Youth voices at the Lego Idea Conference 2022

Two GPE youth leaders joined 300 participants at the Lego Idea Conference in June to think about "playful learning" beyond the classroom. They share four reasons why transformed education systems are a powerful tool to empower future generations.

July 19, 2022 by Zoé Elkær Nicot, and Angel Mbuthia
4 minutes read
Zoe and Angel at the Lego Idea Conference 2022.
Zoe and Angel at the Lego Idea Conference 2022
Credit: GPE

Last month, we participated in the 2022 Lego Idea Conference convened by the LEGO Foundation, thus joining 300+ global education stakeholders: policy makers, civil society and activists. I (Angel) am from Kenya, and I (Zoé) am from Denmark. We were proud to bring GPE youth voices to the conference.

Under the theme “Let’s take playful learning beyond the classroom - Together we can transform learning systems” and over a three-day program, the conference got participants to think through challenges in national education systems, but also opportunities for change, and visions for the future of learning.

Participants from across the world all had one underlying message: ‘Transforming Education Systems’. We were particularly impressed by the remarks from Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of the LEGO Foundation, on re-imagining education to ensure that all children from 0 to 6 years old are surrounded with holistic learning and learn also beyond the classroom.

Her messages on much needed collaboration between all actors (be they donors, civil society, experts, parents…) resonated with us, as we also believe that it is only together that we can realize the purpose of education.

Among several workshops, one grabbed our attention as it focused on the challenges of financing education: How to incentivize more and better financing for education? We put forward the idea of linking education and development funds, which was positively received.

We suggested greater coordination among donor countries regarding funding, alignment of purposes, and focusing on synergies when coordinating across organizations and countries.

There was broad agreement on the need to incentivize domestic resources and country ownership in the process, so funds can push for domestic reforms through constructive criteria.

We also reflected with other conference participants about the fact that domestic reforms are the key to sustaining education transformation, but we need bolder and fresher ideas to better resource education systems within countries, including more complex tools such as performance-based financing or innovative taxation.

Zoe during the youth panel on day 3
Zoe during the youth panel on day 3

Invited to give remarks on stage during a youth-only panel discussion on the last day of the conference, where we were paired with the fantastic delegates from the Children’s General Assembly project, we reflected on how we wanted education systems to look like in the future and on our messages to global education stakeholders. In our minds, education systems must be transformed to reflect several goals:

  • First, education is a human right, a public good, and a sustainable investment - not a privilege. The right to education, as enshrined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is also an enabler of all other rights. When one can read, for example, one can go through programs of political candidates and cast an informed vote, and thus enjoy democratic participation.
  • Second, future education systems must be designed to be resilient to shocks, and absorb them, to avoid generational catastrophes where millions of children are out of school - we’ve learned that lesson the hard way through the COVID-19 pandemic. Preparedness, response and recovery are key, and we must ensure the equitable deployment of technological solutions so all can access digital learning, not only the privileged few. This will go a long way to ensure that more children have access to education regardless of their situation. It also makes learning fun and easier.
  • Third, education systems must be holistic and move from the conventional type of learning to a transformational type of learning. Teamwork and other interpersonal, social and emotional skills must take precedence over competitiveness, grades and testing because they are key in today’s world. The focus on feedback, individual learning objectives, and fostering cooperation over competition is how we can equip children and young people with the skills and confidence to thrive in this 21st century. That means that our systems of education need to be transformed to strengthen and harness the unique abilities and talents of children.
  • Fourth, the role of the teacher must be rethought: from investing in teachers' education, improving the cultural appreciation of teachers and paying wages that reflect the teacher’s key role in shaping the societies of tomorrow.

Most challenges that the world faces today, from wars to poor governance, violence and even corruption, all show how values of integrity, peaceful cohesion, respect and tolerance are being put to the test.

It struck us at the conference that when we reimagine learning and education for the future, we must also see education as a powerful tool to empower future generations with the competences, the skills and the values to grow, thrive and make the world a better place.

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Yes, Education is right of every child. Thank you for the wonderful ideas! There are still many regions in Tanzania, where leaders, parents and communities still believe that it does not matter if girls doesn't go to school. If a girl gets pregnant while in Primary school, they believe that she should leave school and take care of the child and that should be the end of her education. Boys and men are absolved from the sin of pregnancy. The society feels right to blame the young girl, many times, girls who are still children. So as advocates of education transformation we in Tanzania, have a long way to achieve equality between boys and girls. This is a grave challenge but must be achieved otherwise Tanzania, Africa, will not develop. COUNSENUTH contributes to the national efforts to enhance girls education performance in Tunduru Tanzania, using a participatory, performance improvement method with significant success, thanks to seed grant from the MCF. We can share the first results if you would be interested. Thank you

Spot on! Thanks Angel and Zoe for your sharp and important contribution to the discussions around what's needed to transform learning!

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