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What is ASPnet?


Background

The main purpose of UNESCO, according to its Constitution, is to contribute to peace and security by promoting the collaboration of nations through education, science and culture, in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms for the peoples of the world, regardless of race, sex, language or religion. One of the basic aims of the Organization has always been the promotion of peace and international co-operation through education. After its foundation in 1946, educators working with UNESCO produced an impressive number of new ideas and suggestions concerning the education of young people for international understanding.


In order to translate these ideas into concrete action, UNESCO launched the Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet) in 1953. As of September 2005, it includes over 7 793 educational institutions, ranging from pre-school education to teacher training in 175 countries.

Associated Schools commit to promoting the ideals of UNESCO by conducting pilot projects in favour of better preparing children and young people to meet effectively the challenges of an increasingly complex and interdependent world. The new ASPnet Strategy and Plan of Action (2004-2009) places emphasis on reinforcing the four pillars of Learning for the 21st Century (learning to know, to do, to be and to live together) and promoting quality education as outlined in the Dakar Framework of Action. ASPnet teachers and students have many opportunities to work together beyond their classrooms to develop innovative educational approaches, methods and materials from local to global levels.


Goals


ASP conducts its activities at the global level and its goals can be summarized as follows:

At the national level:
National Commissions for UNESCO and Ministries of Education establish a network of schools interested in carrying out activities and in order to improve quality education, particularly its ethical, cultural and international dimensions by developing effective teaching approaches, methods and materials. This network is designed to have a multiplier effect through the diffusion of information on results obtained so that other schools in the country can carry out similar activities. There are numerous cases where ASPnet contributes to educational reform and renewal in various Member States of UNESCO.

At the regional level:
Countries within a region often share common denominators such as language, religion and culture. To strengthen these bonds, each region of the world is encouraged to set up an educational Plan of Action, to include regional seminars and workshops for National Co-ordinators and teachers, student and teacher exchanges, and other initiatives and events, most notably "Flagship projects".


At international level:
Efforts are made to facilitate an exchange of information on ASPnet at all levels, the conduct of international flagship projects, special events, campaigns, contests and to encourage contacts and links of solidarity between participating institutions.


Study Themes

ASPnet schools are encouraged to conduct pilot projects on four main themes of study covering a wide range of interrelated sub-topics. The point of departure should be issues relevant to the student’s own environment, concerns, and aspirations. The themes presented below provide a basis which can be extended to other topics.
 

1. World concerns and the role of the United Nations system:
Select an issue of world concern such as poverty, hunger, disease, unemployment, pollution, illiteracy, cultural identity, women's issues, population, etc., and examine various facets of the problem locally, nationally and internationally. As the students search for possible solutions, the present and future role of the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies in helping to solve such issues become more concrete and visible. The observance of International and United Nations Years and Days can also help students to situate these issues with regard to their own lives, now and in the future.

2. Human rights, democracy and tolerance:

Schools often choose the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, or the Decade on Education for Human Rights (1995-2004 for example, as points of departure.. Discussions should be within the context of the students' own experiences, broadening out to encompass the rights of others, sensitizing them to their own rights but also to their duties and responsibilities. Today, many activities relating to human rights aim at eliminating all manifestations of intolerance, racism, prejudice and at strengthening education for democracy, mutual respect, civic responsibility, tolerance and non- violent conflict resolution.

3. lntercultural learning:
As societies become increasingly multicultural and multiethnic, the study of other countries and cultures can be undertaken at the local and national levels. Contact can be made with parents or students of other origins, indigenous peoples, immigrant groups and with embassies and cultural centres of other nations. Such groups and organisations are an invaluable source of information and could help to promote a better understanding and appreciation of other customs, traditions and values, by contributing to exhibitions or by providing speakers to address students about the country and its role in the UN family.

4. Environmental concern:
This theme allows students to link international issues affecting the global environment to individual, local or national realities. Within this framework, they can be encouraged to confront problems of local concern which may lead them to develop strategies for the same or similar problems at both national and international levels. Activities in this area include studies on pollution, energy, forest conservation, marine and atmospheric research, soil erosion and conservation of natural resources, desertification, the "greenhouse effect", sustainable development, recycling "Agenda 21", and ultimately on how science contributes to the future of humanity. Subsequent to reflection in the classroom, community-oriented projects are often conducted to improve immediate local needs.

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