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Innovative teaching keeps heritage alive

Update: March, 26/2015 - 09:28
Science soliloquy: Students at Le Quy Don Secondary School start a lesson on biology by presenting a short play, in which each of them acted like a sea creature. — Photo courtesy of UNESCO Bangkok
HA NOI (VNS)  — Vietnamese and international cultural experts and educators gathered in Ha Noi for a seminar on the relationship between intangible cultural heritage and education for sustainable development.

The two-day meeting, which wrapped up yesterday, was held by UNESCO and the Ministry of Education and Training of Viet Nam.

The seminar announced the debut of a publication, Learning with Intangible Heritage for a Sustainable Future: Guidelines for Educators in the Asia-Pacific Region, which came from a pilot project on education and culture.

The publication summarises lessons learnt during the implementation of a project called Promoting Intangible Cultural Heritage for Educators to Reinforce Education for Sustainable Development in the Asia-Pacific Region.

With the support of the Japanese Government, the project – which introduces an innovative teaching approach – has been tested in four countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Pakistan, Palau, Uzbekistan and Viet Nam.

During 2013 and 2014, teachers and project partners explored the richness of intangible cultural heritage in their areas, and local practitioners shared their knowledge. Together, they worked on developing school lessons that integrate the guidelines.

The project resulted in the development of national guidelines, as well as over 100 sample lesson plans.

"The results exceeded our expectations," UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education Director Kim Gwang-jo wrote in the publication's foreword.

"Student learned science through musical instruments, mathematics through embroidery and history through poetry. They became more aware of the role they can play as responsible citizens.

"Most importantly, they reconnected with their local roots, valuing their intangible cultural heritage and the importance of safeguarding it for the next generations. They became engaged, and through this experience they came to enjoy learning."

Although each pilot country embarked on its own process, this guide attempts to capture the many ways participants developed engaging lessons, bringing together local heritage and the existing curriculum while raising awareness about the importance of sustainable development.

In a speech at the seminar, Katherine Muller-Marin, the head of the UNESCO Ha Noi office, stressed the newly released publication's significance.

"The guideline opens up a window of opportunities for teachers to become creative and innovative in the preparation of their lesson plans and in the way that they motivate learning for the next generations, promoting the long-term value of the culture that is unique to each country and even each community," she said.

"By integrating culture, heritage and education, we can have a more comprehensive approach to ensure the sustainability of development."

During the seminar, more than 60 participants from 13 countries in Asia and the Pacific discussed opportunities for replicating or adapting this methodology in other countries.

Benefits of innovation

The seminar participants visited Ha Noi's Le Quy Don Secondary School, where they witnessed how local teachers and pupils have utilised this innovative approach.

Physics teacher Duong Van Su started his lecture on acoustics by twanging a few strings on the dan nguyet (Vietnamese moon-shaped, two-chord lute) and dan day (three-string lute). The two instruments are used in ca tru (ceremonial singing) – an ancient genre of chamber music, which was recognised as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.

To prepare for this special lecture, Su had to equip himself with knowledge on the genre. Along with seeking support from cultural experts from the Museum of Ethnology, located next to his school, he also visited the folk musical instrument village Dao Xa in Ung Hoa District – about 25km south of Ha Noi – to learn about the hundred-year-old craft.

"Once I know well about ca tru, then I can properly adapt it to my lecture," Su said. "In addition, I can also impart my knowledge on this cultural heritage to my students."

Seventh-grade student Nguyen Phuong Mai said she felt the time flew by fast, and that she enjoyed the physics lesson with music.

"Although we already know about ca tru through TV or newspapers, it's a completely different experience to explore the music genre through class, and in our own way," Mai said.

In another class, to start a lesson on biology a group of students presented a short play, in which each of them acted like a sea creature.

During the class, biology teacher Nguyen Hoang Tam not only showed her students real samples of different sea shells, but also told them stories about the craft village Chuon Ngo in the Ha Noi suburbs, which is famous for its mother-of-pearl inlaying.

School principal Nguyen Thi Mai Lan said her pupils benefited from the new approach.

"They can access and learn about cultural heritages in a new way," she said. "Once they have deeper knowledge of them, they will love them and know how to respect and preserve the heritage." — VNS


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