9 November 2023
UNESCO supported dialogue on the futures of education in the Arab region at a forum entitled "The Future of Education and Human Rights Education in the Arab Region: Towards a New Social Contract” organized in Cairo 18-19 October 2023.
The event took inspiration from the 2021 report of the International Commission on the Futures of Education, with the aim of developing a shared vision of a new social contract for education in the region. It was co-organized by the Arab Network for National Human Rights Institutions, the Arab Institute for Human Rights, the League of Arab States, the Office of the United Nations High, the Commissioner for Human Rights, the National Council for Human Rights in Egypt, and UNESCO.
Some 150 participants – representatives of ministries of education, regional experts and representatives of regional and international organizations – joined the Arab Regional Dialogue Forum to explore particular challenges facing the Arab region. The forum particularly focused on the integration of human rights education in pedagogical approaches and in the management of educational institutions, with the overall objective of outlining a new social contract for education in the Arab region. The event took place against the backdrop of the tragic developments in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Research Specialist from UNESCO’s Future of Learning and Innovation Division, Elena Toukan, outlined the main principles and recommendations in the “Reimagining our Futures Together: a new social contract for education” report. She highlighted that “reimagining education depends on building a new social contract for education that can repair past injustices while transforming the future. It requires a reinvestment and a recommitment to those shared principles that will lead us towards sustainable, peaceful, and just futures – centering the right to education as a common good and a shared endeavor. This involves examining how learning is organized – the design of our education systems, how we organize schools, universities and all the places and times that educational opportunities are present.”
In addition to presenting the content of the report, Dr. Toukan also shared how its messages have been taken up worldwide since its release two years ago. The report has been officially translated into over 15 languages, sparking national and regional-level dialogue. The Futures of Education Report has been a key reference for high-level education policy fora, including the 2022 Transforming Education Summit at the UN, over 120 policy and/or research events organized around the world, and has inspired new avenues for research proposals and dialogue in schools and universities around the world.
Human rights: A pathway for renewing the social contract for education
On the first day of the forum, several plenary sessions addressed important topics related to education, the role of educational institutions, and their contribution to enhancing human rights education within curricula, ensuring justice and equality for all. It featured presentations from each of the 16 countries represented, including Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Tunisia. The participation of civil society organizations alongside ministry representatives, enriched and widened dialogue on numerous dimensions of education, including lifelong learning, gender equality, education in refugee contexts, and the impacts of conflict and climate change. The Second day was dedicated to working group sessions, presenting over a dozen working papers on crucial issues for the futures of education. Rapporteurs in each session consolidated ideas, presenting a collection of 22 key recommendations arising from the two days of dialogue involving all of the Forum’s participants.
This forum built on an earlier regional seminar "The Futures of Education in the Arab Countries: Policies, Approaches, and Directions for Action” organized in May 2022 by the Arab Institute for Human Rights, and which was followed by a series of regional consultations on the futures of education to conceptualize a new social contract for education in Arab countries. This latest Forum is a key milestone for regional stakeholders to deepen dialogue on the integration of human rights education, as an integral part of renewing the social contract for education adapted to needs within the Arab States region.