Born in the Philippines, Raven Frias has been involved in education and social innovation for several years, working with various organisations. As such, Raven has forged many links with the Learning Planet Institute: she is a student in the AIRE “Learning Sciences” Master’s programme and a member of the International Youth Council. To give the younger generation a voice and decision-making roles, the Learning Planet Institute invited her to also join its Scientific Council. Meet a student with an abundance of positive energy!
It’s a rainy afternoon in March 2023. Raven Frias joins me at the Learning Planet Institute lobby and we sit down in one of the small basement lounges. Raven begins to share her story. “I’m Filipino. I was born in Manila, and I grew up here.”
From an early age, Raven was interested in education, particularly for young children. “What made me want to work in the education field was the everyday situation in the Philippines: access to education is very difficult, and pupils often quit school very early.” This was not the case for Raven, who considers herself privileged: “I’m one of the lucky ones. I was able to go to the University of the Philippines (the national university), and benefit from a scholarship.“
At the University of the Philippines, Raven studied BS Family Life and Child Development. “I’d already had the chance to work as a kindergarten teacher”, she says. I wanted to continue in that at university.” Because she was such a good student, Raven’s family saw her as a doctor. “My family wanted me to become a doctor, but I already knew I wanted to be a teacher. It really was my dream job“. Raven knows what she wants, and it worked out well for her. She graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2022, receiving the “Gawad Tsanselor 2022” award for “the most outstanding student for combined excellence in studies and public service.”
If Raven is rewarded for her commitment to the public interest, it isn’t because she attended university and teaches: she is also deeply involved in the nonprofit sector. “In 2021-2022, I was president of an NGO called Family Life and Child Development Circle. We were a team of around fifty young people and we ran the “Tahanan” project (which means “home” in Filipino), through which we ran learning sessions with children. We read them stories, did activities, and so on.”
During the pandemic, Raven and the Tahanan team organised online game sessions every Saturday, covering topics such as mental health, hygiene and helping children to become self-reliant. “We would create songs to help them take care of themselves, explore their environment, or strengthen ties with their families… It was very interesting!“. The Tahanan project has since won several awards for social innovation and education.
Beyond her studies and community involvement, Raven is looking to explore the world of educational research. “I wanted to meet people who, like me, wanted to make education more accessible, more fun, more engaging,” she explains. In the course of her internet research, Raven came across a call from the International Youth Council, launched by the Learning Planet Institute. The year was 2021. Raven applied and was accepted into the first cohort of young activists.
The aim of the Youth Council is to put youth in the spotlight so that they can play their part in strategic decision-making on key issues for the world of tomorrow.
We were 18 interested and committed young people in fields such as education, health, sustainability and identity. We came from all over the world. It’s an incredible community. We met every month online – quite a challenge with the time difference!
Within the programme, Raven has made lifelong friends. “I feel that wherever I go in the world, I’ll feel at home. It’s great that we’ve stayed in touch after the programme. I’ve already seen some of my friends from the Youth Council: one of them came to visit me in the Philippines, and others have welcomed me in France. We exchange ideas on our respective projects, but above all we’ve become real friends. We’re like a family. I can’t wait to go and visit the others!” she smiles.
Raven is very grateful for her experience with the Youth Council. “It was a great opportunity that showed us how much fun it can be to make a difference. We created a real community. I was part of the education group; there were 5 of us, and it was really nice to see that we were like-minded on different continents. We organised an online Christmas party with games for the Youth Council team, which was great fun. I love bringing people together!”
Raven also had the opportunity to represent her home country at the Hitachi Young Leaders Initiative in Singapore in summer 2022, which brought together young leaders from Southeast Asia to collaborate on innovation for well-being (Sustainable Development Goal 3). Thanks to the Youth Council, Raven was able to speak at the LearningPlanet Festival.
It was a very inspiring space. It’s gratifying to see that we can go from a field activity to an event where we meet policy-makers and social entrepreneurs, and where we can take the floor to multiply our impact tenfold!
Since the start of the 2022 academic year, Raven has been enrolled in the AIRE (Interdisciplinary Approaches to Research and Teaching) Master’s degree in Learning Sciences, by Université Paris Cité, hosted at the Learning Planet Institute.
