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UNESCO Associated Schools Network: School Partnerships for Quality Education

Organization(s)

UNESCO, UNESCO National Commissions in 180 countries worldwide

Country (ies) and institutions

Cross-regional / worldwide

Overview

The UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet) involves over 9.000 educational institutions in 180 countries, making of ASPnet the world's largest and most unique network of schools. Member institutions – ranging from pre-schools, primary, secondary and vocational schools to teacher training institutions - work in support of international understanding, peace, intercultural dialogue and sustainable development in practice. They promote quality education as stated in Education-for-All (EFA) goals (especially goals 3 and 6).

Background and set-up

In 1953, it was decided to set up a Scheme of co-ordinated Experimental Activities in Schools of Member States in order to "encourage the development of education in the aims and activities of the United Nations and the Specialized Agencies and in the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." The scheme started out at the grassroots level with 33 schools in fifteen countries. Driven over five decades, by a growing number of enthusiastic and creative teachers committed to reinforcing the humanistic, cultural and international dimensions of education in view of world developments, this modest initiative has now developed into one of the world's largest and most unique networks of schools. By encouraging close links and common projects between schools from different countries and continents, ASPnet encourages South-South and North-South cooperation in education. ASPnet schools can get involved in regional and cross-regional activities and flagship projects on issues as diverse as world heritage preservation, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue. Examples of South-South or triangular cooperation include the flagship projects "Sandwatch" and the "Transatlantic Slave Trade Education Project", the solidarity campaigns "A book for a child in Haiti" and "Kizuna – messages of solidarity for Japanese schoolchildren" (see ASPnet website: www.unesco.org/education/asp). ASPnet has also set up a yearly publication series, called Collection of Good Practices, to promote outstanding practices conducted by ASPnet schools worldwide at all levels of schooling. The international issues of 2008, 2009 and a regional issue in Asia and the Pacific in 2010 feature initiatives, projects and/or policies closely related to the four main study themes of ASPnet that provide examples of practice, generate ideas and contribute to policy and curriculum development.

The partnership

ASPnet National Coordinators at country level play a vital role in managing ASPnet. They act as liaison between the schools in his/her country, the National Commission for UNESCO, UNESCO Headquarters, UNESCO Field Offices and external partners. Principals and committed teachers make ASPnet schools come alive. Therefore, countries have a strong ownership of the ASPnet coordination at their level, and many cross-regional activities are initiated by the National Coordinator or the school themselves. This entails that the scope, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of activities differs in each case. (See concrete activity examples on the attached file). ASPnet often serves as a pulse taker, sensitive to what is happening in the world and as a pace-setter, concerned to introduce new issues and topics in the classroom so that students are better-prepared to deal with the present and tomorrow's challenges. When schools engage with ASPnet, they commit themselves to activities and projects on UNESCO priorities. School leaders/responsible undertake, for example, e-twinning projects and school partnerships to exchange and learn from each other. UNESCO is involved in the collection, identification, publication and dissemination of good practices. The organization of the network is a good way to nurture mutual learning and innovation. ASPnet schools also serve as international laboratories for developing, experimenting and validating innovative educational material developed by UNESCO or its partner organizations. Tested materials can then be better adapted to the requirements of schools in different regions of the world. They are often disseminated worldwide and thus contribute to ASPnet's multiplier effect.

Lessons learned

The organizational structure of ASPnet allows for a high level of ownership of activities at country and school level. As ASPnet membership has no financial implications, commitment of stakeholders is key to the success of the network. Teachers and students of Associated Schools often speak of their pride in belonging to a worldwide UNESCO network. They feel that they "are part of the solution and not the problem". Exchanges and twinning partnerships between schools and countries deepen the knowledge and understanding of other cultures. For teachers, working and sharing experiences on joint projects with colleagues all over the world and at all levels of education is a powerful source of motivation and inspiration. For students, the opportunity to take on responsibilities and develop different skills is an excellent preparation for adult citizenship. Associated Schools improve the content of curricula at school level and develop participatory methods of teaching and learning.

Complementarity with North-South cooperation

Private sector and intergovernmental organizations, as well as UN sister Agencies and Universities (Daimler, Veolia, FAO, ILO, UNAIDS, UNCCD, UNEP, UNRWA, ISESCO, International Olympic Committee, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Melbourne, etc.) contribute(d) to the research and the development of inspiring material giving access to the beneficiaries of the Network an open-window to the major concerns of the world. For schools in developed countries, ASPnet is a unique network that offers the possibility to engage in strong North-South cooperation activities including schools worldwide.

How to share

Information is shared via: (i) the website of the ASPnet International Coordination (www.unesco.org/education/asp), (ii) regional and national websites; (iii) a regular e-newsletter; (iv) e-mails (UNESCO also sends regularly sends publications developed by ASPnet or its partners to the National Coordinators, and, in some cases, to the Associated Schools); and (v) specific forms of activities such as online consultations, meetings, conferences etc. An enhanced use of social media is currently explored.

Duration

Start Date: 1953 Ongoing (ASPnet will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2013).

Name of Primary Contact Person/s

Livia Saldari

Title of Primary Contact Person/s

ASPnet International Coordination

City and country

Paris, France

Contact Email/s

l.saldari@unesco.org

Key players

For ASPnet International Coordination, see above. For the ASPnet country contacts, see:http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images /0018/001836/183670E.pdf