Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Australia, education and the SDGs

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I mentioned the other day that the Australians had had an SDG summit last year.  Here are some of things the report had to say about education:

Page 5
Universities and the academic sector have a role to play through their teaching, research and organisational leadership roles. Young people, who are often excluded from the discussions, bring unique skills that are essential to addressing the challenges of the agenda.

Page 18  Academia

Universities and the academic sector have a critical role to play in achieving the SDGs through teaching, research and organisational leadership.

  • Through teaching and knowledge outreach they will equip both the current and next generation of leaders, innovators and decision makers with the knowledge and skills to needed to address the SDG challenges
  • Through their in-depth knowledge and expertise in every area of the SDGs – as well as capabilities such as research, monitoring, analysis, technology, data – they are well placed to identify what is needed to address the SDGs and contribute to the development of practical solutions
  • Through their organisational leadership, they can set an example to other sectors by supporting the goals in their own operations, governance and community leadership

Addressing the SDGs will require the research sector to put more focus on a partnership approach to research – within and among universities and with other sectors.  Achieving this will require addressing barriers in the current system, such as a narrow definition of academic impact, issues around intellectual property, and the highly competitive funding environment.

Page 19  Youth

Young people are critical to SDG implementation, both because the SDGs are their future and because they bring unique skills that are critical to addressing the challenges of the agenda.

Half the world’s population is under 30, and everyone must be on board to achieve the SDGs.

Young people are creative, energetic, idealistic and optimistic about the future.  They are global citizens and want to make global, challenging and meaningful contributions.  These are unique and essential qualities for tackling the challenges of the SDGs, and can complement the knowledge and expertise of older people.

Many young Australians are doing great work, but they are often shut out of mainstream discussions.  We cannot afford to keep doing this.  We need to engage with young people and give them opportunities to be heard and participate.

The importance of embedding sustainable development and SDGs in education and supporting programs that help students to become global citizens was emphasised several times.


There's much to agree with here, and a few cliches to sigh at.  Some things to note:

  1. Whilst universities might begin the process of equipping "both the current and next generation of leaders, innovators and decision makers with the knowledge and skills to needed to address the SDG challenges", this is only an initial step and graduates do not leave universities as a finished product with nothing more to learn.  It's a pity that this is not acknowledged more widely as it might lead to a more realistic debate abound competencies.
  2. No mention of schools.  Why is this?  They cannot be dismissed as "and the academic sector".
  3. Is it inevitable that a focus on youth has to be vague and clichéd?  Compared to page 18, page 19 says little of substance.  Is this because there is nothing to say?

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