The background to the St George's House consultation on the SDGs

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

As I noted earlier today, I'll be at St George's House Windsor this week at a consultation on young people and the SDGs.  This is what the background paper to the consultation has to say.

2015 saw the Paris Agreement and the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs aka, the Global Goals). The focus of the Goals is transforming people’s lives. They follow on from the reasonably successful but less extensive Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs apply to everyone in the world and have the potential to focus attention on how to address and resolve some of the huge range of problems the world faces today.  Despite this, not everyone supports all the Goals. Some feel that there is a particular form of economic development built into them (we might call it global capitalism with a neo-liberal orientation). Others question how well the goals map onto how we think about sustainability, and there are reservations to particular goals; for example, not everyone values gender equality and empowerment for women and girls. Some also think that there are too many targets with many of these being poorly expressed.

UK implementation requires action to [i] deliver the Goals for all UK citizens, [ii] ensure DFID supports the delivery of the SDGs in its priority countries, and [iii] ensure that domestic action on the SDGs has a positive global impact. In England, DfID is taking the lead. By contrast, in Scotland, responsibility is with the First Minister who has required all government departments to support the achievement of the Goals.   Although international aid and development-focused trade will play a hugely important role in realising the Goals, it is obvious that education across the world will have an equally important role, and a disproportionally important one in economically-developed countries such as the UK. In this, there seems to be a symbiotic relationship between learning and the Goals which is illustrated by the following 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

Given the significance of the Goals, it seems obvious that schools should focus on them, and it is no surprise that many already do. However, how straightforward it is to focus on the Goals varies across jurisdictions. In Scotland (with curriculum for excellence and education for sustainability) and Wales (with ESDGC), there is more of a central mandating of Goal-related work. In England, by contrast, the Department for Education has left DfID (with Pearson, Oxfam, and others) to support this work through its Global Learning Programme, with schools being free to make a distinctive contribution if they so choose.

Every UK school has an opportunity for its teaching and wider activities to covers a range of the Goals, and working in partnership with community groups has the capability to bring teachers, students, leaders and external actors together. Many such groups are also already active in their own right working with young people and others in community settings to help raise awareness and understanding of the Goals and to bring about change. In this sense, the Goals offer a currency and a means of exchange that all can understand and get involved in using approaches that make sense to them. Young People and The Sustainable Development Goals

The consultation purposes are:

Although there is a temptation to see school-age young people as merely preparing for further study, they are already consumers and citizens who make ethical and other judgements on a daily basis, and who have beliefs and values. There is, therefore, a responsibility on those working with young people to ensure that they are helped to contribute to a more just and sustainable future. None of this is an argument for a study of the Goals, per se, as some new curriculum area or subject. Rather, it’s a case for seizing the opportunities that present themselves to focus on the Goals during formal and informal education, both within institutions and outwith them in the community, working across ideas and disciplines where sensible, and with appropriate partners whenever possible. It is this that the seminar will explore with these purposes in mind:

1. To examine and test the propositions set out above in order to identify appropriate educational approaches and opportunities

2. To bring key stakeholders together in a way that encourages exchange and mutual comprehension so that the significance of the SDGs to the work of the UK’s education sectors (and vice versa) can be better understood.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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