My name is Serafine Duss and I am from Switzerland, working for the Swiss Federation of the Deaf. But I am here today to speak as a representative of civil society and the Constituency of Persons with Disabilities, as part of the UN ECE Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism.
Non-formal, formal and lifelong education
Education has often been enhanced as the way to acquire skills to be able to find and maintain the job of their choice in the future. Education is composed of Formal and Non-Formal as well as Informal learning. Skills and knowledge acquired through Non Formal and Informal Learning should always be recognised, including in national frameworks. This increases the relationship between schools and civil society and contributes to the feeling of community and the development of inclusive societies. Lifelong learning spans from early education all the way to all types of informal and formal learning at later stages in life, including after retirement. Elderly and young people cover important roles in our society and should both be supported in adapting to societal changes and digitalisation developments.
Access to education
Education systems should be accessible to and inclusive of every child including minority groups, children with disabilities, or migrants. All education should respect a child’s cultural and linguistic identity as opposed to education systems that force a certain kind of thought on a person. Girls and boys with disabilities often face barriers to their education due to discriminatory social attitudes, physical and communication barriers, resource constraints and lack of support in classrooms and the wider community. Removing these barriers requires targeted strategies that also address other dimensions that compound exclusion, such as gender, poverty, language, including sign language and location in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the SDGs. For deaf children, inclusive education means bilingual education in both national sign language(s)and national written language(s).
My name is Andreas Berglöf. I work as a senior advocacy officer for RFSU – the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education. But I am here today to speak as a representative of civil society, as part of the UNECE Regional Civil Engagement Mechanism (RCEM).
Cultural and intercultural education
Schools should be encouraged to get involved in the community, not just on extracurricular activities, but to add the history of the community into the lessons, including specific education tailored to the region. Developing teaching methodologies that lead to understand system interlinkages and that lead individuals to understand their own values and other values of the community is essential. Specifically, intercultural education can strengthen a person’s cultural and linguistic identity, which is crucial for personal development. To achieve this, it is necessary to use a teaching approach that is bottom-up and includes individuals as partners in the learning process.
The role of educators is changing with the different types of challenges, tools (digitalisation) and opportunities. Support should be given to educators, supporting the acquisition of new skills and the development of their knowledge to better address these challenging times, particularly in relation of SDGs education.
Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE)
UNECE Regional Civil Engagement Mechanism believe that Comprehensive Sexuality Education, or CSE, is key in lifelong learning and support inclusive education for all that deals with reducing teenage and unwanted pregnancies, lowering rates of domestic and sexual violence, protecting from sexually transmitted infections (including HIV) and dealing with gender norms and gender inequalities to name a few. All of this threatens the presence of pupils attending school and therefore life long learning, especially girls and vulnerable groups. Too few young people have the knowledge and skills they need to grow up healthy and happy and to have a sex-positive view to strenghten you as an individual. Life skills basically.
This will for sure help achieving other SDGs like goal 1 (No poverty), goal 3 (Good health and well-being), goal 5 (Gender Equality), goal 8 (Decent work and economic growth) and goal 10 (Reduced inequalities) to name a few.
We know that information on sexuality and reproduction is essential to combat the school dropout of girls due to early or forced marriage, teenage pregnancy and sexual and reproductive health issues and to deal with harmful masculinity norms.
As an important step towards the fulfilment of SDG 4, and other SDG:s, comprehensive sexuality education should be made compulsory for everyone at school and be included in curricula from primary school onwards.
Teachers and other school staff should possess the right skills to teach comprehensive sexuality education and it should be part of teacher training and teachers should have access to follow up training during their professional career. Building teacher capacity to deliver age-appropriate, culturally-relevant CSE, is proven to support the development of learners’ life skills.
In order to ensure the comprehensiveness of the education, we encourage states to use the updated UNESCO International technical guidance on sexuality education for school-based CSE programmes and materials. It is an easy way of investing in people’s lives for lifelong learning and education.
In times of growing opposition to civil society and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), it is imperative that governments support these basic rights when they are being questioned. We all want our children and youth to grow up full of knowledge and possibilities to take charge of their own lives in a healthy way.