“I stayed in touch with the Youth Council’s coordinating and organising team. I had enjoyed the experience so much that I asked them what they were doing. The team urged me to apply, and I was accepted into the AIRE – Learning Sciences Master’s programme, while at the same time obtaining a mobility grant to study in Paris. Students come from all over the world and have different ages and experiences, so it’s very enriching. The idea for me in doing this Master’s programme is to meet different players in the education sector.” As if Raven hadn’t already done some of that – but she’s still exploring new horizons.
As part of her Master’s degree, she turned to the private sector, working in the insurance sector at AXA in La Défense. “At first, I was a bit scared, and people were surprised when I told them I was going to work for a big company, given my activist background!” she jokes. But Raven was keen to try out new things. “This is my first job in the private sector. I help run a programme for youth and women called ‘Over 100 Reasons You’ll Love the Future‘. We discuss trends on emerging topics, and I identify leaders from my generation, Generation Z, among others. The idea is that this programme can be implemented in different countries.“
Raven is part of AXA’s sustainability department, and is learning a lot. “The private sector has a very particular approach and it’s very interesting to get their perspective too. I’m studying how we can build bridges between different sectors to federate in education: from the private sector to schools to NGOs.” Raven documents her time in the private sector, and compares it to her NGO experience.
I think the cultures are very different, and we have a lot to learn from both ways of working. NGOs can’t operate solely on people’s passions, and the private sector can’t operate solely on business interests. I’m working to find the middle ground that will unite them, which resonates with what the Learning Planet Institute is doing.
Raven’s commitment knows no bounds. She is also a freelancer in communications for Curriculum for Life, a community of learners, educators and thought leaders who co-create life skills learning for 6-18 year olds. “We want to make education more holistic. Not just acquire technical skills at school, but also human and life skills”
Raven is particularly passionate about lifelong learning. “My father was studying electronics in the 1980s, but for his family’s sake he had to give up university to work abroad as a caterer. Even without a degree, he’s very skilled in mechanics, cooking and many other areas – he can fix anything and he’s very good at business. But his skills are not recognised by society. It’s a real shame. I want to put that right.“
Does Raven have time for passions other than education, and activities that nourish her, beyond her commitments? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. She makes music and takes photographs, forms of expression that once again she uses to serve the causes that drives her. In 2021, one of her photos taken during one of her field projects was published in UNESCO’s World Education Blog. “The idea is always to make education more accessible by creating partnerships across sectors, generations and regions of the world. I need to understand how people understand education. Learning doesn’t just happen at school. You can learn from anyone!”
It was with the same philosophy that the Learning Planet Institute asked Raven to join its Scientific Advisory Board, which she accepted. “At first, I was really scared. Maybe it was imposter syndrome. I was the youngest and the committee is made up of renowned professors, and presidents of major world universities. Then I realised that they wanted to listen to young people”. In the end, she carries the voice of her generation, and sometimes acts as a translator of young people’s hopes and desires.
“It’s a privilege to bring our generation’s perspective to discussions that will affect our future. We talk about different issues and projects, and I remember sharing the nuances or doubts of our generation, like how young people experience political unrest or why some are afraid to have children because of the climate crisis.“
At the Learning Planet Institute, Raven didn’t just meet lifelong colleagues and friends during the Youth Council. She didn’t just have exciting classes as part of her Masters. She had life-changing conversations and lessons. “It’s a dream to have a place where you can learn about anything, anytime, with anyone!“. Raven doesn’t yet know what she’ll do next, but she wants to continue learning to link regions, sectors and generations for lifelong learning. At 23, she’s certainly not done committing herself to education with passion and determination.
👉 Learn more about the International Youth Council:
The International Youth Council was created four months after the birth of the Youth Empowerment Circle, with the aim of truly entrusting the leadership and strategic decisions of the Circle to young people themselves. The Board is made up of young people under the age of 25 from all over the world. They meet regularly to determine the best approaches and opportunities for the Circle to address topics such as youth rights, health and well-being, and education.
👉 Find out more about our governance and scientific council
👉 Discover more portraits of our community members
👉 Find out more about the AIRE “Learning Sciences” Master’s programme
This publication is part of the UNESCO Chair in Learning Sciences, established between UNESCO and Université Paris Cité, in partnership with the Learning Planet Institute. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of UNESCO. UNESCO cannot be held responsible for them.
An original portrait written in French by Marie Ollivier
Thanks to Raven Frias for answering our questions!