31 August 2020 – With the 2020/21 academic year in Uzbekistan kicking off in early-September, the country’s Ministry of Public Education recently announced the launch of a new curriculum for primary schools. Among several new additions are lessons designed to provide children with learning opportunities centred around a strong educational framework that promotes fairness, justice and integrity in a fun and interactive way – a perfect fit for UNODC’s friendly space characters, the Zorbs, and with it their messages around peace and justice.
Uzbekistan’s new curriculum looks to use multimedia applications and interactive tools, drawing from both national and international educational knowledge. The Education for Justice (E4J) initiative – part of the Doha Declaration Global Programme – is lending its support to the latter, with the Zorbs educational framework set to be integrated into country’s teacher lesson plans for the coming years.
The move is an important step forward for UNODC in its efforts to teach young children core values such as peaceful co-existence, respect and acceptance and to reflect on the role of dialogue, fairness and empathy, through empowering and positive messages which can impact their behaviour. Indeed, as part of Uzbekistan’s new primary school curriculum, all two million children aged 6 to 12 attending primary school will have the opportunity to learn from the series characters – Intella, Scooter, Sentimo and Signal – who share precisely these values. Parents can also download and use the materials at home by accessing all content in the E4J Fun Corner.
Ahead of the new school year and the start of these materials being rolled out, a national online workshop was convened to introduce educators to the Zorbs lesson plans which form the teacher’s manual. More than 100 public education system specialists took part in the workshop which was designed to provide teachers with the background to best utilize the new tools in order to educate children about the importance of the rule of law and to teach them the skills and values that foster this.
Noting the importance of new and innovative ways to reach children in the classroom, Deputy Minister of Public Education, Dilshod Kenjaev, commented, “Together with UNODC, we are presenting a new educational tool, the Zorbs, which has been included in the primary curricula of Uzbekistan. We hope that the Zorbs will help prevent children from being involved in crime, provide them with an interactive way of learning, and raise their interest in the educational process.” Mr. Kenjaev also referenced UNODC’s support during the COVID-19 lockdown during which the Zorbs cartoon series was broadcast on national television channels, ultimately being watched by over six million students. As the Public Education Ministry’s Head of Department, Akbar Tagaev, described, “this was a timely response to the pandemic…with the Zorbs offering a unique educational character to educate students in the spirit of respect for the law.”
This strong partnership was echoed by UNODC’s Central Asia Regional Representative, Ashita Mittal, and the organization’s Doha Declaration Global Programme head, Marco Teixeira, who shared their ideas and expressed their joint willingness to continue this cooperation with the Government of Uzbekistan. Other remarks were provided by Lulua Asaad, Global Primary Level Coordinator of E4J, and Indira Mukimova, training coordinator of E4J in Uzbekistan, who shared their insights into the unique tools to be used.
The workshop also presented an opportunity for specialists from the Tashkent City Teachers Training Institute – developers of the country’s new curricula – to share their experience in integrating the Zorbs into classwork. “The Zorbs provide great support to us, the educators,” noted the Institute’s Saodat Shermukhamedova. “They promote universal human values such as respect, friendship and fairness, all of which are close to our culture. The Zorbs offer an age-appropriate way of learning and will encourage children to take part in discussions and share their opinions during classes.”
As further support, UNODC also handed over hard copies of the lesson plans in English, Russian and Uzbek to be distributed to some 10,000 schools across Uzbekistan.