WHC Session Ongoing | Side event themed “World Heritage Education towards a Sustainable Future” held in Fuzhou

2021-07-19 17:09:00

A side event themed “World Heritage Education Towards a Sustainable Future”, co-hosted by Ministry of Education of the PRC and the UNESCO, was held in Fuzhou on July 17 in a hybrid online and offline format. 

Participants of the side event pointed out that China is an advocate and actor in the field of World Heritage education. The country has included World Heritage education into its overall national plan for educational development and teaching systems of various schools at different levels, and has fostered concepts and practices of World Heritage education with Chinese characteristics: first, China has made World Heritage education an important carrier to promote comprehensive development of students, and worked to include knowledge about World Heritage and awareness of World Heritage protection into curriculum and textbooks; second, China has taken World Heritage education as an important way to promote social practices for students and paid attention to combining school teaching and extracurricular practice in World Heritage education; third, China has been active in training high-caliber professionals who love World Heritage and devote themselves to the protection of it; fourth, China has made World Heritage education an important realm for international educational exchanges and cooperation.

To promote World Heritage education towards a sustainable future, we need to attach greater importance to new challenges faced by World Heritage protection, vigorously promote values shared by humanity such as peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom, and cultivate more most sought-after professionals in World Heritage protection. We also need to pay closer attention to the new trends in educational development, keep in line with the realities of World Heritage protection and the needs of the people in the process of establishing a lifetime learning system, work hard to provide rich and diversified services in World Heritage education, and urge the whole society to make concerted efforts to protect World Heritage. In addition, we need to provide targeted guidance and education for juveniles according to their characteristics so as to train future leaders, protectors and inheritors in World Heritage protection. 

Ministerial representatives from the Ministries of Education of countries including Egypt, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Namibia, Thailand, and Tanzania, as well as ambassadors to the UNESCO of various countries and officials from the UNESCO World Heritage Center, introduced their outstanding practices and experience at the event. Experts and scholars from China and beyond also shared some typical cases related to World Heritage education. 

As an integral part of the extended 44th session of the World Heritage Committee, the side event serves as a significant platform for policy dialogue and experience sharing in the field of World Heritage education. Nearly 200 representatives, including officials of the UNESCO, ministers from various countries, leaders of Fujian Province, and experts and scholars from China and abroad, attended the event. 

High-level dialogue: let youth play their role in World Heritage protection

The changing dynamics of COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges and uncertainties to the cause of World Heritage. In such context, topics concerning youth and education drew particular attention. During the meeting, experts and representatives from the UNESCO headquarters, relevant international organizations, and Ministries of Education of various countries shared their views on the theme of the side event. 

Shafqat Mahmood, Federal Minister for Education, Professional Training and Heritage of Pakistan noted that as World Heritage protection faces a number of challenges today, we need to let young people understand the importance of World Heritage protection, inspire them to participate and give full play to their role, so as to safeguard the precious heritage of humanity. 

Faustina N. Caley, Deputy Minister of Education, Arts and Culture of Namibia,    said that the future of World Heritage is in the hands of youth, so we need to let young people have the ability to take the heavy responsibility as leaders in the future, help their countries achieve goals in social, economic and environmental development, and promote sustainable development. 

The organizer of the side event pointed out that youth represent the future of World Heritage, so particular attention was paid to topics concerning youth and education, with an aim to create an important international exchange platform for all parties to jointly draw a blueprint for World Heritage education. The event played a role in building on the past and breaking new grounds for the future, and it was crucial for all parties to reach new consensus on World Heritage education towards a sustainable future and scale new heights of World Heritage education. 

Typical cases: promoting global cooperation and exchanges through case sharing 

During the international case sharing, experts introduced the latest cases and important experience in World Heritage education.  

“In recent years, with the rapid development of internet technology, more and more innovators have made their presence in the field of World Heritage education, fueling the changes of the contents and methods for World Heritage education and breaking the boundary of existing models,” said Li Xin, Deputy Secretary General of the World Heritage Institute of Training and Research for the Asia and the Pacific Region under the auspices of UNESCO. “At the same time, the emergence of a series of cross-industry cooperation and innovation models heralds that a systematic revolution is just around the corner.” He shared 10 excellent international cases selected from five continents around the world and summed up the traits that future World Heritage education should have. 

Li particularly elaborated on the case about how the mining basin of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region in France restored its value. “After centuries of exploitation, abandoned mines once made Nord-Pas-de-Calais the most polluted region in France.” He added that the situation had changed thanks to local people’s persistent efforts. Organized by professional teams, local residents created stories about the “Little Ugly Mine” and revived its past glory through World Heritage creative activities. Through innovative community participation, they continue exploring new values of the mining industry. 

Fuzhou experience: bringing cultural heritage education into classrooms 

Education and cultural heritage protection are both lofty causes that can benefit both current and future generations. Cultural heritage protection requires particular attention from educational professionals. In recent years, thanks to the care and support of the CPC Provincial Committee and the Provincial Government of Fujian, Fuzhou has been actively explored and practiced cultural heritage protection, yielding remarkable results. 

In recent years, Fuzhou has attached great importance to publicizing cultural heritage education. By hosting World Heritage lectures, photo exhibitions and folklore performances, Fuzhou strives to bring to life the cultural and natural heritage sites across the city. Fuzhou places priority on building relevant educational systems and promote the inheritance of 28 intangible cultural heritage items such as Fujian Opera and Fuzhou Storytelling in 82 relevant primary and secondary schools, attracting 180,000 students to participate each year. The city is also committed to creating research-education-practice platforms. So far, Fuzhou has built 40 research-education-practice bases and carried out a series of research and educational activities and thematic events such as “Bringing Memories of Fuzhou Ancient Houses Back Home”.