This is what EAUC had to say recently about universities and the SDGs:
Universities and colleges recognise our unique role in fostering and empowering youth as a force for change, and in fulfilling the urgent need for new knowledge, rigorous debate and critical academic engagement to support the SDGs. The SDGs can inspire our teaching and learning with their goal of education, for all, for sustainable development. The SDGs can be a focus for our research: this vision of a fair future for our shared planet generates an agenda of innovation and discovery, but also scrutiny and challenge. The SDGs offer a catalyst for engagement beyond our institutions, with policymakers and publics alike. But they also provide an opportunity to turn our gaze inwards, striving for inclusion, equity and sustainability in all aspects of our operations. In our collaborative endeavours towards common goals, universities and colleges embody the spirit of the SDGs. We recognise our potential as agents of change for sustainable development - at the heart of local communities, and as part of national, regional, and global networks.
I read this and wondered how much of this applied to schools. A lot, you might think. After all ...
- don't schools have a role in fostering and empowering youth as a force for change?
- shouldn't schools be encouraging rigorous debate and critical engagement to support the SDGs?
- can't schools use the SDGs to inspire teaching and learning using their goal of education, for all, for sustainable development?
- won't the SDG vision of a fair future for our shared planet generate an agenda of innovation and discovery for schools?
- couldn't the goals also generate opportunities for scrutiny and challenge?
- isn't it the case that the SDGs provide a catalyst for engagement beyond schools?
- might not they also provide opportunities to help schools strive for inclusion, equity and sustainability in their operations?
- may not schools have the potential to be agents of change for sustainable development at the heart of local communities, and as part of national, regional, and global networks?
I thought so ...
This is what UNESCO had to say about its WEEC in Vancouver – in case you missed it.
“To craft a more inclusive and sustainable future for all, we need greener economies, greener legislations, and most of all, we need greener societies,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on her video message at the opening ceremony of the ninth World Environmental Congress (WEEC) held in Vancouver, Canada on 9-15 September. “This calls for new ways of seeing the world, new ways of thinking and behaving as global citizens. This is why sustainability must start on the benches of schools.”
The WEEC is the largest international congress addressing education for environment and sustainable development, taking place biannually. The title of the 9th congress was “Culturenvironment: Weaving new connections”. The organizing committee proposed broad and inclusive topics on environmental and sustainability education with particular interest of the interplay among cultural and environmental factors this year.
The opening ceremony was inaugurated by the traditional welcome and acknowledgement with Elder Shane Pointe, together with the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, Canada; Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Hasnaa, Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, Morocco ; David Zandvliet from the Institute for Environmental Learning, Canada and Mario Salomone from the WEEC Network.
This congress also marked 40 years from the world's first intergovernmental conference on environmental education, organized in Tblisi, Georgia in 1977 by UNESCO in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The panel session, moderated by Milt McClaren, Royal Roads University, Canada, reflected the achievements made since Tblisi and upcoming challenges around environment and sustainability. It included Charles Hopkins, UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability, York University, Canada; Ekaterine Grigalava, Deputy Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia; Tamar Aladashvili, Department of Environmental Policy and International Relations, Georgia; Julia Heiss, UNESCO Team Leader of Education for Sustainable Development; Elliott Harris, UNEP.
UNESCO also introduced the publication “Education for Sustainable Development Goals” in a workshop organized by UNEP, and the work for monitoring and evaluation of SDG Target 4.7 in a paper session organized by the Sustainability and Education Policy Network.
What, I wonder, are we to make of "the benches of schools".
Sweet chestnuts brown like soleing-leather turn,
The larch trees, like the colour of the sun
That paled sky in the Autumn seem’d to burn.
What a strange scene before us now does run
Red, brown, and yellow, russet, black and dun,
Whitethorn, wild cherry, and the poplar bare,
The sycamore all withered in the sun,
No leaves are now upon the birch-tree there,
All now is stript to the cold wintry air.
See, not one tree but what has lost its leaves,
And yet the landscape wears a pleasing hue,
The winter chill on his cold bed receives
Foliage which once hung o’er the waters blue,
Naked, and bare, the leafless trees repose,
Blue-headed titmouse now seeks maggots rare,
Sluggish and dull the leaf-strewn river flows,
That is not green, which was so through the year,
Dark chill November draweth to a close.
‘Tis winter and I love to read in-doors,
When the moon hangs her crescent up on high
While on the window-shutters the wind roars
And storms like furies pass remorseless by,
How pleasant on a feather-bed to lie,
Or sitting by the fire in fancy soar,
With Milton or with Dante to regions high,
Or read fresh volumes we’ve not seen before,
Or o’er old Burton’s ‘Melancholy’ pore.
John Clare wrote this around 1850 in the Northampton asylum. What else is there usefully to say?