300 youth discuss the role of education in diversity and inclusion
One of the main highlights of the 15th European Youth Summit ‘Celebrating Diversity’ was part of a six-month collaboration between AYUDH Europe and UNESCO MGIEP. Following the success of a similar collaboration in 2017, where AYUDH Europe were the first civil society organisation selected by UNESCO MGIEP to host an independently organised Talking Across Generations on Education (iTAGe) event, this year’s collaboration focused on the topic ‘Diversity in Europe’. Throughout the month leading up to the event, youth from all around the globe participated in an online discussion on social media surrounding four different questions on the topic.
What kind of European Society do you see today, especially in regards to diversity and inclusion?
Why should we promote a diverse society? What are the benefits? What are the risks?
How can education nurture a mindset of understanding and openness and foster a society based on the values of respect and inclusion?
Who is responsible to promote diversity and inclusion in Europe? Is it the governments, educational institutions, media, civil society, or the individual? What can youth organisations like AYUDH contribute in this respect?
On July 19th, 300 youth from across Europe gathered for the official iTAGe discussion. Following Director of AYUDH Europe, Andreas Nath Hirsch’s welcoming address, the opening remarks were spoken by Dr. Jens Zimmermann, MP for Germany:
“In initiatives like these you start talking about your own personal experiences from your hometown, your village, your country, and you realise a lot of similarities, but also a lot of differences. It’s great to bring these experiences together and to come home with new ideas. I hope this week you have a lot of new ideas and experiences and you broaden your perspective.”
Following Dr. Zimmermann’s opening remarks, the 300 attending participants were split into four groups to further explore the four questions, including the outcomes from the online discussions. Selected youth panelists took notes during the discussions in each subgroup; Layana Bormanis, 18 from Germany, Gwenoline Bertrand, 20 from France, Pablo Banqueri Cardona, 24 from Spain, and Arjun Clare, 19 from the UK. These youth panelists then relayed the outputs from their group during the formal discussion panel with 3 senior expert, Bri. Dipamrita, President of Embracing the World France, Dr. Joost Mönks, Executive Director of NORRAG (Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training), and Niklas Nienass, newly elected Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Germany.
This formal discussion was moderated by Jani Toivola, former MP for Finland. Before opening the dialogue, he remarked:
“As a community we should always remember that as many as there are people in the room, there are different kinds of stories. Different ways of living, different kinds of values, different kinds of mindsets, different kinds of talents. Everybody has something to offer.”
The discussion proceeded sequentially with the four questions. First, Layana presented the outcome from her group where people felt that although we have created a strong and diverse community in Europe, there is still work to be done:
“Governments should focus funding efforts more on non-formal learning opportunities. Teaching soft skills and learning more than basic knowledge will promote diversity and inclusion in society.”
In agreement with this point, Niklas Nienass, MEP for Germany, appreciated that there are different styles of learning, and that the current education systems need updating and diversifying so that everyone may learn in a way which best suits them. He also spoke about the role young people have in bringing things to the attention of governments and media:
“All of you have a lot of power by just talking to people, being kind to people, and including them in discussions. It’s a hard thing to do but it will bring fruits of success in the long term.”
Next Gwenoline presented the findings of the second group, who came to the conclusion that diversity is our natural state as human beings, and this is one of our greatest strengths. Their findings however came with a warning:
“Diversity is freedom, so we should be really careful of not forcing it. Freedom should not be forced.”
Bri. Dipamrita, President of Embracing the World France, furthered the idea that diversity is simply a fact, and concluded the lack of acceptance of diversity stems from a lack of acceptance within ourselves:
“Inside of us we are all diverse, but not unified. Outside we express insecurity and fear of diversity, because it sends us back to a diversity inside us that we don’t accept. Each time we reject somebody we can be sure there is something inside ourselves that we don’t accept.”
When speaking about the third group’s findings on the role of education in fostering openness in society, Pablo spoke about education systems sometimes being disconnected from reality. They concluded that the key to the success of education however, is down to teachers:
“Teachers have a huge responsibility towards the values that we learn. If teachers promote ethical values it can determine the whole life path of somebody. We need to think about what are the values we want set up for our European education system.”
Dr. Joost Mönks, Executive Director of NORRAG, was in agreement with their verdict, commenting “if a teacher doesn’t really love teaching, how can they convey love of learning?”. He spoke about the need for schools to adapt a ‘head, heart, hands’ approach to education, using Amrita University, India as an example:
“The work Amrita University do is geared towards reaching out through education to the most vulnerable in society, to give them the basic skills to stand up. Amma’s university that she has built is an example of compassion in action, and of trying to make a difference with compassion. We have to bring this love and heart into education.”
The final group’s results from their dialogue on who is responsible for the promotion of diversity in Europe was presented by Arjun. According to his discussion group, although institutions and people at all levels in society have a shared responsibility, it is primarily down to the government and individuals themselves. In particular, it was thought that governments have a big responsibility to put pressure on educational institutions to instill these values in their students:
“There is a particular capacity for young people, particularly the very young, to learn and to adapt to new ways of thinking and so encouraging these values within education can be a very powerful method of promoting diversity and inclusion.”
To conclude the event, closing remarks were delivered by Katharina Erbes, Programme Officer at JUGEND für Europa, who spoke about her amazement at what participating youth had managed to achieve during the course of one week at the European Youth Summit:
“You are here together to celebrate diversity. You have learned a lot about it but you have also lived it here, and that is much more valuable in my opinion.”
An outcome document from this event entitled ‘Statement on Cultural Diversity’ was publicly released at UNESCO MGIEP’s World Youth Conference on Kindness, in New Delhi India, where the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi will be marked and is available to read here. Three members of AYUDH Europe, Sarah Keil (Germany), Aiknaath Jain (UK), and Andrea Goikolea (Spain) were selected to represent AYUDH Europe at the conference in New Delhi. Consequently, the outcome document will be disseminated widely at multiple levels, to local, national and international policy and decision makers.
AYUDH Europe and UNESCO MGIEP’s collaboration will continue into the future. As part of the Kindness Matters for the SDGs campaign, AYUDH Europe is implementing ten local activities in support of the SDGs across Europe in 2019. Twenty personal stories of AYUDH members will be contributed to the campaign’s digital platform.
The European Youth Summit ‘Celebrating Diversity’ was supported by the European Union, the State of Hessen and UNESCO MGIEP and was carried out in partnership with Embracing the World and the No Hate Speech Movement.