A Journey of Self Discovery Through Global Issues – in the recently published Department for Education Research Report – Teaching approaches that help to build resilience to extremism among young people – the SLN-Model United Nations project is featured as one of the ten case studies.
Although ‘teaching approaches’ is the focus of the Research Report, it is by no means the sole purpose of the SLN-MUN project. Helping young people to become active and engaged citizens is at the heart of SLN’s aims and aspirations, and this is reflected in the SLN-MUN project through the exploration of identity, diversity, community and equality.
“Effective pedagogy equips learners for life in its broadest sense. Learning should aim to help individuals and groups to develop the intellectual, personal and social resources that will enable them to participate as active citizens, contribute to economic development and flourish as individuals in a diverse and changing society. This means adopting a broad conception of worthwhile learning outcomes and taking seriously issues of equity and social justice for all.”
Page 16, Research Report DFE-RR119
SLN is committed to supporting local authorities and schools in their duty to promote community cohesion. Through our CPD training we encourage teachers to introduce identity work into the syllabus and, to focus their teaching practice around the four key questions that form the basis of SLN: Who Am I? Who Are We? Where Do We Live? How Do We Live Together?
“Both teaching practitioners and young people said that methods which are designed to encourage participants to engage with a balanced range of information, and appreciate the value of an evidence-based approach, have many benefits, including challenging commons myths and helping young people to appreciate the complexity of, for example, global conflicts.”
Page 4, Research Report DFE-RR119
The aims of the SLN-MUN project is to break down barriers to resolving conflict, through developing young people’s self-knowledge, skills and confidence. Training in conflict negotiation skills is an important basis for strengthening young people’s life skills and a step towards a wider peace building process.
The SLN-MUN project was launched in 2008 in Bradford. Participants are aged between 14 and 19 and come from a number of different schools within their local authority. The young people chosen have a range of abilities, and are selected for their desire to ‘understand local politics and issues’ and for their ‘interest in learning about different perspectives’.
Taking the role of diplomats representing different countries, in simulations of United Nations debates, the young people discuss issues of personal, local, national and global interest, in a safe environment.
Projects have included a visit to Northern Ireland to meet political activists and political prisoners, as well as visit to New York to participate in the National High Schools MUN, alongside 2,700 students from around the world.
“Teacher interviewees spoke of the personal, social and academic development of participants, and the quality of the relationships that developed within the group. These comments were echoed by the young people, who talked about the knowledge, understanding and skills they had gained through the programme:
‘I think we’ve all come on in leaps and bounds … in terms of personal skills, how we interact with others. These skills are invaluable for life, I think.’ (participant)”
Page 19, Research Report DFE-RR119
The outcomes of the SLN MUN projects are immensely positive and, crucially, in line with the teaching strategy, as outlined in the Research Report.
- Increased confidence, self-knowledge and skills of young people
- Platform for young people to discuss and tackle controversial issues
- Better understanding of other cultures, religions and alternative values, helping to break down barriers and overcome pre-conceived ideas
- Introduction of new resources and learning methods into the curriculum
- Development of critical thinking skills, helping young people to develop more sympathetic attitudes, as well as ways to present solutions to problems
- Opportunity for self-reflection and for young people to share personal opinions and experiences
- Techniques for resolving group conflict through cooperation and advocacy for group development
- Supporting teachers in their work and, helping them to understand the importance of their role in addressing controversial issues
- Demonstrating the importance of appropriate skills and teaching practice when dealing with crucial matters, such as extremism
- Encouraging young people to understand the relevance of developing a balanced view, through research and evidence based work
- Linking school work to the wider community and, encouraging active participation in wider societal decision making
- Forming partnerships with local agencies, for example local councils and universities, which strengthens common aims, methods and expected outcomes
“The SLN MUN is an inspirational programme of youth engagement, which is now running in a number of local authorities across England. The topics discussed demonstrate how young people do rise to the occasion and just what they have to offer. During two conferences held in Bradford students debated ‘The Instability in Iraq and ‘The Situation in Gaza’.
Topics explored by current SLN-MUN students are based on the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. This year Stockport has chosen to discuss the treatment and prevention of HIV / Aids; Cumbria has chosen to discuss the topic ‘Achieving Universal Primary Education’; Buckinghamshire is exploring the topic ‘Re-affirming the Central Role of the United Nations in Global Governance’.
Our aim is to engage 5,000 students in the SLN-MUN project by 2015 and, give youth a chance.”
Lee Scholtz, SLN
For further information about SLN-MUN projects go to http://www.schoolslinkingnetwork.org.uk/case_studies/secondary/sec_cs1-1.aspx
To view the Research Report DFE-RR119 Teaching approaches that help to build resilience to extremism among young people visit https://www.education.gov.uk/publications