Within ten minutes of talking to Istvan Csakany, it’s easy to forget that he’s actually halfway around the world in Hungary. Which, in a lot of ways, is exactly the point.
Csakany, 25, works with the International Center for Democratic Transition (ICDT) in Budapest, where he’s launched the One World Learning (OWL) project—a series of “tele-classes” connecting students from different parts of the world to create an opportunity for cultural exchange and allow students to acknowledge and understand those different from them on an individual level.
Istvan Csakany is improving education by crossing cultural and ethnic lines.
The pilot project took place this past spring, as students from the Magnet High School in Ongata Rongai, Kenya, and the Berzsenyi Daniel Secondary School in Budapest took part in several sessions over the course of the term. The basic curriculum was determined by ICDT, but much of the discussions were driven by what interested the class—everything from the environment to sexuality.
Csakany and the teachers were expecting some stage fright and tension at first, but much to their surprise students almost immediately opened up, fascinated by the similarities and differences of the two cultures. Kenya and Hungary are no longer abstract, far away places, but rather real people with real issues and feelings.
Csakany believes that this sort of understanding will help in the development of peaceful communities, as future leaders learn to appreciate differences in a concrete way. He wants to bring OWL to other conflict areas such as Israel and Palestine, in the hopes that understanding enemies as individuals will provide a foundation for a more peaceful world.
Taking on the Giant recently interviewed Csakany on the same Cisco Telepresence technology used by OWL to talk about going beyond traditional education and why young people are so important to our society.