20 December 2015
By Bryan T. Smyth
The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning has presented Cork with a Learning City Award, making it one of only 3 cities in Europe and 12 worldwide to achieve this special honour. Cork achieved a UNESCO award as a Learning City due to the lifelong learning opportunities and efforts towards social inclusivity and aims to build on this through the exchange of experience and good practice with other Learning Cities internationally.
Speaking at the official Learning City ceremony at City Hall Cork, Ard Mheara Cllr. Chris O’Leary said: “This award is an acknowledgement of the incredible work already done to develop a culture of lifelong learning in the City, and it also provides encouragement to continue with these activities in the future. Lifelong learning is a holistic, inclusive and sector-wide approach to learning and will improve the lives of the city’s residents by reducing inequality and social exclusion as well as increasing employment and encouraging further investment. It helps to make Cork a city that people want to live in, work and raise families.”
The 12 cities chosen by UNESCO to receive the inaugural Learning City Award, including Cork’s sister city Swansea in the UK and Espoo in Finland, will continue to work towards the target of providing lifelong learning for all citizens. The Cork Lifelong Learning Festival, which has gained international recognition from UNESCO, is a clear example of the city’s existing commitment to becoming a learning city.
“As a UNESCO Learning City award winner, Cork will be a source of inspiration to other cities, education experts, researchers, stakeholders and citizens worldwide,” he added.
“Cork is one of a number of growing urban communities around the world which recognise that lifelong learning can be a driver of social, cultural, economic and environmental development. They are therefore developing inclusive and sustainable learning cities to enrich human potential, foster life-wide and lifelong personal growth, promote equality and social justice, maintain social cohesion, and create sustainable prosperity and economic growth,” Arne Carlsen, Director, UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning.
As part of the continuing work of Cork’s Learning City agenda, the Growing Lifelong Learning in Cork (GLLiC) steering group announced a new pilot “Learning Neighbourhoods” Programme.
“Local communities and neighbourhoods are integral to the development of lifelong learning. Providing learning opportunities for every generation, young and old, has become a priority for communities all over the world. Enhancing and expanding such opportunities is at the heart of Cork’s Learning City approach which is why we are piloting the development of two Learning Neighbourhoods in Knocknaheeny and Ballyphehane,” said Seamus O’Tuama, GLLiC Committee member and Director of Adult Continuing Education (ACE) at University College Cork.
“Knocknaheeny and Ballphehane are already recognised as model candidates due to their continued participation in Cork’s Lifelong Learning Festival. We are proposing to work with a range of education and learning interests in each neighbourhood in order to create a working model that will promote equality and inclusion – making lifelong learning opportunities even more available to each community,” he added.
Cork achieved a UNESCO Learning City Award at the 2nd International Conference on Learning Cities, held in Mexico City. This follows the 2014 decision by Cork City Council to formally adopt the UNESCO Beijing Declaration on Building Learning Cities. Partners in this event include Cork City Council, Cork ETB, UCC, CIT, Lifelong Learning Festival, Cork Opera House, CSO, Cork Healthy Cities and Cork Environmental Forum.
“The development of a Learning City is a gradual process. It requires determination, patience, imagination but most importantly, citizen engagement. The talent, ideas, knowledge, skills and energy contributed by members of communities throughout Cork have contributed, and will continue to contribute, to the success of Cork as a Learning City,” said Denis Barrett, GLLiC Committee Member and Community Education Facilitator, Cork Education and Training Board.
“Having signed a Memo of Understanding in June, key stakeholders, including CIT, have committed to advancing aspirations on Learning for all; Promoting Inclusion; Prosperity and Sustainability. Today we have moved this agenda forward and UNESCO are formally recognising our progress. This is a great achievement for the City. We, in CIT, look forward to working with our colleagues in the community, private and public sectors to ensure that Cork becomes a UNESCO Learning City.” Dr. Brendan Murphy, President, CIT.