Half-way through: Global Education Policy Trainee at UNESCO, Paris

In the past two years, I have transitioned from having chai in a teachers’ lounge in Karachi, to walking in my pyjamas to get a Starbucks Frappuccino before getting to my readings in Philadelphia, to searching by default for the nearest Tim Hortons as I walked around Toronto, to making my own latte every morning at work in Paris.

Now that I have successfully reduced my personal, academic and professional journey across three continents to a mundane quest for caffeine…let me give you some of the information you are undoubtedly seeking since you have read this far.

“To study in Paris is to be born in Paris!”

 Victor Hugo

Hi, my name is Namreen. This is my second blog post and I am writing after having completed nine of the 16 weeks of my mandatory trainee-ship in the Education, Research and Foresight Department at UNESCO’s Headquarter in Paris.

Here are some key highlights of the seven weeks since I last posted:

Oh! Rephrase!…here is THE key highlight.

Me. Just casually being the future of the teaching profession 😛


After a chance meeting with the Chief of Teacher Development at UNESCO, I was invited as a panelist for the World Teachers’ Day celebration at UNESCO’s Headquarter entitled “Young Teachers- The Future of the Profession” for this year. I spoke on “How to Attract Young Teachers to the Profession” from the perspective of a business graduate who stumbled into teaching and stuck around for 5 years.

Sharing the stage with Stefania Giannini– Assistant Director General of Education at UNESCO among other prominent speakers will remain the finest moment of my Traineeship here in Paris.

It was a cherry on top to be tweeted and quoted all of seven times on UNESCO’s Teacher Task Force’s twitter account.

This 60 minute panel made it all worth it- the moving across continents, the initial settling in phase, the being an intern after having worked at a management position for a while…all of it!

Speaking on “How to attract young teachers to the profession”


Futures of Education team at 9pm in Paris as we viewed the launch at the UNGA in New York.

The great thing about working at UNESCO as a trainee is how quickly everyone begins to start treating you as a colleague. I have enjoyed working on meaningful projects, participating in strategic meetings, and seeing closely how an intergovernmental organization influences the discourse and global governance of education.

I have been fortunate to be here at time when UNESCO’s Research and Foresight department is in the process of setting the global education agenda for 2050 and beyond through its Futures of Education initiative which acknowledges multiple possible futures for the world.

Currently, I am working on the book entitled ‘Humanistic Futures’ which presents perspectives on the futures of education from UNESCO University Chairs around the world, UPenn’s Dr. Dan Wagner being one of them.

It has been quite interesting to read, revise, edit and summarise about 50 think pieces that envision broad readjustments in education for a better future for the world. Sounds grand, right?

Sorting these think pieces into themes and chapters then writing synopses for those chapters took me back to my English Literature teaching days.

All in all, I never thought a time would come so soon that I would be working in editorial capacity on a book, nonetheless one that has such far reaching implications.

Additionally, coordinating with and reaching out to UNESCO University Chairs has helped me build some new networks and strengthen old ones.


The Executive Board meetings at HQ provided me the opportunity to meet with Wajiha Akram, Pakistan’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education and Neelofer Shehzad, Pakistan’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO.

Events at HQ I chose to attend in the past seven weeks

I have two intentions while elaborating on this section of my post:

  • To ensure prospective trainees/interns are well aware of the bustling place full of learning opportunities that UNESCO is during the Fall Semester. This I insist on because I know it is hard to choose to undertake professional training from Aug-Dec which might come at the cost of missing out on some great courses being taught on Penn’s campus as opposed to interning in the Summer which is the regular way of going about this.
  • To highlight opportunities for continuing professional development at UNESCO which take place in the form of debate, dialogue and events in collaboration with NGOs and ministries of education.
  1. Fourth Ahinsa Dialogue by UNESCO MGIEP: UNESCO’s Institute for Peace in Education, which is located in Dehli, India, presented us with a life-size realistic holographic image of Mahatma Gandhi as he provided solutions to present and future educational challenges. I particularly enjoyed this juxtapositioning of the past, present and future. Although, I did find India coming in as a champion of peace at a time when they have barricaded Kashmiris in their own homes slightly ironic.
  2. African Fashion Reception This event presented a fabulous combination of the best of Paris and UNESCO- a high-end fashion show displaying the cultural richness and diversity in Africa. It was interesting to note now the music, embroidery and styles changed from country to country often owing to religious, linguistic, cultural and geographic differences.
  3. King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre Yemeni Minister for Education’s comment about how Saudi Arabia came to Yemen with two hands, one of war and the other of humanitarian aid for education really made me think about how relief efforts function and how the world responds to conflicts.
  4. International Day of the Girl: Girls’ education: a force for gender equality and lasting change
  5. Ethical Principles for AI in Education Where the discourse on the future of AI is rife with panic about the 4th industrial revolution, this session flipped the debate to look at the active role organizations can play to use new technology in the advancement of global goals.
  6. Education and Philanthropy Quality Education for All: Lessons and Future Priorities At this event, it was nice to hear from a range of actors in education such as researchers at the University of Toronto, education advisors at Aga Khan Foundation, and UNESCO.
  7. Reflections on the future of research, education and innovation in Europe and beyond With Stafenia Giannini- ADG Education at UNESCO moderating the panel discussion and several Chiefs of Sections from the Education Sector present, UNESCO’s two key foci- the future and the role of research in education- were highlighted.
  8. CreativItaly: A Journey Though Italian Creativity A fine evening on the 7th floor of the Fonteny building. A perfect view of the Eiffel Tower, plenty of wine, champagne, cheese and meat along with an exhibition of silk fabrics from Italian towns.

“That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me.” 

Midnight in Paris


For want of a better expression, I will borrow previous UNESCO trainee, Fatima’s phrase “all of Paris is all sorts of beautiful”. Even though, over the past decade, I have visited several cities in Europe, “Paris is Paris” rings true. Perhaps because:

“Paris is the city in which one loves to live. Sometimes I think this is because it is the only city in the world where you can step out of a railway station – the Gare D’Orsay – and see, simultaneously, the chief enchantments: the Seine with its bridges and bookstalls, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Tuileries Gardens, the Place de la Concorde, the beginning of the Champs Elysees – nearly everything except the Luxembourg Gardens and the Palais Royal. But what other city offers as much as you leave a train?” 

Margaret Anderson

Parisian weekend highlights

Weekend travels outside Paris to Reims, Lyon, Dijon and Brussels:

My next blog post will come at the end of November. Let’s see what Paris and UNESCO have in store till then.

“I know so much is going to happen here, but I just don’t know how. It feels like Paris is full of so many adventures just waiting to be had.”

Rachel Kapelke-Dale, Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of the Two (Almost) Adults

PS: I quote this book, because it truly depicts how exchanging weekly phone calls with friends discovering themselves in other parts of the world feels like.

PS 2: Now that winter is coming, I am missing the sunny September lunch picnic days at UNESCO.

5 thoughts on “Half-way through: Global Education Policy Trainee at UNESCO, Paris

  1. A well written and thought provoking article on education and it’s global enhancement. I was fairly ignorant to all that UNESCO does and I’m glad you are educating me about it via this blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading. It is true that UNESCO is more prominently known for World Heritage sites even though it works most in education.


  2. I love the relatable opening about your international quest for caffeine! So fun to hear about your Parisian and UNESCO adventures, sounds like you’re truly making the most of this experience 🙂


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