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KacaMata Ku: Kampung Baru Cina Chapter Closed! What About Global Learning City?

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak

While the chapter on the proposed United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site announced by a minister recently, comes to an abrupt closure, perhaps it is time to focus on another UNESCO global designation – the Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC).

It is an international network that brings together cities committed to promoting lifelong learning within their communities.

The purpose and objectives include facilitating social cohesion, economic development, and sustainability in urban areas through lifelong learning. Also, to provide inspiration, know-how, and best practices to member cities worldwide.

The network was established by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning in 2012 with the aim of supporting and improving lifelong learning practices in cities around the world.

This is achieved by enhancing dialogue on education policies, establishing links between those in charge of city administration and various educational institutions, as well as strengthening partnerships between global cities.


A learning city is expected to mobilize its resources in all sectors to promote comprehensive learning for all from basic to higher education, to stimulate learning within families and local communities, facilitates learning for work, and expand the use of modern educational tools to promote a culture of lifelong learning.

As of late, 64 cities from 35 countries have joined the GNLC in recognition of their outstanding efforts to make lifelong learning a reality for all at the local level.

This was made known at a high-level virtual event “Empowering Learners of All Ages: UNESCO Learning Cities Transform Lives”. New learning cities were added to the network on the recommendation of a jury of experts.

A strong commitment to lifelong learning by the mayor and city administration and a track record of good practices and policy initiatives are key prerequisites for becoming a learning city.

Hence, cities are considered key to transforming the right to education into a tangible reality for individuals of all ages. With the new admissions, the network now includes 356 member cities from all around the world that share know-how and pave the way for lifelong learning opportunities for 390 million citizens.

More specifically, a learning involved with all its residents in lifelong learning. Revitalizes learning in families and communities, facilitate workplace learning by extending the use of modern learning technologies. At the same time, it enhances quality and excellence in learning while fostering a culture of learning throughout life.

Members of the GNLC receive guidance, support, and tools for developing learning cities. They are engaged in policy dialogue and peer learning while supporting the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 4 (quality education) and SDG 11 (inclusive, safe, resilient cities).

Cities are therefore also key to promoting ESD through lifelong learning programmes that impart new knowledge, skills and attitudes to learners of all ages and from all backgrounds.

Building a learning city is regarded as a collective and continuing journey that requires a concrete action plan with strong political leadership and steadfast commitment.

Participation and involvement of all stakeholders, especially residents, create diverse celebratory events charged with enthusiasm and inspiration for easy accessibility and enjoyable experiences for all citizens.

In Malaysia, Petaling Jaya (PJ) seems to be the only such city, a member since 2018. The city wants to promote equal opportunities for all and established this statement in the nine Target Groups Strategy. PJ offers lifelong learning IT (LIT) and lifelong learning IT soft skills (LITS), focusing on indigenous groups, underprivileged families and marginalized communities in the city.

It also offers programmes for people working to improve their skills and perform better.

Petaling Jaya also creates programmes for the youth, single mothers, the urban poor, and people living with special educational needs, to encourage entrepreneurship. While offering workshops and classes to equip participants to start their own businesses.

PJ implements yearly events such as Frontier Technologies as an innovative tool to transform waste to wealth, and educational strategies within the framework of Low Carbon Cities. The city’s Search and Destroy Aedes Ranger (SEDAR) team of volunteers educate to eradicate the problem of Aedes mosquitoes. Two projects that standout are: PJ SEED Community Grant and Petaling Jaya Child Friendly City.

The former provides initial financial assistance to the community to implement initiatives through community participation and partnerships in accordance with the PJ Smart, Sustainable and Resilient 2030 Masterplan.

The city council collaborates with NGOs, community organizations and educational institutions to create and implement sustainability programmes.

The latter includes a series of discussions and focus-groups where problems and solutions to the implementation of the PJ Child Friendly Initiative are discussed.

Through these conversations, Petaling Jaya aims to achieve a child-friendly city, a city that is safe and provides a conducive environment for any learning activity to take place.

The city council collaborates with NGOs, community organizations and educational institutions to create and implement sustainability programmes. In short, GNLC is equally relevant to the future of Malaysia.  – BACALAHMALAYSIA.MY

  • The writer is Rector of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)

BacalahMalaysia Team

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