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Learning to Live Together

New Study Finds ‘Learning to Live Together’ a ‘Realistic Dream in Asia-Pacific Education’

BANGKOK, 28 APRIL, 2014 – What are countries doing to promote peace through education systems in the Asia-Pacific region?

A new UNESCO report suggests that many have been trying to move away from solely focusing on “hard skills” to an education that imparts empathy, tolerance, and respect of other cultures. The extent to which these values and attitudes are being embedded in teaching processes and learning assessments varies.

The report, “Learning to Live Together: Education Policies and Realities in the Asia-Pacific”, will be launched on 29 April at 6.30pm at the Imperial Queen's Park Hotel (Queen’s Park 3, Second Floor) in Bangkok, Thailand.

Dr Gwang-Jo Kim, Director of UNESCO Bangkok, will officially launch the publication. The release will coincide with the “Regional Technical Feedback Workshop: National Educational For All 2015 Reviews in Asia-Pacific” under way at the hotel (29-30 April), being conducted ahead of the presentation of national EFA country reports in August.

The publication examines how 10 countries – Afghanistan, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, The Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka and Thailand – are using education as a vehicle to promote peace and mutual understanding.

UNESCO has been advocating for countries to embrace the concept of “Learning to Live Together” (LTLT) in education since 1996.

UNESCO Bangkok Director Dr Kim spoke of the importance of the LTLT approach.

“We are living in a world where rapid development is taking place, which has generated a growing gap and disparities between different groups within and among countries, leading to heightened tensions,” he said. “This is a strong reason for us to promote the notion of LTLT and to operationalize it – and this starts with education. “In today’s world, no individual, community, group, society or country can be self-sufficient. For all these reasons, we must signal the importance of LTLT.”

In this spirit, the study examines how countries are pursuing the LTLT vision through their education systems, both to promote understanding among groups within their own borders as well as among other countries – an especially pertinent theme in this region with the looming onset of the ASEAN Economic Community and increasing regional cooperation.

The report shows that the 10 countries studied have incorporated the concept of LTLT into their education policy and curriculum frameworks to varying degrees, giving weight to areas such as peace, human rights, gender equality and the environment.

Thailand and other countries such as the Philippines that have recently undergone curriculum reforms have incorporated LTLT-related competencies. In countries such as Sri Lanka and Australia, these concepts are explicitly included as part of the national education agenda.

Mr Gwang-Chol Chang, Chief of UNESCO Bangkok’s Education Policy and Reform Unit, says that the overall message of the report is positive – countries are increasingly embracing LTLT – but it also illustrates the extent of the work yet to be done.

“What this research shows us is how this dream of ‘Learning to Live Together’ can actually become a reality in practice. We can see a shift in some countries that have recently reformed their curriculum to focus more on so-called ‘soft skills’ in the social and emotional domains,” Mr Chang said.

“At the same time, the subjects that are well placed to convey this concept of LTLT – history, social science or physical education for instance – are often allocated the least time in class as opposed to other subjects. There is need to broaden the purpose of education beyond the areas confined by reading, maths and science. Teachers also need more time to prepare interactive and creative lessons which can promote teamwork and good communication among students.”

The report aims to inform policy-makers and those on the front lines on how to steer education systems toward the promotion of more peaceful, just and equitable societies.

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