The resolution adopted by UNESCO to establish a UNESCO International Institute for STEM Education (IISTEM) in Shanghai will assist China in sharing its education experience and growing to be a leader in global STEM education, an expert told the Global Times on Wednesday.
During the 42nd Session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris last week, UNESCO announced the establishment of the IISTEM in Shanghai. This marks the first UNESCO Category 1 Institute for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics to be established in China.
Category 1 institutes are crucial to UNESCO's mission. They act as incubators for new ideas and serve as standard-setters, facilitators of international cooperation, hubs for information sharing and capacity builders within their respective areas of competence.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at an earlier press conference that the Chinese government attaches great importance to education and treats STEM education as a key approach to cultivating innovative and versatile talent.
"We will act earnestly on our commitment, collaborate with UNESCO to implement the resolution and work for the early establishment and operation of the institute to contribute more to the UN's agenda for sustainable development as well as world peace and development," said Wang.
The move was preceded by UNESCO's resolution to establish a teacher education center in Shanghai Normal University in 2017. The teacher education center is a UNESCO Category 2 Center and followed two other Category 2 education centers in China: the International Research and Training Centre for Rural Education in Beijing and the International Centre for Higher Education Innovation in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province.
The establishment of the IISTEM demonstrates the recognition of China's national strength and a nod to China's commitment to building a community of shared future for mankind, Ning Bo, a professor with the Research Institute for International and Comparative Education of Shanghai Normal University, who is also a project manager at the UNESCO teacher education center, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
The decision is also a reflection of Shanghai's increasing prominence in international education.
Shanghai topped two consecutive rounds (2009 and 2012) of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests, a triennial survey of 15-year-old students that focuses on proficiency in reading, mathematics and science. The city's education system stands out as one of the strongest in the world, according to a report by the World Bank.
"Finland was a paragon when people talked about a successful education system. But global attention has been diverted to Shanghai thanks to the city's stellar performance in PISA," said Ning.
Shanghai's policies and investments have created a great teacher workforce, established clear learning standards and regular student assessments, and struck a balance between autonomy and accountability in school management, the report said.
"Shanghai is a pioneer in China's opening-up and reform in all sectors. The city eagerly welcomes international institutions like IISTEM to come and contribute to the development of its cosmopolitan nature," Ning said.
The institute is a fresh example of China's efforts to increase its influence on the world stage and play a leading role in international organizations, said the professor.
Technically, it's a platform for China to share its education experience with the world, especially in the field of STEM. Expertise and resources from around the world will be drawn to Shanghai, so it will advance the development of STEM education in China and promote Shanghai's economic and social development, Ning noted.
"China has achieved globally recognized progress in economic and social development. Through this opportunity, we aspire for the world to gain a comprehensive understanding of China and its developmental path from an educational and cultural perspective," Ning said.