Friday, October 28, 2011

7th UNESCO Youth Forum Day 3

Education should be recognized as a basic human right.

“All youths should have access to education through non-discriminatory channels that does not privilege any particular community.”

This was a strong sentiment, particularly felt by most of the ASEAN delegates. As it was realized after some exchanges, that language barriers were often the main limitations that prevents educational programs developed in one country to be effectively and efficiently imported into another.
To address this concern, I presented the opinion during the education debate, that all youths should be equipped with a common language (Such as English), so that they may benefit from cross-boundaries educational resources that can be increasingly found online. Many passionate change-makers have recently utilize innovative ways of presenting educational tools on web sources, such as uploading of tutoring videos on YouTube as a free source for teaching Math, Sciences or even instructions in utilizing different software programs such as Photoshop, Excel and many others. Thus, if a common language is taught in all countries, particularly in rural areas, then everyone in pursuit of education may have equal access to such resources.

Beside this issue, many others were discussed, such as:

  1. More opportunity for self-employment or employment in general.
It was at this debate that I learnt the difficulties of incorporating a start-up in many other countries. Unlike Singapore, where incorporation is just a few clicks, a few days of waiting and $300-$600 application fee away from owning your own business, many countries requires encumbering documentation requirements and many other restrictions. As such, for a economy to benefit from job creations as a result of entrepreneurship, process for incorporation needs to be improved, so that everyone will have equal opportunities to set-up their own enterprises.

Entrepreneurship provides benefits of new innovations, more jobs and the solving of community problems through innovative or creative means. Nevertheless, an entrepreneurship culture needs to be nurtured and created. It cannot be bought or simply built within just a few years as there are multiple factors to develop before the whole system become self-sustaining and thriving. Hence, as a start, we need to allow wide-spread communities to have equal access to the opportunities of entrepreneurship, and that youths are taught from young (Even when they are just children), to be able to think creatively and innovatively, and at much larger scale and ambition.

It is incorrect to assume that the poor, uneducated, or in anyway disadvantaged individuals, cannot become entrepreneurs. It is in fact, often observed from various micro-finance projects and social initiatives which I have came across, that the desire, hunger and drive to become financially independent is much greater in these communities, than the educated community in Singapore. All it really takes are the empowerment of these individuals with the confidence in their own abilities and self-esteem, and equip them with additional skills and support, so to enable them to achieve entrepreneurial successes.

  1. Desire for innovation
As discussed on the importance of entrepreneurship, a creative and innovative culture is often found necessary for society as a whole to continuously seek improvements in much aspect of our lives. From the way we do think to the way we cook/eat, from the way we play to the way we study, from the way we travel to the way we communicate with one another, innovation has increasingly found much more efficient and effective ways of doing the same things.

These attitudes and skills can also be transferred to solving social problems. Through comprehension on problems, ideation, rapid prototyping, and constant evaluations, solutions can be designed to innovatively solve the problems of the world.

Therefore, all government, VWOS, NGOs, private companies, and individuals should take steps to explore such areas of innovation and entrepreneurship to collectively solve the social issues we see around us.

  1. Broad base curriculum
With increasingly uncertainty in the world, due to rapidly changing demands and needs of the market, youths are increasingly finding difficulty in being equipped with relevant skills and expertise that are demanded in the job market.

This is perhaps contradictory to the powers of innovation and globalization, as they have created an increasingly competitive and rapidly evolving society. However, as discussed, such progress is useful and I would suggest, perhaps even needed, particularly in the solving of various social problems which persistently exist in our society.

To counteract these negative trends, youths and children should be equipped with both soft-skills and different technical-skills/expertise. This enables them to be equipped with a broad base of expertise, and the soft-skills that are transferrable from one industry to another.

In addition, youths and children should increasingly be taught “How to learn”, rather than “What to learn”, so that they become adaptable and versatile value-added members of society.

  1. Practicality of education and Early Internship opportunities
As the world rapidly evolves, practicality of education is important, so to ensure that youths learn what is actually “useful” when they graduate from school.

This can be enabled by facilitating early internship opportunities or encourage youths to explore the market needs by themselves, and help them facilitate adequate decision-making on what fields of expertise to acquire.

The benefits of early internship opportunities will also present mentorship opportunities to those youths who find the chance to build relationships with seniors in the industry, and benefit from their guidance and coaching of practical skills, rather than simply learning from the books.

Many other issues which existed in other countries were also learnt during this forum. To prevent the report from being too extensive, I would simply summarize these lessons into the pointers listed below:

  1. Key challenges of youth employment
    1. Lack of internship opportunities in all fields of work; Including political positions in some countries
    2. Not every school in the world teaches entrepreneurship
    3. Networking opportunities are found lacking in some countries
    4. Incentive for youth employment may perhaps be needed; Especially in welfare states
    5. Capacity building is required
  1. Proposed ideas to help tackle youth unemployment
    1. Consistent training and growth opportunities in companies
    2. Train and integrate youths into the senior workforce
    3. Provide equal advantages and opportunities to all communities (Particularly to vulnerable youths – which includes youth-at-risk, physically handi-cappable, etc)
    4. Use of technology and access to technology in rural education
    5. Basic literacy skills, character building (Life-skills) and financial literacy to be taught to everyone!
    6. For urban communities; Funding from government and community support, to encourage youths to travel to less advantageous societies, to transfer knowledge and skills (English, Financial literacy and civil/community literacy)
    7. Counseling and mentorship programs

  2.  Response from panelist
    1. Education, computer literacy and financial literacy should be brought online
    2. We should be job creators rather than job seekers
    3. Countries to implement second chance programs
    4. Increase relevance of education
    5. Act with governments to enhance technical training
    6. Ensure that all youths’ voices are heard
    7. Importance of non-formal education
    8. Teachers needs to be selected and trained

    1. Conclusive statements by the panelist
      1. We need to understand the society around the world, to be able to create an impact.
      2. We need to first change ourselves, and then be engaged in change. Know yourself, then know the world.
      3. Take action though
                                                                  i.      Consumer choices – Your purchase options are votes to which organization should continue to exist
                                                                ii.      Promote ethical values and behaviors
                                                              iii.      Build relationships with others; learn to empathize
      1. How to change the education system?
                                                                  i.      First, define the world and the vision you will like to see
                                                                ii.      Next, enable youths to be more active in acquiring knowledge

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