12 August 2017
By Bryan T. Smyth
Teams from up to 95 countries are Cork bound next month for “the educational equivalent of the World Cup” – the UNESCO Conference on Learning Cities.
Up to 700 delegates from 200 cities in countries like China, Japan, Africa, Columbia, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia and Qatar are flying into the second city for three days after it won a bid to be the first European city to host the UNESCO event because of its reputation as a trailblazer in lifelong learning.
The two previous host cities were Mexico City and Beijing, cities of 8 and 21 million people compared to Cork’s 125,000.
Member of the Learning Cities Steering Group, which brought the event to Cork and former Cork South Central TD, Ciaran Lynch is himself an early school leaver who returned to education as a mature student.
“This is the educational equivalent of the World Cup. You have people coming from the four corners of the world to the four corners of Cork. Why? Internationally, people are hugely inspired by the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival which is viewed as best practice worldwide. Hosting this event in Cork is a global recognition of work already happening here”,” said the adult literacy organiser.
In the words of Cork Lord Mayor, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald: “Lifelong learning includes not only the textbook definition of education but any and all courses and skills which individuals can develop throughout their lifetime form crafts, dance and arts to computer skills or hands-on apprenticeships. Cork has taken leadership on this. The aim of learning cities is to ensure that education and learning are accessible for all, regardless of age, formal or informal settings”.
Former Spike Island prisoners who benefitted hugely from the now closed prison’s education facilities and a 100-year-old woman who ensures she “learns something new every day of her life” will also talk about their learning journeys over the three-day event.
On the third day of the conference, the hundreds of international delegates will travel to the Cork city communities of Ballyphehane, Knocknaheeny, Mayfield and Togher to see how the four Learning Neighbourhoods operate.
The UNESCO Conference on Learning Cities is being held from 18-20 September and the aim of the Cork conference is to draw up a global action plan that will drive lifelong learning in cities and thereby support United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Up to 200 cities are members of the UNESCO Global Learning Cities Network but this figure is expected to double by the end of this decade.