I went to a well organised West Midlands Sustainable Schools network yesterday. We met on the top floor of the CUBE and its over-hanging, vertiginous heights reminded me of the mercifully brief time I spent at Ocean City; sadly, in Birmingham, there wasn't a boardwalk to be seen, and no Drifters music to sooth the giddy experience. Here's the input I made to the meeting:
There is no scope for trying to persuade government to change the 2002 education act as it has other schools priorities. That goes for the national curriculum as well as this is becoming increasingly irrelevant given the increasing number of schools that are independent and hence out of its reach. DfE has slimmed down the national curriculum in order, it says, to enable schools to be more responsive to local contexts and needs.
DfID is still supporting global learning in schools in collaboration with Pearson and a range of charities and the like. The future possibilities of this is not something I have a view on.
ESD seems pretty much a failure, no matter what level you look at. In the battle within UNESCO between it and Education for all, EFA won, and you only have to look at SDG 4 to see the evidence of this. Being one of the many adjectival educations was always going to prove a handicap for ESD as those who matter in education knew that it could be safely ignored because it was not part of the mainstream.
The goals would seem to be a useful framing of sustainable development as they make it more concrete. As one activist said to me: “These internationally-agreed goals give focus to the often sprawling nature of sustainable development.” There is evidence that some groups recognise this capability:
- Universities understand that they can be used to bring together disparate activities: teaching, learning, research, student activism, campus management, social responsibility, entrepreneurship, and community activity.
- The UN Global Compact has produced a SDG Compass which is being used to focus the attention of business on the goals.
- The Global Goals Curriculum is the focus of a conference for schools in Berlin in May. This is part of the Schools on the Move initiative.
Forget ESD; relate what you do to the Goals, and persuade schools to do the same.