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Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

The two St George's House propositions

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I am still at St George's House, Windsor, at a consultation about young people and the sustainable development goals.  This is, amongst other things, considering two propositions:

  1. Goal-related learning by students can help increase the likelihood that the goals will be valued, supported and hence realised
  2. A critical study of the goals can enhance the focus, and help raise the quality, of student learning

I drafted these two statements but neither is strikingly original – and each fails the dog training test.  Here are my thoughts on them.

Proposition 2   The Pearson website quotes from the January 2015 Buntingsdale Primary School Ofsted report saying this:

"Global education makes the learning more relevant and interesting for pupils, and so it contributes to their enthusiasm for learning."

Well, who can doubt that is the case when it is done well?  And who can also doubt that this enthusiasm – this motivation – for learning gets translated into actual learning of all kinds.  But is the key point here global learning, or is it the school’s own interest in and enthusiasm for global learning?  This is a question that Ofsted raised several years ago when it say that successful schools were those schools that had a clear purpose, focus, interest and enthusiasm.  It was this that made school interesting and worthwhile, and was readily communicated to students.  It was almost that it didn’t really matter what that interest and focus was – although Ofsted didn’t quite say that (I wish I could find the link ...).

Proposition 1    I’d say that this might well depend on a lot of things.  But it raises the question about whether it’s the business of schools to do this.  Two Danish educators, Jensen and Schnack, said not when they wrote:

“… it is not and cannot be the task of the school to solve the political problems of society.  Its task is not to improve the world with the help of pupils’ activities. …”

So, our young people can be helped to understand the issues, to see that they should care about them, and might do something about them.  But what they do (and whether they do it) should (and will anyway) be up to them.  It's not anyone's role or duty just to do as our teachers or parents say.

But just to be pellucidly clear, I do think we should all take the Goals seriously.  They do, after all, represent the work of the world to make itself less troubled.

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