Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Topic: New Publications

More challenges around the SDGs

📥  Comment, New Publications

The report on the St George's House consultation on the SDGs contains three sets of challenges, and I wrote about the ones to government the other day.  I was somewhat sceptical as to whether anyone would take any notice.

But what about NGOs and schools?  Are these likely to fare any better do you think?  Here they are:

Challenges for NGOs

  • Contribute to broadening the evidence base that confirms the beneficial outcomes from exploring the SDGs can generate – outcomes than are valued by a range of stakeholders from the learners themselves to government departments including attainment, wellbeing and teacher motivation.
  • Broaden engagement with the SDGs through linking in with broader conversations around the purposes of education and raise the themes and vision behind SDGs to influence key charitable foundations and funders. This links with the need to consider the opportunities to embed learning within other frameworks (for example the Education 2030 project12) that address (but are not limited to) the SDGs and vice versa.
  • Opportunities to explore the SDGs with young people beyond the formal curriculum gives NGOs a licence to work in a way that offers a space for young people to develop their values in ways that may not currently be available within schools.
  • Supporting schools to deliver journeys of learning related to the SDGs is crucial, however this must include consideration of ‘how’ these journeys are delivered as well as what they will learn along the way.
  • The SDGs present those working in the field with an opportunity to rethink assumptions made about the experiences of young people in the global north and south and the false dichotomies that exist and are perpetuated by development education.

Challenges for Schools

  • Those who have direct experience of exploring the SDGs with young people are highly aware of the positive outcomes of these experiences for learners as well as their wider communities. Showcasing and communicating these outcomes more consistently, precisely and completely is essential for gaining support both within and beyond individual institutions.
  • The key is to integrate the SDGs into curriculum learning, not in one subject, but through project based learning where students take a lead role in addressing the challenges that we face.
  • Take advantage of the opportunity for curriculum enrichment offered at KS3.
  • Use new and existing partnerships and networks to spread good practice and resources.
  • Any exploration of the SDGs should include the opportunity to develop critical thinking. This raises the question as to whether it is possible for young people to get behind the SDGs once they have been through the process of critical reflection. Using exploration as an opportunity for developing action competency is therefore also key.
  • Values education can be a contentious topic for schools and teachers. The SDGs offer an opportunity for discussion for students to develop their values. It is important for schools to strike the balance between encouraging specific values and providing space for values to develop.

What do you think?  Answers on a postcard to the usual address ..

Ever mindful of the GAP

📥  Comment, New Publications

I had an email the other day from UNESCO's representative on Earth.

This included a couple of policy briefs that have been developed through the Global Action Programme (GAP).  The email said that these were the key messages:

  1. As a means of implementation, education is an important tool to support the achievement of each SDG.
  2. Improvements in the quality of education and equitable access to it can have a wide diversity of development benefits that demonstrate a high return on investment.
  3. ESD provides a valuable framework and methodology for achieving the goal of “quality education ... for all” as stated in SDG 4.
  4. Educational policies play a primary role in the effective implementation of ESD and framing how it influences and benefits the curriculum, teacher training, development of learning materials, and the learning environment.

What's remarkable about this is the unremarkableness of points 1 & 2 which I might paraphrase as "education is a necessary component of effective socio-economic development.  But has UNESCO just stumbled across this idea?  It's hardly an outcome of the GAP.  Time to wake-up!

Point 3 is just UNESCO having an internal conversation between its special-pleading ESD-ers and the more mainstream (and numerous) education for all types.  This has been going on for years to no great effect.

As for point 4, if you ever find out what it means, do drop me a line ...


St George's House and the SDGs – the report

📥  Comment, New Publications

As you know from all those posts about the sustainable development goals late last year, there was a St George's House, Windsor, consultation in December on the SDGs and young people.  St George's said:

We already know that a number of schools have programmes focusing on this, but if goal-related learning by students can help increase the likelihood that the goals will be valued, supported and hence realised, is it also the case that a critical study of the goals can enhance the focus, and help raise the quality of student learning? This Consultation examined these twin propositions.  We looked in depth at what good goal-related outcomes might be; and explored what more can be done to embed a focus on the SDGs in work with young people both in and out of school.

The report has now been completed and you download it here.

It contains the background papers for the consultation, the presentations that were made and summary thoughts of participants.  The final part of the report sets out reflections and challenges, saying:

"The discussions and conversations over the 24 hour period generated key insights amongst participants as well as highlighting a number of challenges, both broad and narrow in their nature, to be considered when exploring the SDGs with young people."

Although there are no recommendations, there are key insights, and three sections setting out challenges (in the sense of why don't you do this ...) for government, schools and NGOs.  This is the challenge to government:

  • The SDGs are knitted together by a common set of values. Recognising the role that education has in achieving the SDGs triggers the need for a national conversation around the purpose of education as being for the development of a responsible and just society rather than for the acquisition of skills to complete a job, and amendment of the Education Act as a result.
  • Convene a cross-sector coalition of organisations and individuals to consider the vision of the purpose of education and to deliver the systemic change necessary to realising this agreed purpose.
  • From the perspectives outlined during the consultation, there is a need to consider the discrepancies between approaches to enabling and supporting learning for the SDGs across the UK nations.  Similarly there is a need to consider the opportunities for incorporating learning for and about the SDGs at different stages of education.

