9.4 Raising awareness about global issues
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In the Cypriot upper-secondary schools, general aspects of global issues are included in the school subject of Modern Greek (Νέα Ελληνική Γλώσσα Μέσης Γενικής Εκπαίδευσης) where students discuss about cross-thematic topics while they develop their critical thinking and argumentation skills. In addition, topics such as sustainable development, recycling and environmental protection, as well as consumer education, are also covered through the subject of Home Economics (Μάθημα Οικιακής Οικονομίας Μέσης Γενικής Εκπαίδευσης).
Additionally, the 2020 Annual Report (Ετήσια Έκθεση 2020; pp. 127-128) of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth mentions that the Council of Europe Programme “Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights” (EDC/HR) is being implemented since the school year 2015/16 in Secondary General schools. The programme is included in the Council of Europe framework of activities and covers all the activities and actions that have been planned to help both the young and adults to participate actively in a democratic life, demanding all their rights but also undertaking all the responsibilities allocated to them. The objective of the programme is to reinforce the democratic institutions by adopting an intense democratic culture, by emphasizing the feeling for participation, and commitment but in addition also the acceptance of basic essential values for the creation of a free, tolerant and fair society at a national as well as European level. In Cypriot schools, EDC is offered together with History and Greek Language lessons, but it is also integrated into the entire curriculum and activities of Cypriot schools. It includes concepts such as peace education, universal (or global) education, intercultural education, democratization and participation in public affairs.
Another initiative of the Council of Europe in which students from all educational levels participate is the ‘Global Education Week’ (Εβδομάδα Παγκόσμιας Εκπαίδευσης). Every year during this week, various activities are being organized in schools or other venues that aim to raise awareness about global issues (e.g. human rights, climate change, hunger, peace, democracy, etc.), develop attitudes of respect for diversity and intercultural communication as well as take action and personal responsibility for a more sustainable planet.
Based on the 2020 Annual Report (Ετήσια Έκθεση 2020; pp. 125-127), the UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) was established in 1953, aiming to encourage communication and strengthen cooperation between the pupil communities of the organisation's Member States to promote UNESCO's goals more effectively to young people. The network has been active in Cyprus since the school year 1969/70, under the supervision of the MOECSY. It includes 37 public and private secondary schools, which operate in a variety of ways, such as organizing conferences and participating in events organized by other schools abroad. For the school year 2019/20, the general theme around which the ASPnet schools in Cyprus were active was “CItiZEN! Active citizens and sustainable cities”. Under this thematic, activities aimed at students’ personal development and the acquisition of skills necessary for becoming active citizens who can bring about positive changes in their society. In this context, students participated in workshops on psychosocial empowerment, building empathy and consciousness as well as taking action on issues of sustainable development.
In addition, upper-secondary schools of General and Technical Education participate in the following Environmental Education Programmes:
- The SEMEP (South-Eastern Mediterranean sea Project) is an interdisciplinary environmental education project focusing primarily on the South Eastern Mediterranean sea region and coordinated by UNESCO. Member countries include Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Palestinian Authority, Romania, Slovenia, and Turkey. The project promotes environmental education through science and intercultural dialogue in the region and involves students at the upper primary and secondary levels in both formal and non-formal sectors. It provides an opportunity to consider environmental issues that are of common concern to countries in the South Eastern Mediterranean region. Within the framework of existing school curricula, the project encourages a multitude of science and technology educational approaches in favour of sustainable development, such as problem identification and problem solving, hands-on activities, and determining decision making parameters.
- The programme “Chrisoprasino Fillo” which runs between the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, and the Cyprus Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth (For more information, see section “6.5 Cross-border learning mobility - Main cross-border mobility programmes for students in formal education)
- The “Eco Schools Programme” is an international programme run by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) in Denmark. It encourages young people to engage in their environment by allowing them the opportunity to actively protect it. It starts in the classroom where it expands to the school and eventually fosters change in the community at large. Through this programme, young people experience a sense of achievement at being able to have a say in the environmental management policies of their schools, ultimately steering them towards certification and the prestige which comes with being awarded a Green Flag. The National Operator in Cyprus is the Cyprus Marine Environment Protection Association. More than 15 upper-secondary schools around Cyprus are currently participating in the programme.
- The programme “Young Reporters for the Environment” (YRE) is an award-winning programme coordinated also by the FEE. The programme empowers young people to take an educated stand on environmental issues they feel strongly about and gives them a platform to articulate these issues through the media of writing, photography or video. The YRE programme is run by National Operators in more than 40 countries around the world and they are the ones implementing the programme on a national level. Youth between the age of 11-25 can join the programme in these countries through their school, youth group or as individuals by contacting the relevant National Operator. The National Operator in Cyprus is again the Cyprus Marine Environment Protection Association. 17 upper-secondary schools are currently participating in the YRE programme.
The Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Programme is a fully funded intensive short-term exchange programme for upper secondary school students, created to foster relationships among young Europeans and Americans to build strong linkages and awareness of shared values. The four-week program enables teenagers, ages 16-18, to explore U.S. foreign policy priorities such as youth engagement, support for democracy and civil society, and economic prosperity. The programme is funded by the U.S. Government and in Cyprus, it is coordinated by the U.S. Embassy in Cyprus.
