Another day – another letter to ministers

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

Steve Martin and I have sent this letter to Nicky Morgan.  I do not anticipate a positive response.

Dear Secretary of State,

Education and Sustainable Development-The UK Government’s Response?

UNESCO’s Director-General, the Crown Prince of Japan and Princess Lalla Hasna of Morocco - the President of the Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment - opened the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan on Monday, 10 November.

This high level conference marked the end of the UN Decade of ESD (2005-2014) and created a Roadmap to launch the Global Action Programme (GAP), a follow-up to the Decade that will propose new educational goals and objectives, priority action areas and strategies.

Under the banner Learning Today for a Sustainable Future, more than 1,000 participants from over 100 countries attended, including representatives of UNESCO Member States, NGOs, academia, the private sector, individual experts, youth and UN agencies. Nearly 60 foreign ministers and 17 deputy ministers, mainly representing Ministries of Education attended. But regrettably, none from the UK. Yet the UK has some good stories to tell from all sectors of the educational spectrum and especially in Scotland and Wales as was set out in a recent UK National Commission for UNESCO Policy Brief in 2013.

At its closing, the Conference announced the Aichi-Nagoya Declaration,which has the potential to be an important contribution to the new sustainable development goals(SDGs) that come into effect in 2015.  It also provides an important input to the World Education Forum, taking place in Incheon, Republic of Korea, next May.

If as the UK Government believes "sustainable development is a key responsibility for all of us and everyone has to play their part in making it a reality" ( DFE Web site), and that schools, as places of teaching and learning, have a particularly important role to play in helping pupils understand the impact they have on the planet, it is hardly comprehensible why a UK senior minister and or civil servant could not be in attendance. Your department argues that, as models of good practice, schools can be places where sustainable living and working are demonstrated to young people and the local community. All of which is embraced by the idea of education for sustainable development (ESD). ESD can be thought of as a process of learning how to make decisions that consider the long-term future of the economy, ecology and equity of all communities. As UNESCO puts it: "Building the capacity for such futures-oriented thinking is a key task of education." Indeed, the UK’s capacity to enact the government’s aspirations for a green economy will depend upon it.

Any child starting primary school in September 2014 will complete its secondary education in around 2028. No one can predict with any certainty how the world will change over this period, but it is likely to change in many significant ways. An expanding population, increasing globalisation and advances in technology, will bring colossal societal and ecological changes, particularly if our unsustainable practices and lifestyles prevail. Without significant policy interventions, more people will be consuming more resources; climate change will cause global temperatures to increase; demand for food will double globally; more than four million people in the UK will have diabetes and we will have an ageing population. This is just a taste of what our children's future might look like.

Shouldn’t the UK have been a part of these international deliberations-and indeed will the government be represented at any further discussions about “future proofing” their learning.

We believe this is crucial if they are to play an active and responsible role in an increasingly complex and uncertain world.

We look forward to hearing your views.

We are copying this to Sir Peter Luff, SM’s constituency MP, who has supported SM on a number of occasions in promoting environmental matters relating to educational policy (see Hansard).

Yours Sincerely

Stephen Martin, Visiting Professor in Learning for Sustainability, University of the West of England

William Scott, Emeritus Professor University of Bath

Posted in: Comment, New Publications


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