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Hello everyone – I am Phinith Chanthalangsy, from Laos, working at UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (Harare, Zimbabwe) as Programme Specialist for the Social and Human Sciences Sector. My academic training is in comparative philosophy, linguistics and literature.

I joined this course because I have always had a burning question – What if the formal education that we know of today in the different countries does not exist? What if we do not care/fear about training, or even “producing” all children around the same standards and conventional format? What if we do not think our education as a means to find a job or to earn a living, but as a search of joy and happiness? What would our society be like if all children are provided with an open-ended ability to question the unquestionable, to see the unseen, and to think the unthinkable? I believe that ESD is the window through which we can rethink the very philosophy of education that we want for our time.

Not being an educator and coming from an international institution – not a training center – I will be very keen and happy to discuss with my peers on a Change Project that deal with this initial problem: If, one day, the teachers were to teach their students for the very last time before the world lapses, how would they proceed? My hypothesis is that they would strive to up-dig and transmit ideas, narratives, or ideas that would embody the strongest sense of care – love, joy, attention, curiosity, desire of life. I shall call this the underlying universal dimension of education.

The project would aim at taking the disciplinary silos as they exist today, and enquire, discuss, and act on what speaks to the most universal dimension of our human condition, bearing in mind that our planet and the human society are on in a very fragile state, on the edge of lapsing away – as evidenced in the powerpoint/Slide 5 of this Orientation Course. Enquiring on this would mean interrogating the teachers and the students “what significant is meant to be taught” in such ans such lessons/discipline – What is it that we came to teach such ans such in our curriculum today? Discussing means conversing with teachers, students and their parents on why does it matters today to teach the universal that we would have found in the enquiry? How does it relate to the current state of affairs of the world and the planet as they stand? Acting means creating, imaging, and putting in place plans and programmes that will help the teachers and students apply the universal dimensions in their life. If you think for instance that History lessons teach us to know about our common origin, what would you want to do to know better about yourself and the others? If you think Mathematics lessons teach you to be logical and reasoning, can you think of situations in your society that is contradicting logics?

The ultimate purpose of such a project would be to interrogate how we could let go our conventional conception of educating (meaning without necessarily interrogating WHY we teach such and such that way), and test our disciplinary teaching against the urgency of being fulfilled with the joy to live, to protect and to care.

In my career at UNESCO, I have had experiences working on philosophy with children, citizenship and human rights education in extra-curriculum settings (in Tunisia and Morocco), and ethics of climate change (2017 UNESCO Declaration).