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Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Mentioned in despatches by UNESCO

📥  Comment, New Publications

I see that Paul Vare and I have been mentioned “in despatches” [*] by UNESCO in its SDG Learning Objectives.  It is, of course, always nice to have your work noticed.

The report begins:

"Education is UNESCO’s top priority because it is a basic human right and the foundation on which to build peace and drive sustainable development. UNESCO is the United Nations’ specialized agency for education and the Education Sector provides global and regional leadership in education, strengthens national education systems and responds to contemporary global challenges through education with a special focus on gender equality and Africa.

UNESCO, as the United Nations’ specialised agency for education, is entrusted to lead and coordinate the Education 2030 Agenda, which is part of a global movement to eradicate poverty through 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Education, essential to achieve all of these goals, has its own dedicated Goal 4, which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” The Education 2030 Framework for Action provides guidance for the implementation of this ambitious goal and commitments."

In this, I particularly noted: "Education, [is] essential to achieve all of these goals, ...".  This is obviously the case, particularly in the sense of "inclusive and equitable quality education [to] promote lifelong learning opportunities for all" (see above).  However, as this sort of education has been complicit in getting us into the mess we're in (as others have argued many times before), this isn't enough.  Perhaps the Foreword would acknowledge this, I wondered.  Here it is, written by Qian Tang, Assistant Director-General for Education:

UNESCO has been promoting Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) since 1992.  It led the UN Decade for ESD from 2005 to 2014 and is now spearheading its follow-up, the Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD.

The momentum for ESD has never been stronger.  Global issues – such as climate change – urgently require a shift in our lifestyles and a transformation of the way we think and act.  To achieve this change, we need new skills, values and attitudes that lead to more sustainable societies.

Education systems must respond to this pressing need by defining relevant learning objectives and learning contents, introducing pedagogies that empower learners, and urging their institutions to include sustainability principles in their management structures.

The new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development clearly reflects this vision of the importance of an appropriate educational response.   Education is explicitly formulated as a stand-alone goal – Sustainable Development Goal 4.  Numerous education related targets and indicators are also contained within other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Education is both a goal in itself and a means for attaining all the other SDGs. It is not only an integral part of sustainable development, but also a key enabler for it.  That is why education represents an essential strategy in the pursuit of the SDGs.

This publication is designed as a guide for education professionals on the use of ESD in learning for the SDGs, and consequently to contribute to achieving the SDGs.  The guide identifies indicative learning objectives and suggests topics and learning activities for each SDG.  It also presents implementation methods at different levels, from course design to national strategies.

The guide does not aim to be prescriptive in any way, but to provide guidance and suggestions that educators can select and adapt to fit concrete learning contexts.

I am confident that this guide will help to develop sustainability competencies for all learners and empower everyone to contribute to achieving our ambitious and crucial global agenda.

Well, up to a point.  The first thing to note is that this is all about ESD which wasn't mentioned in what went before.  There, it was 'education' which was stressed.  But then, the report is all about ESD, and the title perhaps ought (more honestly) to have been ESD learning objectives.  It's understandable, of course, that UNESCO has hitched its broken-down ESD wagon to the more resilient and sprightly SDG horse.  However, whether anyone will take any notice as it trundles its way through the streets is a moot point.

UNESCO did at least resist writing "The momentum of ESD has never been stronger".  In that, it knows the truth of the matter.  How bitterly it must regret all the waste of time and effort over 15 years when it could have been focusing, from 2003, on reforming education itself as a part of Education For All [EFA].  Whatever happened to that idea?

More later, no doubt, on those tedious learning objectives themselves.

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[*]   Vare, P. and Scott, W., 2007. Learning for a Change: Exploring the Relationship between Education and Sustainable Development.  Journal of Education for Sustainable Development. 1(2), 191– 198.

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