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1 book or more?

Posted in Blogs on February 14, 2017

1 book or more? Education as a tool to preventing crime and promoting a culture of lawfulness

What is the need for contextualizing a curriculum and how can you develop universally applicable content that can be taught in and adapted to various settings? In other words: is 1 book enough or do you need a different book for every country/language/culture or setting?

This was the central question in my presentation to the Primary Education Expert Group Meeting organized as part of the UNODC’s ‘Education for Justice’ (E4J) initiative. E4J is built around the idea that long-term approaches to countering crime and violence can only be achieved through the integration of crime prevention and criminal justice into all levels of education. As part of the development of E4J, a series of Expert Group Meetings are currently underway in Vienna, bringing together experts with a variety of backgrounds from across Governments, civil society, academia, the private sector and international organizations, combining a rich spectrum of experiences. The areas of expertise range from education (teaching and curriculum development) to UNODC’s mandate areas such as corruption, terrorism, criminal justice, and organized crime, including cybercrime. At the primary level, E4J aims to develop and support interactive and innovative tools to foster integrity and skills from an early age for solving basic moral and ethical dilemmas.


Aflatoun's method

As teaching values like integrity, respect, civic responsibility, tolerance and conflict resolution is an important component of Aflatoun’s Social and Financial curriculum I was therefore pleased to participate and present on our work and social franchise model of disseminating a global curriculum through our network of partners who often contextualize and ensure the content is appropriate, relevant and more meaningful to the children they reach.

So….do you need 1 book or more? The answer I’m afraid is probably not black or white. Aflatoun develops books often with an aim to make them as universally applicable as possible, yet at the same time easy to adapt. Books that don’t lecture about facts or opinions but rather solicit local knowledge, opinions and ideas through the active learning methodologies. Books in which teachers ask what the children think and what their experiences are. The activities in the Aflatoun curriculum aim to encourage children to analyze and reflect themselves.

But a local organization, closer to the learning environment, has of course the best understanding of local realities. Content added, amended or adjusted by local partners can make a book resonate with the children even more. Careful contextualization ensures the content sensitively reflects the political, socio-economic and cultural realities of the children, from the family and home life, to the school system, to the community culture and even to the national level.

Our model of combining both universal content, active learning methods as well as a clear contextualizing process therefore was a good starting point for discussing whether or not there will be a need for 1 book or more developing this new E4J curriculum with global reach. The decision has not yet been made and I will follow with great interest.