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Jen’s Hope in Action: Nurturing kind, compassionate and responsible human beings.

January 24, 2024

Today is the International Day of Education and the theme this year is “learning for lasting peace”. UNESCO explain their reasons for choosing this theme: “The world is seeing a surge of violent conflicts paralleled by an alarming rise of discrimination, racism, xenophobia, and hate speech. The impact of this violence transcends any boundary based on geography, gender, race, religion, politics, offline and online. An active commitment to peace is more urgent today than ever:

Education is central to this endeavour… Learning for peace must be transformative, and help empower learners with the necessary knowledge, values, attitudes and skills and behaviours to become agents of peace in their communities.”

These words have given me pause for thought. They have also prompted me to reflect on the work that we do around teaching STEM and employability skills but within a framework of sustainability as part of our Big Ideas Programme. As an organisation, we shout about our pride in expanding the demographics that are exposed to, and interested in, science, technology, engineering and maths. We enjoy seeing the students we work with get excited about subjects they may have struggled with in traditional lessons and realise that there are many ways of applying STEM skills to life beyond the school gates and a career. But by design, the Big Ideas Programme not only encourages students to explore a range of scientific subjects, it also ensures that students reflect on the challenges and solutions to a wide range of sustainability challenges which are affecting and impacting on people’s lives everyday. We ask the young people what issues matter most to them and spend 5 minutes writing about this in silence (see pictures), then they LISTEN to each other and they WORK TOGETHER on their ideas.

Photos: What do you care about? Responses from 12-year-olds at a Big Ideas Day

From a campaign and product that filters dirty water into clean drinking water for those most in need, to a robotic squid that collects plastic from the ocean, to a service creating sleeping bags made out of recycled plastic waste to support the homeless, the Big Ideas that our students come up with are wide ranging and inventive, but they always have a sense of humanity built in. They are always aimed at improving society, whether for a small group of those in need, or by making our world more sustainable and therefore protecting generations to come.

While subjects like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) undoubtedly contribute to the progress of society, teaching values such as understanding, tolerance, solidarity, mutual respect, and peace is equally vital. In an era marked by rapid advancements and global challenges like climate change, the need for a holistic education that cultivates empathy and compassion is more pronounced than ever.

As UNESCO write, “Education must go far beyond learning formulas and equations, literature or languages. We must also integrate into learning the values of understanding, tolerance, solidarity, mutual respect and peace. All the advances and achievements that knowledge has brought us will be of no use if we cannot live in peace and cherish our shared humanity. Education holds the keys to building peaceful, inclusive and respectful minds.”

I am proud of the work that we do at Solutions for the Planet to teach not only skills that will help our students achieve brilliant things, but also help them to develop into kind, compassionate and responsible human beings. This is the power of education and it gives me hope about our young people leading the way towards a more compassionate and peaceful future.

Yours with hope and gratitude,

Jen

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