As you know, the UN is planning to replace the Millennium Development Goals with 17 Sustainable Development Goals. One of these (Goal 4) relates to education and learning. Stephen Sterling has contributed to a recent report critiquing the goals, and he doesn't much like Goal 4 which is to:
"Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all."
Amongst Sterling's points are these (p. 29):
"This goal is both an end and a cross-cutting means. That is, achieving this goal is desirable in itself for the evidence-based reasons given above. What is much weaker in the current articulation of the goal and its targets is education as a vehicle or instrument for change. Education can play a vital role in bringing about sustainable change over time because it is change which is owned by affected and participating stakeholders.
The goal currently emphasizes education in terms of its potential economic and social benefits – there is no recognition that education through awareness raising, training and capacity building can help protect environmental quality and lead to wiser resource use; only Target 4.7 mentions sustainable development as such.
This goal would benefit greatly from extended wording to reflect the fact that most educational policies and programs do not yet reflect the purposes and goals of sustainable development, and some even exacerbate sustainability issues. For many education policies and programs, a radical re-alignment towards sustainable development and sustainable futures is required."
Sterling then recommends that SDG 4 be revised to read:
“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning ... opportunities for all, and further, review and reform the purposes, methods, and values that underpin all education and training policies and programs with a view to reinforcing the integration of culturally relevant education for sustainable development as a critical means of assuring a more sustainable future.”
His point, of course, is to get SD / ESD into the goal, as opposed to hiding it away, as UNECO has done, in target #4.7. This target currently says:
#4.7 – by 2030, ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including among others through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.
This is a classic, breathless, UNESCO grab-bag where a lot of stuff (that UNESCO doesn't really understand) is packed whether it coheres or not (it doesn't). Sterling suggests (his edits in bold):
#4.7 – by 2030, ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development through education for sustainable development programmes which promote sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.
Too much promotion, of course, but, more importantly, the way this is phrased means it is something (if you believe in ESD / etc. / etc.) that teachers will need to do, not learners. What learners (that is, people) have to do, is to act through how they live and work, and interact.
Anyway, hands up those who think UNESCO's panjandrums will take a blind bit of notice.