Home of 21st Century Education



Organisations certified as a “Home of the 21st Century Education” are innovative learning centres with children from all social and cultural backgrounds at the centre of their work. By encouraging playful engagement with cultural heritage they equip children for a sustainable future in an interrelated world – socially, culturally, environmentally. 

We dream that by 2030 every young person’s childhood can be enlightened through cultural heritage, thanks to the work of museums, galleries and interpretation centres keeping pace with children and their changing learning needs. 


“There is no more important cause than the children. As they hold our future in their hands, we hold their future in ours.” Henrietts H. Fore (Executive director of UNESCO)

There are many opportunities as well as threats to society in the early 21st century: the digital shift, which is reshaping the ways we work, learn and live our personal lives; the technological revolution, which has unleashed possibilities formerly unreachable for human beings but also completely changed the demands for the workforce; the devastation of nature, which is reaching a critical point; the disintegration of society. 

The world we are passing on to our children seems to be a confusing one. Even though we probably cannot fully imagine how the future will be, we know that to make the best of it our children will need to be equipped not only with a heavy pack of knowledge, but a load of creativity, imagination, critical thinking, and the ability to decide and take responsibility.

The tools to pack for such a world can be found in the arts and cultural heritage: in the realm of stories, experienced humanity, empathy, courage but also ethics. Museums can thus be important places of learning for the future – if they embrace the needs of their audience.

Creating places of informal and holistic education in line with the contemporary learning needs of children has been a major theme for children-focused museums since the 19th century. Since the establishment of the first children’s museums, they have continuously served as pioneers of audience-orientation in museums by offering spaces for playful learning. 

The mission of the quality label for museums as “Home of 21st Century Education” is to support museums in fully embracing children’s needs and using their capacities for the education of the future, as well as highlighting the value of such places and projects for the children’s caretakers and educators – to help them find sources of great learning in the museum world.


Hands On! International Association of Children Museums presents with this label a vision for future-oriented cultural institutions such as museums, setting standards of quality and creating a tool for their assessment. We strive to inspire museums and similar organisations, lending our support in transforming them into cultural learning hubs with the focus on children – for a sustainable future, in a socially, culturally and environmentally interrelated world.

Children’s museums – rooted in cultural heritage, yet engaged in innovative teaching approaches, as well as social affairs and active citizenship – are the ideal future-oriented learning spaces, where children, their empowerment and play, are at the centre of the organisation’s agenda.

Goals and guarantee of quality

The ‘Home of 21st Century Education’ label targets organisations committed to equipping children to actively co-create a more sustainable society by offering individual learning, based on a combination of high-quality interpretation and interaction with tangible and intangible heritage.

Taking the Hands On! Mind On! Heart On! concept as a starting point, we elaborated a global vision with an accompanying guiding and assessment framework.

The certificate provides:

  • A shared vision and mission for organisations dedicated to serving as future-oriented learning spaces for children (= commitment manifesto)
  • A catalogue of global quality standards and benchmarks for children-centred museum work
    (= best practices)
  • An official certification for meeting the quality standards, issued by an internationally acclaimed organisation. (= quality label)


The Home of 21st Century Education label was created as part of our Creative Europe Project 21st Century Children. This project is co-funded by the Creative Europe program of the European Union.

Project partners and people involved

Project’s funding:
Creative Europe programme of the European Union together with Hands On!

Project development:
Tereza Dobiasova and Sarai Lenzberger together with Hands On! Board

Support in hosting Conferences:
Susanne Gesser together with Junges Museum Frankfurt (Germany) and Adam Langer together with Sladovna Pisek (Czech Republic)

Hub Partners:
Hands On member organisations

Marketing and branding support, graphic design:
Tomas Hrivnak and Dima Strapchev

Website development:
Harald Zettler

Would like to join the movement?

Apply for certification or commit to the transformation which will make your organisation a Home of 21st Century Education.