Petaling Jaya among winners of Unesco’s Learning City Award

The Learning City Award Jury commended PJ's free bus service, which also doubled as information disseminators through the on-board screens inside the buses. — Picture courtesy of Prasarana Berhad
The Learning City Award Jury commended PJ's free bus service, which also doubled as information disseminators through the on-board screens inside the buses. — Picture courtesy of Prasarana Berhad

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 — Petaling Jaya (PJ) has been named as one of the 10 winners of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (Unesco) Learning City Award, alongside nine other cities worldwide.

PJ shares the stage with Aswan (Egypt), Chengdu (China), Heraklion (Greece), Ibadan (Nigeria), Medellín (Colombia), Melitopol (Ukraine), Santiago (Mexico), Seodaemun-gu (Republic of Korea), and Sonderborg (Denmark).

In a statement posted on January 31 last month, Unesco said that the awards will be delivered during a ceremony at the 2019 International Conference on Learning Cities in Medellín, Colombia.

“According to the Learning City Award Jury, these cities have shown exemplary progress and commitment in promoting education and lifelong learning at the local level.

“Despite their very different starting points and the various economic, political, social and environmental contexts, all of the Unesco Learning City Award 2019 winners have initiated innovative and target-specific policies and programmes that provide fruitful opportunities for their communities to benefit from lifelong learning,” Unesco posted in a statement on its website.

It said that PJ had made significant strides to improve accessibility to public learning spaces, and provided free bus services covering four routes, which also doubled as information disseminators through the on-board screens inside the buses.

“The city is also making good use of the resources provided by the partners,” Unesco said.

Unesco said that in Aswan, the city deployed a strategy integrating several projects, which includes gardening, water-conservation programmes in schools, as well as diverse entrepreneurial training opportunities for all groups of society.

“In Chengdu, China, several examples of best practice in lifelong learning are taking place: for instance, an innovative programme that combines learning with walks around the city has been established, with each route focusing on a different subject area such as regional features, traditional cultures and modern industry, demonstrating a smart use of public and non-public resources.” it added.

The Greek city of Heraklion, according to Unesco, found an innovative and fun way to bring its citizens and the refugees residing in the city closer together by promoting equity and inclusion through sports and educational activities based on subjects such as local culture and tradition.

In Ibadan, Nigeria, It said that a recent festival of learning offered interactive and varied activities, as well as workshops for different target audiences,to reinforce lifelong learning in the community.

The city of Medellín, in Colombia, meanwhile has been coordinating a number of programmes, including one that has helped to successfully reintegrate over 4,650 school drop-outs by engaging with them on a one-to-one basis.

“The ‘How Are We Doing?’ monitoring and evaluation project is another important component of Medellin’s learning city initiative,” Unesco noted.

In Ukraine, the city of Melitopol has been making marked progress, Unesco said, to becoming a learning city, and has channeled considerable effort into the retraining of internally displaced people who were previously working in the mining industry.

In the Mexican city of Santiago, Unesco said that its citizens have been given access to an impressive range of free classes, including robotic courses for children and anti-bullying training.

“In a great example of how to optimally utilise one’s surroundings, Seodaemun-gu, in the Republic of Korea, has taken advantage of its many high-rise apartments by creating small learning communities that teach 50 courses each year in citizens’ living rooms. The city also counts with a strong monitoring and evaluation mechanism.

“Finally, the Danish city of Sønderborg has promoted sustainability far beyond its formal education system, and created a coordinated structure for stakeholder involvement that will ensure continued progress as a learning city,” Unesco said.

It added that Sønderborg has developed a ‘4–17–42’ strategy, with ‘4’ representing the city’s four political commitments (environmental, economic, social and cultural), ‘17’ represents the city’s commitment to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and ‘42’  representing the 42 features included in the Unesco GNLC’s Key Features of Learning Cities.

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