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Transforming Education: A Global Symposium on Ethics Education for Children

More than 900 participants gathered online at the global symposium, Transforming Education: Ethics Education for Learning to Live Together.

Participants included educators, children and young people, religious leaders, policymakers, faith-based and civil society organizations, academic researchers, multilateral agencies and representatives from national ministries of education

This unique event hosted a highly diverse group of speakers and participants, who came together to reflect, collaborate and advance ethics education for children as a critical element for building forward better.

900+ participants

80 nationalities

4 languages

Held on November 22–23, 2021, the symposium provided a platform for diverse stakeholders to share their experiences with ethics education programs and policies, and to describe how these efforts are contributing to peacebuilding and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In a series of panel discussions and interactive workshops, participants learned from the experience, insights, and expertise of diverse collaborators working at the national, regional, and global levels.

To start things off, 13 eminent speakers shared reflections on the relevance of ethics education as a contribution to learning to live together. They highlighted the importance of working collaboratively with all actors, including faith leaders. Faith leaders are on the front lines, operating schools and education programs around the world, particularly in the hard-to-reach areas. A partnership that includes them is key to strengthen education.

They emphasized the importance of a whole-school approach including both formal and non-formal education settings, to ensure a successful implementation of value-based education.

Next, the panel discussions and workshops focused on the importance of recognizing the role of education in building safer, equitable, and inclusive societies. Education needs to support children’s sound and holistic development, not only cognitive and physical development, but also social, emotional, and spiritual development. When children are given opportunities to explore ethical values such as empathy, respect, and responsibility, as well as to develop life skills such as critical thinking and the ability to resolve their differences with others, they can learn to live together with people of different cultures, religions, and beliefs.

Introducing ethics education into school curriculums can empower both teachers and learners, and improve the quality of education. Nurturing values in children and strengthening their resilience and spirituality can help children to become global citizens able to work together to build peaceful and inclusive societies. This is the outline of a new and much-needed social contract on education.


An important theme of the discussions during the symposium was the training of teachers to integrate ethics education in the classroom. Participants called for better pre-service and in-service training to build teachers’ capacity to use transformative pedagogies and enhance their overall competencies. They emphasized the existing gaps between policies and implementation and the need to increase investment in teacher training and development as well as collaboration with communities.

The Transforming Education symposium was organized by Arigatou International – Geneva, the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace, the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity, ICESCO – Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, KAICIID International Dialogue Centre, the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO, the Ministry of Education of Kenya, Religions for Peace, Scholas Occurrentes, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, and UNICEF, with the support of UNESCO.

The event was live-streamed in Arabic, English, French and Spanish, reaching participants of 80 different nationalities. More than 50 organizations were actively involved in the event, including faith-based and civil society organizations, multilateral agencies and 11 national government offices.

One of the main outcomes of the symposium was the launch of the Ethics Education Fellowship Program for ministries of education to build a network of formal education institutions and create a platform for sharing and building capacity within the ministries.

“The desires of this symposium resonate with those of Pope Francis, which prompted him to establish a Global Compact on Education, calling on educators around the world to work toward a new paradigm of education that prioritized patient listening, constructive dialogue and better mutual understanding.”

His Eminence Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot,
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

“Education is a fundamental human right, and as such, the State must ensure that all people have access to inclusive and quality education throughout their lives. The educational process transcends the classroom and is present in the many aspects of people’s lives, allowing them to develop to their full potential.”

Silvana Abdo,
First Lady of Paraguay

Child Participation at the Symposium

Of the 90 speakers that took the floor during the symposium, 17 were children. Children were provided a space for safe, meaningful participation, and participants were given the unique opportunity to hear children’s recommendations first-hand, as well as to engage with them in dialogue.

During the second day of the symposium, an intergenerational dialogue among children, young people and adults was held. Participants discussed the role of ethics education in supporting children to learn to live together with others.

The children shared their own recommendations about the role of education in enhancing opportunities for their meaningful participation in society and helping them to be part of the solutions to the problems their communities face.

“A school is a place where children grow and develop together with others, and therefore it has a very important role in helping children learn about this diversity and appreciate their differences.”

Sophia, child from Indonesia

This inter-generational session was preceded by a dialogue among more than 40 children from 10 different countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. This children’s dialogue session encouraged reflection on how ethics education can help people to learn to live together. During the two-hour session, children had the opportunity to share ideas their vision for ethics education. By the end, the children had created a manifesto with their recommendations, which they shared with the rest of the participants during the symposium.

Policy Brief: Advancing Ethics Education for Children to Contribute to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda

One very meaningful outcome of the reflections and dialogues held during the symposium was the identification of the key benefits of integrating ethics education into national policies and programs. The organizers developed a policy brief with concrete recommendations for strengthening and integrating ethics education as a core tenet of equal and inclusive education for children.

This policy brief, Advancing Ethics Education for Children to Contribute to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, outlines the importance of prioritizing and investing in ethics education in formal and non-formal education systems to contribute to the building of more inclusive, respectful, and resilient societies, where children are equipped to respond to ethical challenges and become active citizens.


The policy brief includes five recommendations for policy makers, calling for:

  1. As Integrating ethics education to promote intercultural and interfaith learning in existing education curriculums, policies, and programming.
  2. Strengthening the capacity of formal education institutions and educators to deliver ethics education.
  3. Enhancing connections between schools, parents/families, and local communities.
  4. Promoting collaboration among different actors, including faith communities, to promote ethics education in formal and non-formal education.
  5. Increasing investment and improving accountability of all relevant stakeholders.

A voice from our team:

“The Transforming Education symposium was a unique opportunity to bring together people from many different backgrounds, fields of work, nationalities, religions and ages, to harness the power of education to create a better world for children.”

Paula Ananías,
Communications Officer,
Arigatou International - Geneva

Digital Products

As part of the symposium, an open call was made for organizations to share resources, programs, or research papers on ethics education for children, as digital products.

The most inspiring educational resources and programs for creating safe and empowering spaces for children to learn to live together were selected and featured on the Transforming Education website. The selection includes global programs and resources as well as local ones coming from Austria, Bolivia, El Salvador, Kenya, Lebanon, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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