December 10, 2023

China and the future of UNESCO's Curriculum Development Authority

China and the future of UNESCO’s Curriculum Development Authority

Curriculum is a comprehensive concept that includes curricula, textbooks, reading materials, and all planned and unplanned curricular activities to develop knowledge, understanding, attitudes and values. It sheds light on the relationship between education and the country’s development goals. The National Education Program 2020 has begun a process of curriculum change in India around the world, and work on curriculum formulation is supported by advanced research from the UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education (IBE). The mission of the IBE is curriculum development and capacity building for curricula and teaching methods.

Founded by Swiss teachers in Geneva in 1925, the International Bureau of Education conducts a global dialogue on curricular innovation and learning, ensures curriculum relevance to national, regional and global contexts and challenges, and builds member states’ capacities in curricula and pedagogy. From a private institution, it has become an integral part of UNESCO. The institution reached its culmination in 2011 when it was declared a global center of excellence in curriculum and related subjects by the 36th General Conference of UNESCO. However, the BIE’s progress was overshadowed by politics in 2017 when the United States and Israel decided to leave UNESCO. The United States actually stopped funding UNESCO in 2011 after Palestine was granted full membership. It is currently going through an existential crisis. In 2018, a budget crisis forced UNESCO to look for ways to protect the future of IMT. There were three options: First, for MDs to remain in Switzerland with new labor costs and expanded powers; Second, integration into the education sector at the Paris headquarters. And third, moving to a new host country and continuing to work with the curriculum. There is consensus among UNESCO’s member states to keep the MEET mandate unchanged, as it is the only institution in the world dedicated to promoting curricular research.

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This author had the exclusive opportunity to attend the 40th General Conference in November 2019 and witness the debate about the future of TMT. China proposed to align MDT in Shanghai with curricular changes. European countries rejected the proposal and the problem remained unresolved. In June 2020, China revised the proposal and proposed a new ‘one institute with two sites’ model, Geneva and Shanghai. According to the memo submitted by China, the Shanghai International Bureau of Education will provide a platform to focus on the topics of “education policy dialogue, comparative educational research, and research on innovative policies and practices in educational reforms in various countries”. Capacity building and serving the data center. “About educational research. The bid included a guaranteed sum of $ 1 million for rental purposes and up to $ 7 million per year for the Company’s ongoing operations in Shanghai. IBE in Shanghai is a new center for international education in Asia that can provide new information, ideas and insights into operating curricula, teaching methods and capacity building.

The future of IMD will be discussed in Geneva at the 21st meeting of UNESCO’s Executive Board. In this context, the following questions arise for educators and policymakers: Why is China striving to transfer the existing MTA or to establish a new MTA in Shanghai? Why are European countries against it? What position should India take on this issue?

Most countries recognize that the school curriculum is an effective tool for spreading ideologies and programs through textbooks and other reading materials. Building the capacity of teachers and educators to serve the future is another way to shape and influence opinions. By relocating the IBE to Shanghai, China will ensure the strict integration of values, morals and ideology in favor of the country and its system. China, with its vast resources, can provide textbooks and supplementary reading materials to developing countries for free. He can also organize capacity building for teachers from developing countries at IBE in Shanghai for free. In this way, China will be able to build a soft power base on the international stage in the long run. IBE in Shanghai can give China the upper hand in defining and shaping educational policy, especially in Asia and Africa.

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In the past few decades, China has ensured its presence in all UN organs, including UNESCO. The prospect of an intensification of China’s sphere of influence through TMT domination leaves European countries extremely skeptical of the proposal.

The brand for the 21st century is a knowledge society based on intellectual capital. In knowledge societies and economies, power rests with those who control the creation, access, and transmission of knowledge. China’s immediate and long-term interest is to become an impressive economic and knowledge society. Research on this began in 1978 with Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms and culminated in the establishment of the Academic Ranking of World Universities, known as the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Ranking.

UNESCO leadership is well recognized for ideas and knowledge, and IBE provides thought leadership, knowledge creation and management. The Shanghai Bureau of International Education will surely portray China as a leading center for knowledge creation. Realizing the Chinese dream of becoming a knowledge power would strengthen its control over knowledge creation, and the West fears this.

India faces the dilemma of rejecting or supporting China’s proposal. Opposition would strain relations between the two countries, while support would mitigate hostility. In helping China, India has the advantage of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP), the first and only UNESCO Level 1 institute in the Asia-Pacific region. MGIEP’s mandate is school education and can support IBE in Shanghai in developing a peace curriculum as one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The fourth of the Sustainable Development Goals speaks of achieving inclusive, equitable and high-quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. This is another area where India can partner with IBE in Shanghai. Delhi may offer to represent Indian teachers, educators, and other professionals to ensure India’s presence in future MTD efforts in Asia. The National Committee for Cooperation with UNESCO (INCCU) in the Ministry of Education has extensive and long-standing experience in the field of lending. INCCU can take the lead and facilitate cooperation with IBE in Shanghai. Financial resources in China can be matched with human resources in India to fulfill the managing director’s mandate.

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The author is Vice President, Department of International Cooperation, National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi. The opinions expressed are personal.