NEXT Monday is Commonwealth Day. Not a lot of people know that and not many people know about the Commonwealth either, according to Graham Dane, the Edinburgh teacher hired to take charge of a Commonwealth youth summit in October.
The summit is part of the 15th Commonwealth Conference of Education Ministers (CCEM), to be held in Edinburgh from October 27-30. This is the first ever Education Youth Summit of the Commonwealth, specifically aimed at encouraging young people's participation and enjoyment.
The CCEM is held every three years, the last being in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Jack McConnell, then the education minister, prompted his colleagues to pursue the idea of a youth summit.
Staged at Murrayfield Stadium, it will be a forum for 16-23s to debate education issues and contribute to a final conference document, the Edinburgh Communique.
The theme, reflecting the Scottish Executive's policy mantra, is "Closing the Gap: Access, Inclusion, Achievement". Education ministers will address three key issues: ensuring all children and young people have access to the highest quality of education; ensuring that their education is fully inclusive; and ensuring it enables them to maximise their achievements.
Two youth delegates (one male, one female) from each of the 52 participating countries (Zimbabwe and Pakistan are suspended), plus those from territories like Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands, will be paired with two UK hosts to hold a three-day youth parliament.
After the conference, they will visit schools, colleges and universities across the country to talk about their own cultures and education systems, to observe and to report on what they learnt.
Alongside the youth summit will be a showcase of best educational practice open to applications from any group of young people.
Part of the reason is to promote knowledge of the Commonwealth. "The idea is to raise its profile among young people, not only because many Scots have family in places like Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, the Caribbean and India, but also because a lot of Commonwealth countries have a very young population," Mr Dane says. He has been seconded from his job as principal teacher of physics at St Augustine's High in Edinburgh.
For more information on Showcase Youth, contact the Scottish Executive Education Department's international relations unit, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ (0131 244 0897). Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
BOUND FOR THE LIMPOPO
The first ever teacher exchange between Scotland and South Africa has been set up to coincide with the conference. Six South African teachers will visit Scotland this autumn with a return visit early next year.
John MacTaggart, who has been seconded to the project from his post as principal teacher of modern studies at Boroughmuir High, said: "They will visit the province of Limpopo where they will act as a resource and share good practice, talk about Scotland and their own educational approaches, observe and learn."