By Lin Shumai
For most of the student interns at Place de Fontenoy (UNESCO Headquarters, Paris), UNESCO is a dream come true, it is the same for me. As a student in the Master of Education programme at the University of Hong Kong, there is no learning experience that can be more valuable than seeing the theories in the classrooms be applied in practice, especially on the platform that leads the key international movements in education.
My three-month internship at UNESCO was with the Education for All (EFA) Global Partnerships Team. The EFA movement, launched in 1990 (Jomtien, Thailand) and reaffirmed in 2000 (Dakar, Senegal), is a major global initiative that primarily aims at providing equitable access to quality education for all. Up till now, EFA has made significant achievement in accelerating the enrolment rate to primary school in many regions of the world with disadvantaged educational resources. Meanwhile, a lot of work still remains to be done: along with the other main focuses of UNESCO, such as the education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), EFA is moving toward its milestone of 2015, a year in which its goals are supposed to be achieved.
As intern, my role in the team largely depends on the major events that took place: the UNESCO Youth Forum, 37th session of the General Conference, the Regional Thematic Consultation on Education in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, etc. It was unforgettable to witness some of UNESCO’s historic moments as well. From November 2013, Mme. Irina Bokova started her second term as Director-General and Mr. Hao Ping from China was elected as the new president of UNESCO’s General Conference, which was indeed an inspiring event for me and other interns from China.
Another aspect that impressed me was an inclusive culture created by the colleagues from different countries. Different cultures were respected and appreciated in all forms (languages, clothes, viewpoints, etc.) with a strong common belief that is written in UNESCO’s constitution: Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed. I integrated into the working environment with little effort, not simply because of my French language background, but for the academic training in our faculty and the welcoming culture in UNESCO. Though, just as any other organizations, there is still room for UNESCO to improve, I believe it has set the correct direction for everyone in the world to reflect and to take actions in daily life so as to build the world we want. My goal is to accelerate this process toward a better world through education and both my experience of academic inquiries and this internship are certainly indispensible in this life choice.
I wish to specifically thank my teachers at HKU for their inspiration and constant support, and to thank the Comparative Education Research Centre (CERC) for offering me the chance to build up my ability through its movie platform. It is every little step throughout the way that brought us to the final destination. With the dream come true, a new dream comes along: I believe the light of humanity and education will shine our way on this new journey.