It seems highly unlikely that any of this will happen any time soon.


How can education help to shape a Steady State culture?

📥  Comment, New Publications

This is the title of a discussion paper that Susan Brown, from the University of Manchester, has written for Steady State Manchester [SSM].

This is how SSM summarises the paper:

  • Argues that a learning renaissance is required to achieve a Steady State culture.  A transition from the current role of education ‘to ensure a workforce able to compete in a global market’ to one where people ‘play full roles in developing sustainable local economies’
  • Includes an accessible, broad, diverse, inclusive vision of a Steady State education culture which responds to the initiatives and issues of local communities.  It is brought to life by descriptions of existing educational initiatives from near and far which are ‘which are changing the learning landscape in ways that can shape a Steady State Culture.’
  • Moves from a very individualistic, competitive form of current education to a collective endeavour

I'm not a steady-stater because I don't see how it could ever work to human benefit.  There also has to be a beggar thy neighbour edge to it which happens when the "initiatives and issues of local communities" come into conflict.  I'm also skeptical because I think that a "collective [education] endeavour" would have to be enforced whatever those being educated thought about it.

So, you'll understand that I am reading this paper with Bedford 2045 in mind.  More tomorrow ...


Bedford 2045 – part 1

📥  Comment, New Publications

There will be a couple (at least) of comments this week on John Huckle's classic text, Bedford 2045.  The first (which deserves to be read without any comment from me), follows.

I'd only ask you to have two questions in your mind as you read this:

  1. would you like to live in this version of Bedford?
  2. what sort of schooling and HE would there need to be to make (and keep) Bedford 2045 possible?

Bedford 2045 ...

It is a Wednesday in September 2045 and Jane Pearson wakes early. … The solar collector on the roof has warmed the water for Jane's shower and by the time she has dressed and gone downstairs, husband Tom is giving Jake his breakfast. … Jane, Jake and Tom tuck in to their breakfast of cereals and fresh fruit from the neighbourhood orchards.  A lot of food in now grown around the town and Tom spends some of his time working at a local nursery where the glasshouses are heated with hot water from a small combined heat and power generating station which burns straw and willow. …  Over breakfast Jane and Tom talk about their plans to add another room to their house before January when their second child will be born.  Friends in the street will help them with some of the work once the prefabricated timber sections are delivered and they will engage a plumber and electrician through the town's local economic trading scheme (LETS) which now accounts for 30% of local business turnover.  They will need to get a low interest loan from the Credit Union. …  Most people now live near enough to walk or cycle to work, but there are electric bus services and some light rail links to surrounding towns which accommodate dual rail-road vehicles. …  At the tram stop Tom meets his father Bill who is disabled and needs the tram to get him to the community centre where he helps look after young children like Jake. …  It takes Tom another five minutes to reach the engineering factory where he works for twenty hours each week.  The regional government now guarantees all adults between 18 and 55 this amount of work and with a national minimum wage, it is generally sufficient to meet their needs.  They can do additional paid work but few do so.  Most prefer to use non-work time for education, leisure and voluntary work and this means that there is less stress and fewer health problems. …  The community cafe, like the community laundry, is a way of sharing domestic work and saving energy.  Some people work in them for wages which are set by the Neighbourhood Council, but most people work in them to obtain services at a cheaper rate and meet their neighbours.  All the talk over dinner this evening is about the community meeting ….

Huckle J. and Martin A. (2001) Environments in a Changing World, London, Prentice Hall.


Only half the Earth?

📥  Comment, New Publications

Thanks to the NAEE weekly round-up for alerting me to EO Wilson's venture: Nature Needs Half.

The idea here is that nature needs sufficient space if it is to function properly for the benefit of all life on Earth.  This means, they say, keeping at least half the planet wild and intact with large, connected eco-regions, both now and in the future.

This seems a necessary idea, and half the earth doesn't seem too much to ask.  However, given my recent post on T3, the tiger that tried to walk home, Wilson and his colleagues will have their work cut out – as will we all.


Misleadingly good news about the SDGs

📥  Comment, New Publications

Question: When does 75% mean not only 'not a lot', but misrepresents what's happening?

Answer: When it's part of an EAUC presentation of a sustainability survey.

The other day, the third annual ‘Sustainability in Education’ report from the National Union of Students (NUS), Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), University and College Union (UCU), the Association of Colleges (AoC) and the College Development Network (CDN) was published.

EAUC's presentation of the outcomes said this:

"The research is based on a sample of 500 staff members from universities, colleges and students’ unions in the UK, with 63 respondents identifying as lead staff members on environmental sustainability and social responsibility in a formal or informal basis.

One of the key findings it highlighted was this:

"75% of respondents have reported that their institution has progressed action linked to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiative"

Sounds quite good doesn't it?

But when you dig into the data you find a problem.  The 75% is not 75% of the 500 respondents.  Page 41 of the report reveals that those who answered this question were 33 out 0f 44 of respondents who "have a HE university or college, formal or informal remit or responsibility for delivering on environmental sustainability and social responsibility, and the lead member of staff for environmental sustainability and/or social responsibility".

