【IN FOCUS】Education, a ladder to the future

2024-01-24 14:54:18

Education is both a human right and a public responsibility.

On December 3rd, 2018, the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution designating January 24th as the International Day of Education.

The resolution recognizes the importance of education to achieving sustainable development, noting in particular that education can increase individual productivity and economic growth potential, help to eliminate poverty and hunger, promote health improvements and enhance gender equality.

Therefore, efforts must be made to ensure inclusion and equity in all educational institutions, including primary, secondary, universities and vocational training, so that all people have the opportunity to learn throughout their lives and to contribute to sustainable development.

This issue of "In Focus" selects five urban innovation cases recognized by the Guangzhou Award to show the efforts of cities around the world in caring for children and improving education.


Jakarta, Indonesia

Reclaiming spaces for children using public transportation through the Navi Station initiative

In Indonesia, new public transport systems such as metro and light rail are developing rapidly, so it is crucial to prepare the next generation for safe and ethical use of rail-based public transportation. This requires the development of a new tool to help improve children's knowledge and awareness of relevant knowledge and safety norms.

This initiative in Jakarta aims to prepare the next generation to make safe use of rail-based public transportation. It has created a toolkit for children aged between 5 and 7 years that focuses on train station literacy. The toolkit uses toys like bricks, activity books, playmats and papercraft using rail transport logos and mascots. The content and approach of the toolkit are validated by pre-school teachers and comprehensive evaluation is through pre-tests, post-tests and edu-visits (observation). 

There is a pentahelix multi-stakeholder engagement between the Bandung Institute of Technology, the Jakarta Transportation Authority, rail operators, SMEs, and the School/Community. The Ministry of Education is also involved in the adoption of the initiative. The initiative is a good example of promoting universal accessibility to public facilities, including transportation, by empowering children to navigate train stations.

Rotterdam, Netherlands

"Growing up healthy in Rotterdam Beverwaarda multiannual action-research to improve the lifestyle of children and their families"

Rotterdam has noticed an increase in socioeconomic inequalities between residents in different parts of the city. There seems to be a clear correlation between the health status of citizens and their neighbourhoods. Especially welfare diseases like obesity are increasing, also among children. The present approaches to tackle this problem tend to be mono-functional and lifestyle driven whereas the households are characterized by multiple problems.

The initiative “Growing up healthy in Rotterdam Beverwaard” is trying to understand this complex context and develop interventions focusing on the improvement of the (experienced) health of children and their families, on the scale of a neighbourhood.

Over the course of 3 years, almost 60 children and their families were closely followed to gather quantitative and qualitative data, through different methods of action research. A family coach was introduced to bridge the gap between the families, the health care professionals and the school. A specially designed lesson program was implemented at school to teach children about positive health and support them in developing their talents.

Menashe, Israel

Education towards Coexistence between Israeli Jews and Arabs

The Wadi Ara area is populated mainly by Arab towns and villages, with a few Jewish villages (Kibbutzim and Moshavim) among them. The education systems are separate, so the children of the area do not know each other, and learn very little of the culture, geography and historical narrative of each other. This creates a terrible alienation among young people who live side-by-side but cannot bridge the gaps between them. 

The program received the blessing of the mayor of Menashe regional council, who prioritizes the efforts towards bringing the Jewish and Arabs closer together, as well as of the school principals and educators of the area, who are looking for the best way to familiarize students with their neighbours and create a sense of joint local pride, without sacrificing the cultural differences.


Gdynia: The Learning City at Home. Municipal Units in Contact with Gdynia’s Citizens

Although COVID-19 subjected the Polish city of Gdynia to lockdown, the city has found a way to connect with its 24,000+ inhabitants. At a time when people could not go to museums, sports centres, cultural facilities, or neighbourhood centres, Gdynia encouraged them to go online instead to access the various services.

For this initiative, the city brought together various municipal institutions, covering a wide range of thematic areas, e.g., culture, education, science, art, and social issues, as well as NGOs and experts. All municipal units involved use the potential of their staff and cooperate with local and regional experts from different sectors to curate live-streamed or recorded content, which is then disseminated on their website and social media. The content ranges from cultural events, recommendations of free e-books and audiobooks, and meetings with experts to training courses, interaction meetings, workout instructions, and legal support. 

In designing this online offer, the city collected and analysed the residents’ opinions through its website, social media, and phone calls – particularly with seniors. Based on their feedback, the city adapted the content or schedule. This led to, for instance, the launch of online psychological lectures for parents and the reading of fairy tales for small children by local artists and politicians.

Valenzuela, Philippines

Education 360-Degrees Investment Program

Basic education is the responsibility of the central government. The Valenzuela city government took it upon itself to transform the system through which education is delivered. It took charge of planning and implementing a program using a bottom-up approach. Instead of piecemeal reforms, the city government embarked on a holistic approach that will strengthen all the processes which affect basic education. Instead of planning from the top, planning emanated from the residents, to enable them to have a stake in the quality of public education.