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UNICEF: Education experts meet on Child-Friendly Schools

GENEVA, 28 April 2009 – Education experts from Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS) are meeting this week in Geneva to discuss what it takes to make a school child-friendly. This meeting, one of a series being held in each region of the world, is part of UNICEF efforts to ensure a quality education for all girls and boys that would prepare them for success in societies that have undergone profound political, economic and social change in recent years.

Child friendly schools, as a philosophy and operational model, addresses the needs of the whole child, including the most challenging issues affecting the future well being of children and their communities. Within Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, the major areas of concern include discrimination, migration and the future of young people in the emerging market-based economies of the region.

“Quality education is not just about learning mathematics, science and language and so on,” said UNICEF’s Global Education Chief, Dr. Cream Wright during Monday’s session. “A child needs to acquire a variety of skills for success in life, especially when so many profound changes are taking place in their society,” he added.

While the CEE/CIS region has made good progress in providing access on an equitable basis to all children as well as in quality schooling and
learning achievement, the region now faces new challenges as a result of the major changes countries have undergone since the early 1990s.

“A good quality education not only grounds young people in the reality of their own changing environment, but also equips them to imagine the future beyond that immediate reality and be able to cope with it,” he added.

The global programme is designed to provide practical guidance on mainstreaming of child friendly schools within education systems. It
provides practitioners with a set of information and tools to create and strengthen child-friendly learning environments for all children in all circumstances. The regional workshops are a major step in assisting governments to strengthen national capacity in creating child-friendly standards.

Throughout the week experts are deliberating on the importance of child-centred classroom practices and school environments that are: safe and protective of children; encourage democratic participation and enhance learning. Participants are discussing schools as learning communities including creating a school ethos conducive to creativity and self expression, as well as links between schools and the communities they serve. The issue of overall role of government in facilitating quality standards based on child friendly schools principles will also be explored during the meeting.

“The next step and biggest challenge for countries is to take the many pilot projects and begin to scale-up and mainstream,” said Philippe
Testot-Ferry, Regional Education Adviser for CEE/CIS. Within a short space of time 12 out of the 17 countries in the region have embraced the CFS model as an overall concept and framework for improving quality of education.

Workshop participants include 60 representatives from UNICEF Country Offices, government officials and partners from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Turkey and Uzbekistan.  The CFS Manual, which gives guidelines for decision makers, planners and education practitioners, has been made available to participants in both English and Russian.

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UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:

Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media, Tel:  ++ 1 212 326 7452 e-mail: kdonovan@unicef.org




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