people need to develop educational, life and career skills, learn how to leverage digitalization, media and financial literacy, and participate in public discussions.
About 300 public youth associations are registered in Belarus with over 600,000 members. However, many activities involving children are supervised by adults and do not help develop adolescents' ability to think critically or to define their own activities.
We work to help adolescents develop the skills they need to adapt to various challenges they may face in the future. We cannot predict what the future holds for us. However, we can help adolescents develop their self-confidence, creativity, optimism, and teamwork skills. These qualities will help young people adapt to any environment.
We have been developing cooperation with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, as well as with the private sector, to reform the educational system in Belarus and to adapt the methodology to the realities of the 21st century, including the wider use of digital technologies.
We have been implementing the UPSHIFT international program for adolescents and young adults since 2019; the program helps adolescents and young adults develop social entrepreneurship skills. UPSHIFT teaches young people and adolescents how to identify, study and understand challenges in their local communities and how to develop effective solutions in the form of products or services. This initiative combines social innovation training, mentoring and grants provided to useful projects.
We create free online courses containing useful information about volunteering, gender issues, activism and much more on U-platform.by.
We believe that not only public organizations and government institutions, but also teenagers should engage in creating programs for the future. Therefore, we help involve adolescents and young people in social activity, including youth parliaments and the Child and Adolescent Friendly Cities platform, and other forms of participation.
Child and Adolescent Friendly Cities (CAFCs) is a concept of local governance in which city authorities, institutions and public organizations implement key provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in cities and districts.
Adolescent Friendly Centers (AFCs) operate in such cities; in the centers, young people can get free and anonymous help from medical professionals: a pediatrician, a gynecologist, a valeologist (a specialist who deals with the issues of a healthy lifestyle, nutrition, hardening), a psychologist.
There are youth parliaments in these cities: associations of adolescents and youth aged 13-19 years, which are established to address their challenges. Youth parliaments differ from interest clubs, because the parliaments are associated with local governments. Being self-governing bodies, youth parliaments allow teenagers to speak about their challenges so that they can be heard by adults who make decisions at the level of the city or region.
We believe young people should be able to speak about their concerns openly. And they should address their challenges together with adults.
- More than 200 teenagers have participated in the UPSHIFT social innovation program. As a result, young people have developed 45 projects. 15 projects were financially supported and implemented.
In 2021, we integrated the UPSHIFT social innovation program into the additional education system of Belarus so that young people develop skills for the 21st century (communication, cooperation, critical thinking, etc.). Now it is a “club activity”. After all, it is important to learn not only how to dance, sing, model clay or draw. It is also important to be able to analyze information, identify challenges and be able to address them.
- We have created U-platform.by where you can learn about youth activities and UNICEF volunteering opportunities. 7 educational courses for adolescents and 4 educational courses for youth workers have been uploaded on the platform in a pilot mode.
- 30 Belarusian cities have joined the Child and Adolescent Friendly Cities initiative.
- There are 56 adolescent/youth parliaments and councils in Belarus today.