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IDEC 2023

by Cecelia Bradley


The 2023 International Democratic Education Community Conference was held at the Sri Aurobindo Yoga Mandir in the foothills of the Chandragiri Hills in Kathmandu, Nepal from Sunday 15th – Friday 20th October, 2023. This IDEC was extended for another three days as the Himalayan IDEC which we spent in the very picturesque area of Nagarkot within sight of the spectacular ranges of mountains when the clouds lifted.  It is very easy to over- use the word spectacular in talking about Nepal, but it is deserved.

It is also a complicated place in many other ways. Access to education and types of education and schools is one of those complications so IDEC2023 was an opportunity to bring together many people from around the world who aspire to self-directed, self-managed and negotiated learning in caring communities. There were up to 500 people attending from 30 different countries and many of these participants were children and young people so that created a vibrant atmosphere, energy and mix of people and events. It was also wonderful; to see the cultural sharing and exchanges that happened, the dancing and singing and many other cultural experiences.

 

After the 2015 earthquake the Ashram suffered significant damage and had to postpone their intended hosting of IDEC. After much rebuilding they had planned to host in 2020 and Covid 19 put a stop to that. So it was very special that at last we were able to all come and enjoy such wonderful hospitality in their special place in the world.

 

I want to acknowledge all the work and preparation that Vedananda (Veda), Ramchandra and all the community of the Ashram did to make us welcome, comfortable, extremely well fed with beautiful food and to give a massive thank you to everyone who worked so hard before, during and I am sure post IDEC. Chris and I were the only people from Australia attending and we also had Verena, Tania and Eve from Aotearoa/New Zealand who have connections with ADEC.

 

It is hard to convey the full experience of attending IDEC and I recommend that if you have not looked at the speakers list https://www.idecnepal.org/speakers/ or the open space organiser https://program.idecnepal.org/index.php?type=schedule that you have a look to get some sense of the complexity and range of opportunities available. These do not give the sense of the connections and communications that happen as you walk from one activity to another, have rousing conversation over meals and coffee – some of the best coffee I have tasted in Nepal!

Proof that Chris & I were really there!!

 

It was very special for me to be able to spend time at Heartland Academy, the school that Chris and Patrick Price have created with the staff and community in Kathmandu Nepal and have continued to support educationally and financially for many years. The photo below shows some of the people involved in their latest project to set up a Women’s College and Health Centre. The college will enable young women many of whom are survivors of difficult childhoods including sexual assault and abuse to have access to education and courses which have the potential to change their lives. The Health Centre will focus on providing detection, diagnosis and early treatment for cervical cancer which effects many women in Nepal.

IDEC also created the chance for schools such as Heartlands and the Ashram to build more connections. The Nepali Minister of Education and other educational bureaucrats visited IDEC and the Ashram and this was an opportunity for them to meet the international participants, to see first hand that democratic education is valued by many people around the world and to consider whether they could more actively support democratic education in Nepal.

Chris and Cec meeting the Education Minister of Nepal.

 

The Heartland students and teachers also held some great workshops highlighting the development of democratic processes in their school and sharing cultural experiences.

 

A small taste of some of the sessions I attended – Gaia School in Hong Kong and how Starfish and our friends in Hong Kong are faring in such difficult times, Gender Diversity led by Moe & Iku, Democratic Education in Global South hosted by Siffaan from Sri Lanka, Nomad, a new publicly funded school in South Korea founded by Tae, Tekisen, Democratic University, developed from Tokyo Shure in Japan from Kageki, cultural experiences from students from Sth Korea, the panel discussions including the young where they turned the questions back on the adults, Charlie’s democratic education inclusion in a state school in Estonia, Wei from Holistic school in Taiwan, and so many more.

 

My personal participation as well as talking with people about the work of ADEC, involved the work of the IDEC Inclusion & Diversity Committee. I have been part of this group formed at IDEC 2020 and we have been meeting very regularly online and planning our participation in IDEC 2022 & 2023. Our key focus in 2022 was to hold workshops looking at ‘what is fair?” and introducing and passing the proposal at the IDEC meeting.