Non-formal and informal learning
The annual initiative “Let’s Do it Cyprus” is organized every year since 2012 by the non-governmental organisation Together Cyprus in close collaboration with the Commissioner for the Environment (Γραφείου Επιτρόπου Περιβάλλοντος). The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness and active participation of the public in issues related to the protection, conservation and sustainable management of the terrestrial and marine environment in Cyprus. The campaign is part of the global initiative “Let’s Do it World” and in Cyprus, the volunteers are called to contribute in cleaning the island’s most important natural sights like beaches, city parks and natural forest and mountain parks. The initiative has as its main target group, among others, young people and it is co-funded by the Ombudsman on environmental issues and other public and private sponsors, including Youth Board of Cyprus.
The programme #LifeStories aims also to promote common European values, such as democracy, solidarity, and respect for human rights, through the work of Role Models. The Role Models, are young people that can serve as inspiring examples by making these common values part of their everyday life and thus, promote inclusive societies. Those people share their stories with others through inspiring speeches during events organized in the framework of the programme. The programme is organized by the Youth Board of Cyprus and it is funded by the Erasmus+ programme.
There is no top-level programme or action for teachers, trainers, non-formal education workers and youth workers for continuous training and certification related to the promotion of global issues among young people in Cyprus, in general.
However, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth's special Unit called “Δίκτυο Κέντρων Περιβαλλοντικής Εκπαίδευσης” organises various educational programmes for raising awareness specifically on topics related to environmental education and sustainable development in the framework of formal, non-formal and informal learning. The programmes are organised based on the students’ age groups and on the website of the Unit (under the section ‘Environmental Education Centres’), educators and parents can find detailed documents with the programmes’ aim, objectives and schedule of activities for each age group.
There are not major information campaigns with the goal of promoting the knowledge and understanding of global issues among young people directly conducted or funded by top-level authorities. There are several individual campaigns on various issues addressing the whole population in the island, not just young people. The most important are mentioned in the previous section.
There are several public authorities and bodies that disseminate information on various global issues among young people in Cyprus. These are:
- The Cyprus Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth
- The Youth Board of Cyprus which is publishing on its official website or social media (e.g. Facebook page) any important information on youth global issues.
- The Commissioner for the Environment (Γραφείου Επιτρόπου Περιβάλλοντος)
Since 2010, the most important key initiatives organised by top-level authorities in Cyprus are the following:
The Office of the Commissioner for Administration and Protection of human rights (Επιτρόπος Διοικήσεως και Προστασίας Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων) launched in December 2021 an awareness-raising campaign for the promotion of human rights (Εκστρατεία Ενημέρωσης για τα Ανθρώπινα Δικαιώματα) among the general population. The campaign included the production and promotion of a video spot that informs about the role of the Commissioner in the protection of human rights in Cyprus. In addition, the Commissioner hosted a press release and has participated in a conference and TV show, specifically devoted for sensitising the public.
The Cyprus Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth , the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute, the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment and many more actors took part in the initiative “Rethink (reduce, reuse, recycle)” (Εκστρατεία ευαισθητοποίησης RETHINK – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle για τη μείωση, επαναχρησιμοποίηση και ανακύκλωση των αποβλήτων στην Κύπρο). The initiative lasted from 2014 to 2017. Its main target was to train and sensitise people in changing their waste habits and promote a significant change on how the society manages its own waste. The programme’s target group was the entire active population of the country, including young people and it was funded by the LIFE+ Environment Policy and Governance programme of the EU.
In addition, between 2013-2017 the European initiative of the Council of Europe “No Hate Speech” took place also in Cyprus through various initiatives coordinated by the Youth Board of Cyprus. As part of the campaign, the Youth Board of Cyprus set up a National Coordination Committee with representatives from both NGOs and government departments. All partners in this effort have contributed to the implementation of an integrated information campaign that included the provision of information and awareness-raising through social media and traditional media with the release - among others - of videos featuring statements by famous people. The campaign included also trainings of ambassadors, educators and NGOs in the use of the Council of Europe manuals Compass and Compassito as well as the publication and distribution of the Handbook "Defining and Exorcising Hate" (Εγχειρίδιο «Ορίζοντας κι εξορκίζοντας το μίσος») in all schools, in collaboration with the Office of the Commissioner for Administration and Protection of human rights .
As part of the campaign, the partners participated in numerous festivals and exhibitions and carried out many activities and events, such as the Student Forum on Diversity and Integration in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, the Cyprus Youth Council, the Youth Council of Cyprus and the Office of the Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights. In addition, workshops called "Pieces of PEACE" were organized by the Peace Agent of the World Peace Initiative Foundation and a Summer School called “HIT – Hate Interrupter Teams” was organized in collaboration with the "Hope for Children" CRC Policy Centre where teens set up Hate-Stop Teams and were trained in Human Rights and hate speech.