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First UNESCO Category 1 Institute outside Europe to be set up in Shanghai

By Zou Shuo | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-24 09:18

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is expected to establish a Category 1 Institute of STEM education in Shanghai, according to the Ministry of Education.

The 216th session of the UNESCO executive board held in Paris on Monday adopted a resolution for the establishment of the institute by acclamation.

Category 1 institutes and centers are institutionally part of UNESCO.

The adopted resolution to establish a Category 1 Institute in China still needs to be approved by the upcoming 42nd session of UNESCO's general conference in November.

Once approved, it would be the first Category 1 Institute of UNESCO in China, and the first outside Europe.

Stefania Giannini, assistant director-general for education at UNESCO, said after the Chinese government submitted a proposal for establishing a UNESCO Category 1 Institute in Shanghai, the secretariat established an intersectoral working group to conduct a feasibility study in the city, which finished its work in April this year.

The feasibility study showed STEM education is an interdisciplinary approach to learning that combines the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math, and aims to providing learners with the knowledge and skills required to solve complex problems, think critically and innovate. It can be introduced in primary, secondary and higher education, and throughout life and can inspire learners' pursuit of STEM careers, she said at the session.

The mission of the institute is to promote STEM education and serve as a collaborative platform and a development center to expand STEM education, she said.

The feasibility study identified a growing need for STEM education across regions and countries. Many future jobs will require skills in STEM fields, such as those supporting sustainable energy solutions, innovative food production, or advanced technical skills in data analysis and computer science, Giannini said.

STEM graduates are in short supply, which is true for the global South, especially Africa, and also true in Western and developed countries, and there is a clear gender divide in the area, she said.

There is no global entity to address STEM education despite the growing need and a new institute could potentially play this role and provide comprehensive support to member countries, while focusing on African countries, she said.

Shanghai is an international hub for education, especially higher education, with a strong foundation for STEM education, research and training, she added.

Chen Jie, China's vice-minister of education, said this is a very important moment in the history of the organization and history will affirm that this decision was taken appropriately.

The Chinese government will remain faithful to its commitment and will cooperate fully with the UNESCO secretariat for the implementation of the project, he said.

"We are waiting for the approval of the resolution by the 42nd session of UNESCO's General Conference," he said.

"We hope it will happen and that it will be possible to open up the center as quickly as possible, which will help us to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030."

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