AUBG Hosts the First Teach for All Global Conference in Europe
From Oct. 25 to Oct. 27, AUBG opened its doors for the participants in the Teach for All 2016 Global Conference entitled “Reimagining Education.” It gathered more than 350 CEOs, staff, social entrepreneurs, and supporters from 40 countries. The conference consisted of series of workshops, presentations, speeches and panel discussions, aimed to suggest new ways for providing equal opportunities for high-quality education for all children around the world.
Тhe conference was co-organized by Teach for Bulgaria, the national branch of the international organization, and supported by the America for Bulgaria foundation. Rosen Plevneliev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria, and Meglena Kuneva, Deputy Prime Minister for European Policies Coordination and Institutional Affairs and Minister of Education and Science, spoke at the commencement of the conference. One of the speakers at the welcome assembly was also Wendy Kopp, CEO and co-founder of Teach for All.
Throughout the days of the conference, the guests had the opportunity to participate in workshops, discussions, lectures, and creative exercises aiming at recognizing, targeting, and proposing solutions to problems in the contemporary educational practices.
The students had the chance to get closer to professional journalism. They built a “Scrappy Newsroom” out of scrap and materials at hand. Later, they interviewed guests and organizers of the event and produced a reportage.
One of the highlights of the conference was the morning assembly on the second day of the conference, Oct. 26, which took place in the ABF Sports Hall. Sir John Hood, President and Chief Executive Officer of Teach for All, came up to the stage and greeted everyone. He reminded that Martin Luther King suggested educating children the way that everyone can reach their full potential. Hood expressed the hope that Teach for All will continue connecting students and teachers from around the world in order to provide opportunities for such education.
Following the morning assembly, six student speakers selected from two hundred applicants took the stage to share their inspirational stories. The first speaker, Shashi Thevaraj from Malaysia, stated that because the problems in education are universal, the solution is sharable. In his opinion, one of the main problems for Malaysian school students is the lack of freedom in choosing what to study. Thevaraj used his personal experience to show that he learned more from his out-of-school activities than he did from the curriculum ones. Thevaraj read books about psychology beside the school prescribed texts. Later on, he lead a project called “What Students Want,” the purpose of which was to find out what Malaysian students actually want to study.
“Asking students what they want can solve many problems”, Thevaraj said.
Eventually, he wrote his own book about the project. Thevaraj concluded that instead of telling students what to think, teachers should train students how to think.
Mirela Ivanova, a Bulgarian student, talked about her experience as a CEO of the economic conference in 2015. Together with the other participants, she wrote a forty-page resolution of Bulgarian economic problems such as national GDP and unemployment. It suggested that young people drop out of the labor market due to the lack of practice and knowledge about work ethics, so the participants had to find a way to fill these blanks in education.
A big part of Ivanova’s job as a CEO was to engage and encourage all the participants to take an active role in group discussions during the weekly meetings. Ivanova acknowledged that the biggest challenge for her was to demonstrate to the participants that each one of them could be a leader.
The next speaker, Joshua Windsor, a British student, started his speech by questioning what kind of person can be considered a leader. Windsor pointed out that for him the real leader is not necessarily someone as famous as Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, but simply “someone who tries to do the right thing and whom people can look up to.” Windsor shared that in the beginning of his school career, he had problems with concentration and was sensitive to the feedback due to his autism. However, with the time he learned to see autism not as a weakness, but as something that makes him special. He took the initiative to educate people around him about autism. Windsor believes that although many schools teach their students to be “average,” many children are more than that. They are also more than their race, gender, or any other demographical feature. Windsor insisted that all children in Great Britain and all over the world should have equal opportunities for education.
Brahyan Jaramillo Zapata, a Colombian student, took a leadership position in his home community by generating awareness of homosexuality. Together with other young leaders, he organized demonstrations in the streets against violence towards homosexuals. He also became a student representative to the school board.
“We understood the power of collective thinking and acting together,” Zapata said.
He encouraged the audience not to be afraid to take a stand and gather other people around in order to make change.
Junior Beauclaire Choumkwa Mbanya, a student speaker from Cameroon, encouraged other young leaders from around the world “to see every challenge in a community as an opportunity.”Mbanya himself became a part of the African Leadership Academy, which aims to connect young African leaders from across the continent and to provide them with opportunities to grow, learn and make an impact. From there Mbanya started his own campaign, called Cameroon Youth Reform Initiative.
The final speaker of the assembly, Priyanka Patil from India, talked about how she was not allowed to speak her mind openly as a kid. She found Teach for India, a place where she was asked not to be silent, but quite the opposite. However, as a young leader, she still had to learn “to liberate herself of the fear of failure and what others would say.” She went to study abroad through the United World College program, which gave a start to her passion for making a change. Patil thought that while she was given an opportunity to gain education out of her country, “there were still thousands of kids” in her community who were not. That is why Patil invited twelve education professionals to come to her hometown in India to teach English, public speaking and other disciplines. However, it was just for a short period of time, so Patil was worried that kids did not learn anything after all.
“When I asked them about it, they told me that they learned courage, compassion, love… We should give the kids an opportunity to express themselves, so they would learn,” she said.
Patil encouraged young leaders to change themselves first in order to change the world.
The assembly ended with a big round of applause for the courage and the ambition of student leaders. The participants in the Teach for All conference also tool part in a number of workshops and panel discussions with the main goal of suggesting a way to provide better educational opportunities to all children around the world.