Around four million people live in the Arctic today, including indigenous peoples, northerners and recent arrivals. While some are hunters and herders living in sparsely populated areas, others could be considered city dwellers. This diverse population is characterized by cultural diversity and minority languages, but also by differing socio-economic conditions. Creating fair educational opportunities across Arctic communities has therefore been a priority during the Finnish Chairmanship.
“Equal access to good basic education opens the doors to higher education, and eventually to finding a place in working life. At the same time, it is important to provide education that respects and supports traditional knowledge, cultures and languages of indigenous peoples”, says Ambassador Aleksi Härkönen, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials.
During the Finnish Chairmanship (2017-2019), the Arctic Council Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) initiated two projects with an educational emphasis. The nomadic school project “Arctic Children – Preschool Education and Smooth Transition to School” investigates how educational practices can be brought in line with traditional ways of life of indigenous peoples. It aims at providing children of nomads with the knowledge and skills necessary for a life in their own community and in mainstream society.
The “Teacher Education for Diversity and Equality in the Arctic” project on the other hand supports networking of teacher education institutions, enabling them to share good practices and develop long-term collaborations. The project sees the potential of teachers to become creators of a sustainable future in the Arctic. Thus, the teacher education project can be seen to have paved the way for a high quality and culturally relevant teacher education for the North.
The University of the Arctic (UArctic) has been an important cooperation partner in these educational projects. In the declaration of the second UArctic Congress (link), the delegates state that education is not only essential in building a sustainable future for northerners, but also strengthens their “ability to determine their own futures, and develop new knowledge that benefits both the North and the world.”
Finland also hosted an Arctic Youth Summit in conjunction with the Arctic Biodiversity Congress in Rovaniemi in October 2018. The summit encouraged young people to engage and take leadership in public outreach and education about the Arctic and empowered them to promote Arctic biodiversity and conservation issues in their own communities.
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