Sunday, August 07, 2005
The Children's Project
The why is about enabling change. Syria is in a process of change - towards a market economy, towards greater democracy - and there is recognition amongst the country's leaders that you can't just propel people from old state to new if they aren't prepared for it. Politically, proper democracy needs people not just able to put a cross on a ballot form, but to engage in the political debate, to hold the executive to account, to understand the issues and implications on which they will be voting. Economically, the country needs to build a creative knowledge economy, to develop a more flexible workforce, to encourage initiative and teamwork. Socially, there needs to be a move away from reliance on the state towards individual and community responsibility, a stronger sense of citizenship and civic duty. And technologically, the nation needs to embrace the technological future, with all the risks that it may bring.
So the project is about enabling young people, through exciting hands-on, science-based experiences, to understand and appreciate themselves and the world around them. From this, we hope then to show them how they can play a part in building the future - through the careers they choose, through the contribution they make to the environment, through the choices they can make about they way they live. The project will encourage debate, foster creativity and new ways of thinking, and concentrate not just on building knowledge but on applying that knowledge to the real world. It should be an inspiring and empowering experience, but it will be cumulative and long-term.
The aim is to make the centre and its public programmes accessible to all. This will not be run on a commercial basis. The age group we are targeting is 6 to 16, although of course there will be provision for younger children. We are still at the very early stages of the project, and currently running some pilot activities in various locations around the country to evaluate content and techniques. The aim is to have the project complete and running by 2009 at the latest, so there is much to do.
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