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Young People's World Heritage Education

Regional Asia-Pacific World Heritage Youth Forum in Beijing, China 1997


Beijing Forum launched the Project in Asia and the Pacific

Following the international Youth Forum held in Bergen, Norway in 1995, an Asia-Pacific World Heritage Youth Forum was held in Beijing, China in September 1997. At this Forum UNESCO launched the Young People's World Heritage Education Project in Asia and the Pacific. The Beijing Forum became a springboard for the project to spread throughout the region.

The Beijing Forum was attended by almost 100 students and teachers from 20 countries across Asia and the Pacific - from Kazakhstan in the northwest to New Zealand in the southeast. Students and teachers met to share their experiences and ideas on World Heritage. They jointly discussed and refined issues of World Heritage Education and assessed the draft version of the UNESCO World Heritage Education Resource Kit. 

The concept of World Heritage was introduced and the participants realized how critically endangered natural and cultural heritage are throughout Asia and the Pacific. The Beijing Forum empowered youth enabling them to become personally involved in the preservation of the region's and the world's heritage. The participants vowed to carry the message of the importance of World Heritage back to their own countries, home communities and schools.  

The Beijing Forum brought awareness of local and national heritage to a regional level, providing a unique opportunity for intercultural learning through social and cultural activities and visits to heritage sites. Student activities were designed to test and develop exercises for the World Heritage Education Resource Kit. The draft Kit was tested and evaluated, with both students and teachers giving suggestions on how to improve it. 

One of the student activities focused on expressing cultural identities and seeing how one's identity is rooted in the heritage of the rest of the world. The students realized that heritage is living and changing, built by generations before us, with each generation adding a new layer to the culture with their thoughts, deeds and accomplishments.

The Beijing Forum also turned into a cultural melting pot, as participants shared their heritage and identity with others by displaying artefacts, clothes, paintings and posters. The participants became aware of their common heritage through this exhibition.

Visits to some of China’s magnificent heritage sites were highlights of the Beijing Forum. Students and teachers had the opportunity to visit three World Heritage sites, as well as two sites nominated for inclusion in the World Heritage List and which now have been inscribed. Equipped with worksheets to test activities from the World Heritage Education Kit, students explored the Great Wall, Peking Man Site, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven. Based on these experiences, students discussed in working groups and agreed upon recommendations on how to organize visits and how to better prepare sites for visitors, including young visitors. 

The Beijing Youth Forum culminated with student-led workshops. A plenary session of all the students started lively discussions on environmental and cultural concerns, and how to increase involvement. Students in their working groups proposed solutions for issues at stake in heritage conservation and interpretation. The value of the student exercises and the discussions is that they enable students to get involved. Involvement can be through personal contribution to the preservation of the sites through volunteer work, preparation of exhibitions, performing arts or handicrafts, or by preparing for a career in heritage conservation and management. The views of the students were captured in guidelines and recommendations. 

In separate sessions, teachers shared their views and experiences on heritage teaching and materials. The teacher participants expressed a strong commitment to World Heritage Education and looked forward to learning more about it. These discussions were then used to develop a Teachers’ Plan of Action for World Heritage Education in Asia and the Pacific. 

The teachers also suggested sub-regional networking to encourage joint projects and exchange of experiences and material between schools in neighbouring countries.