This year we focussed on increasing the profile and participation of woman as keynote speakers to try to balance the gender gap that has developed in IDEC. We were very delighted that people such as Tania Corbett, a Maori educator from Aotearoa. New Zealand, Heather Yang from Taiwan, Isabel Dennis from Trinidad & Tobago, AnaYris from Puerto Rico were given a more central platform to share their experience and expertise. The whole committee ran a workshop bringing everyone up to date with the work of the committee. Olivia Loria from US and I ran a workshop looking at the participation of women at IDECs over the past years and highlighting the names and lives and work of woman who have been central to the history and development of democratic education and who, apart from Maria Montessori, have not really had the recognition they have earned. Verena, (NZ) and Doro (Germany) also ran a workshop looking at how democratic schools can contribute to a just society. Our committee also created the idea of a Safe Space at IDEC where people, especially new people to IDEC could come and talk about how they were finding the experience. It became a real source of support and a listening ear.


IDEC2023 Meeting

 

The organisers of IDEC2024 in Taiwan gave a presentation of their plans for IDEC2024

 

There were two main decisions at the meeting. One, after much discussion, was the decision to host IDEC2025 in Puerto Rico.

 

The other, after a number of workshops during the IDEC which examined the original intention and wording of the UN resolution, was the passing of this resolution.

Resolution adopted at the 30th International Democratic Education Conference 2023 in Nepal (at the General Meeting held on 19th October 2023)


We, the attendees of the 30th International Democratic Education Conference 2023:

Whereas we have observed that a number of countries have legislated, or are proposing to legislate, laws on “compulsory education” where “compulsory” means that parents / guardians must cause the child to regularly attend a school, even if such attendance is not in the best interests of the child;


Whereas we have observed that Prof. Cassin, who originally inserted the word ‘compulsory’ into the draft text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, said that the word should be interpreted to mean that “no one (neither the State, nor the family) could prevent the child from receiving elementary education and that the idea of coercion was in no way implied”;1


Whereas that intent was reinforced by the General Comment No. 11 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which states that “The element of compulsion serves to highlight the fact that neither parents, nor guardians, nor the State are entitled to treat as optional the decision as to whether the child should have access to primary education";2


Whereas we recall the concern of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on the

“continuing authoritarianism, discrimination, disrespect and violence which characterize the reality of many schools and classrooms”;3


We resolve to respectfully call upon the Committee to make explicit that in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child the word “compulsory” as used in Article 28. 1 (a) “Make primary education compulsory and available free to all” is to be understood only as a guarantee of access to education, not as forcing the child to attend a school in violation of the best interest of the child.


1 UN ECOSOC, Commission on Human Rights: Third Session, Summary Record of the Sixty-Eighth Meeting, New York, 14 June 1948, p. 3; E/CN.4/SR.68, https://undocs.org/en/E/CN.4/SR.68

2 UN ECOSOC, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: General Comment 11, Plans of action for primary education, 10 May 1999, No. 6; E/C.12/1999/4, https://undocs.org/en/E/C.12/1999/4

3 UN CRC, Committee on the Rights of the Child: General Comment 12, The right of the child to be heard, 20 July 2009, No. 105; CRC/C/GC/12, https://undocs.org/en/CRC/C/GC/12


The group who worked on the resolution are calling the project #ClarifyCompulsoryEducation. They are encouraging people from around the world to spread the word about this and are continuing the campaign.

For more information

 

Katerina and Yaacov and other friends from Ukraine and Israel were not able to attend in person because of the wars happening in their countries so they joined online as did some of the other contributors such as Peter Grey and most main tent sessions were live streamed.

 

We held an Asia/Pacific Democratic Education Community (APDEC) meeting and there were a number of new people who joined us. Monika Irayati from Indonesia joined us via zoom and they are still serious about wanting to host APDEC in 2025 in Indonesia so will keep you posted about that.

 

IDEC 2024 will be held in Taiwan from 20th – 28th July, 2024. I would encourage members of ADEC to consider attending. It is a great opportunity to build connections and support with so many people from around the world.

 

Thank you all for your support for my participation at this very special & unique IDEC.

 

Cecelia



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