That is, of the 63 respondents identifying as such lead staff members, only 44 answered this question, and only 33 of them highlighted the SDGs when they did so – other possibilities were the Paris Agreement, the UNESCO GAP initiative and (bizarrely) the REF.   The SDG option was the largest choice made of the initiatives listed – in EAUC's words:  "the biggest motivator".

If data were representative of the sector, the appropriate response proportion would be nearer 25% than 75%.  However, as it isn't representative, then it's 75% of a small number of people.  This is a pity in every sense.  I can't bring myself to think that EAUC set out to mislead us all; rather, it's probably just a casual approach to summarising research.


Suspected as a bot

📥  Comment, New Publications

This is a first for me: I have been suspected as a bot by WordPress as I tried to post a response on my friend Richard Jurin's new blog.

Richard's first post was:

As my first blog post, I will present my simple definition of sustainability as: Living within the limits of nature’s ecosystem services. And to live together in communities that are equitable, regenerative, resilient and adaptive.  That opens up a lot of questions before we start and I intend to get there as the blog proceeds.  I am not naive and clearly recognize that some big changes are needed before we land in some future Eden (we should not think paradise, although compared to today, it may seem so when we get there).  Notice I said ‘get there.’  In all my talks I start out with “I’m often asked: “Will we ever become a Sustainable Society?” I always answer: “Without a doubt.”  Then I get the wistful smiles waiting for the magic bullet answer.  Sorry there isn’t one, but there are a set of principles that can guide us down that path – or should I say rabbit hole, because we have to get dirty before we can realize the truths that exist all around us that we blatantly ignore.  So if you want to climb down this rabbit hole, give me a response and let’s begin!  

Peace and Love   Richard

And I responded:

It's good to see this beginning, Richard.  I shall follow your thinking with great interest.  I appreciate seeing your definition of sustainability, even though I find it wanting.  I've taken to expressing the core dilemma of our time in this way:

How can we all live well, now and in the future, without compromising the ability of the planet to enable us all to live well?

Some call this the 'sustainability problématique', and for me, the key words in this are "all" and "all".  That is, it's communities everywhere that need to be "equitable, regenerative, resilient and adaptive" if we are to see sustainability.  I am, it should be said, much less hopeful than you are than humanity will be able to rise above its manifest self-interest to get anywhere near this.

But, being a bot in the WordPress view, this did not make the cut.  Whilst it is really good to see social media companies cracking down (and not before time) on injurious text, little did I think I'd be on the front line.  Maybe it was those two French words – scare bleu! ...



Sustainable development goal analysis

📥  Comment, New Publications

I wrote the other day about the Cambridge report about business and the sustainable development goals, and I referred in particular to Figure 2.1: Six outcomes and 10 interconnected tasks which has finance, business and governtment at the core of the model.

In this analysis, Economy is seen as having three components:

  • Basic needs
  • Wellbeing
  • Decent work

... with these underpinned by:

  • Climate stability
  • Healthy ecosystems
  • Resource security

There are inevitable parallels (and non-parallels) to be drawn with the Daly-Meadows way of thinking about all this, but that's for another day.

The 17 goals are then mapped onto these components like this:

  • Basic needs – 1  2  3           6  7          10
  • Wellbeing –             3  4  5                   10  11                         16
  • Decent work –                             8  9  10
  • Climate stability –                           9                    13
  • Healthy ecosystems –                                                   14  15
  • Resource security –                                           12

This is a pretty minimalist mapping with a tendency to attach one goal to one component.  The stand-out exception to this (which might be a surprise to many) is Goal 10: reduced inequalities, which extends across all components of the economy, whereas Goal 8: decent work and economic growth only features the once.

Educators will surely wonder at how little Goal 4: quality education features.  Perhaps this just illustrates how little the authors of this analysis know or think about curriculum.  Or, perhaps again, how much educators tend to inflate the significance of what they do.


ERIC and the CEE

📥  Comment, New Publications

I wrote the other day about NAEE's Annual review which led me to search for those reviews carried out by the Council for Environmental Education (CEE) in times past.  It's easy to find one c/o the ERIC archive: ED412076: The Annual Review of Environmental Education 1995, No. 7.

Here's the ERIC synopsis:

The Council for Environmental Education (CEE) publishes this annual review that reflects the changes that have brought environmental education in from the fringes and now attracts considerable political and educational attention.  This edition brings together a selection of important statements by leading public figures and other papers and articles which reflect key developments of the period.  Six articles related to the boom time in environmental education, the transition to education of sustainability, and strategies used by Scotland in instituting change in environmental education policies are included.

Articles include:

"Boom Time for Environmental Education?" (John Baines);

"Education for the Sustainability Transition" (Timothy O'Riordan);

"Facilitating an Environmental Approach To Education" (Baroness David);

"Education for Sustainability" (Crispin Tickell);

"Call to Action" (Peter Smith); and

"Education or Catastrophe? Scottish Strategy Throws Down the Challenge" (Mark Wells).

Happy days ...