More challenges around the SDGs

Posted in: 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 ..

Posted in: Comment, New Publications


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  • 'Development' is also a contentious concept as it is almost universally taken to mean 'growth'. Growth of quality of well-being for planet and people seems mostly to play second fiddle to growth in the quantity of capital and credit accumulated to advance profitable enterprise with its inevitable human impact on the planet. Hence the alliterative policy priorities PROFIT>PEOPLE>PLANET. Your scepticism about the steady state economic model perhaps downplays the role of the financial system and the exponential trajectories summed up in Ehrlich's I = P x A x T formula. A central achievement for education would be to help all and sundry grasp just how the exponential trajectories' doubling times as as P, A and T rush us towards socio-ecological collapse: 1% population growth = 70 year doubling; 4% global GDP = 17.5 year doubling; 10% yield in share profits - 7 year doubling. The steady state economy notion, unlikely though it may be to achieve, surely is a response to the blindingly obvious flaw in unsustainable development seen as infinite growth of human impact on the finite planet. I wonder if the SDGs might better be termed GSF - Goals for a Sustainable Future? Or maybe choosing between priorities for Growing, Steadying or Failing the Anthropocene World we have created? [Large postcard!]