31 August 2022
How to transform the education system to meet the needs of a changing world? National Consultations for UN Transforming Education Summit Took Place in Minsk
The UN in Belarus supported the process of national consultations in preparation for the Summit. Under the leadership of the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator and UNICEF in Belarus, focus group discussions and national round table were held in August in preparation for the Transforming Education Summit.
As a result of engagement with the children, students, teachers, parents and government officials, the following priorities for transforming education in Belarus were agreed:
To ensure an Inclusive, Equitable, Safe and Healthy Schools:
ensuring an adequate security of educational institutions,
upgrading the existing PE and sports facilities,
combating juvenile crime,
implementing comprehensively the principle of inclusion in education that ensures equal access to education for all regardless of their individual potential and needs,
enhancing capacity in the field of vocational education for people with special needs,
creating a barrier-free environment,
ensuring effective socialization of young people in difficult straits.
Under the thematic area of action Learning and Skills for Life, Work and Sustainable Development:
building students' competencies and skills needed for inventive and business activities,
creating innovative products,
developing brand new educational standards in line with economic and social development trends,
developing innovative infrastructure of university science,
improving efficiency of research activities in higher education institutions,
providing career guidance counseling based on the introduction of new professions most relevant in the context of sustainable development and green economy,
developing youth business activities including via support of youth start-ups and volunteer activities and intensifying efforts to identify and support gifted children and youth.
To foster Digital Training and Transformation the following efforts are needed:
integrating comprehensively information and communication technologies in the educational process and activities of all types of educational institutions,
developing subject-specific interactive laboratories,
using actively the elements of gamification for the educational process intensification,
improving teachers and educators’ digital competencies;
developing innovative educational digital products,
upgrading computer equipment in educational institutions,
establishing innovative learning classes and robotic centres in general secondary education institutions.
Transforming education requires also reform of Teachers, Teaching and Teaching Profession, and namely:
mainstreaming digital, psycho-pedagogical and socio-emotional skills of teachers,
improving teachers’ professional training and advanced studies,
building universities’ workforce capacity,
rejuvenating and improving professional development of the faculty members,
increasing wages for the teaching staff.
On the Education Funding issue, the following priorities were identified:
promoting economic independence of educational institutions,
enhancing independence of educational institutions both in planning and managing budget funds,
developing innovative financing and expanding fiscal space.
The above outcomes of national consultations were discussed at a roundtable on Transforming Education which took place on 15 August 2022 in Minsk.
The meeting brought together Belarusian Minister of Education Andrei Ivanets, UN Resident Coordinator in Belarus Joanna Kazana-Wisniowiecki, Representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Belarus Tanja Radocaj, other UN agencies, representatives of the Ministry of Education, Maxim Tank Belarusian State Pedagogical University (BSPU), BSPU Coordination Centre of Education for Sustainable Development, Institute of Inclusive Education and NGOs and other educational institutions, as well as students and teachers.
The roundtable participants discussed the report on “The National education system: achievements, challenges, future development.” They also reviewed the proposals and comments on the following thematic clusters: Inclusive, Equitable, Safe and Healthy Schools; Learning and Skills for Life, Work and Sustainable Development; Digital Training and Transformation; Teachers, Teaching and Teaching Profession; and Education Funding.
In his speech Minister of Education Andrei Ivanets said, citing the National Strategy for Sustainable Socio-Economic Development for the period until 2030 (NSDS-2030), that the Belarusian educational system is characterized by such traits as accessibility, high standards and inclusion.
"Today we see that wherever our young people live, be it a village, a small district, or a regional district centre, they should be provided with equal access to quality education. As of today, our country ranks 17th out of 163 countries by access to basic knowledge indicator in the Social Progress Global Index.
The Minister of Education also emphasized the importance of inclusive education as an aspect of the Belarusian educational system.
"Today, 43 thousand children with special needs will receive education in our institutions, primarily on terms of integration. This is to say that today we are nurturing a culture of inclusive society. We say that our society, teachers and youth in general are ready to accept children with special needs in their communities," said Andrei Ivanets.
Speaking during the national consultations, the UN Resident Coordinator in Belarus Joanna Kazana-Wisniowiecki stressed that by convening the Summit, the UN and its member states are collectively recognizing that education is key as foundation for peace, tolerance, human rights and sustainable development.
"The UN in Belarus is glad to contribute to the process of national consultations which have been advanced in over 100 countries. We hope that building on the high level of education in Belarus and on the strong focus on education in the national priorities, this national consultation will help strengthen the shared vision, commitment and alignment of action across constituencies to transform education," said the UN Resident Coordinator in Belarus.
Joanna Kazana-Wisniowiecki also added that public engagement and mobilization efforts around the Summit have sought to democratize dialogue around education and to grow a global movement for education transformation.
"As UN, we will continue to do our part to make sure that, in addition to education sector officials, the voice of parents, children and teachers as well as independent education experts is heard on the national and global level," she said.
Speaking at the roundtable meeting, UNICEF Representative in Belarus Tanja Radocaj stressed that educational systems worldwide are in crisis because they are behind the times and change very slowly, while the reality changes much faster.
"Children, who go to school today, don't know the world without the Internet, artificial intelligence and social networks," UNICEF Representative in Belarus noted.
As Tanja Radocaj said, children, who have been born this year, will live in the 22nd century.
"Although biologically children remain children, their perception of the world is significantly different, and they learn better and not like their parents and grandparents. Belarusian children have told us that they want and can contribute to improvement of educational process and outcomes, they can tell us what skills they need and what makes learning interesting for them. They also see gaps in teachers' education and skills," the UNICEF Representative in Belarus said.
Preparations of the Republic of Belarus for the Transforming Education Summit consisted of several stages. In particular, in summer 2022 Belarus held a scientific and practical conference "Education for the Future", two online conferences with participation of parents and public discussion of education development involving adolescents and young people.
The roundtable meeting at the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics was the final event of the national consultations in the lead up to the UN Summit that gathered together many stakeholders, including representatives of ministries, scientists, educators, the private sector, and teenagers.
The UN Country Team representatives became the official partners of the National Consultations. Organization of the National Consultation process was supported by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Belarus.