Education: a Key to Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Submitted by admin on 16. September 2019 - 18:42
Thoresen, Victoria

Education: a Key to Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

by IEF member Victoria Thoresen

UNESCO has been the lead United Nations agency on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) since the U.N. Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). The Global Action Plan (GAP) on ESD, which started in 2015 with the objective of scaling up action on ESD and Global Citizenship Education (GCE), ends in 2019. A new program, ESD: Towards Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (ESD 2030), is being launched for the period of 2020-2030. The program was developed through broad consultations with a wide variety of stakeholders during 2016-2018.

ESD 2030 builds upon lessons learned through, among other things, projects with over 26 million learners and two million educators. The main goal of ESD2030 is to put greater emphasis on the contribution of learning to the survival and prosperity of humanity. ESD2030 focuses on the following:

  • Transformative action: “stepping outside of the safety of the status quo or the usual way of behaving or living. It requires courage, persistence and determination, which are best sourced from personal conviction and insight…ESD is needed to provide individuals with critical thinking skills to reflect on individual values, attitudes and behavior as well as lifestyle choices.” (UNESCO 20 Feb. 2019 Annex p.4)
  • Structural changes: “ESD in the future will have to encourage learners to explore values which could provide an alternative to consumer societies, such as sufficiency, fairness and solidarity.” (ibid p.5) Included in this focus area is also mentioned the need to ensure and restore human dignity and the right to live decently for populations in extreme poverty.
  • The technologic future: Technological solutions may bring new challenges or simply provide the illusion of having solved problems. ESD and GCE should emphasize critical thinking and consider the principles and values motivating behavior. For example, sensor-equipped buildings may make the behavior of turning off electric lights obsolete, but the value of saving energy should remain relevant.

ESD2030 underlines the importance of interdisciplinary, holistic approaches to learning in all situations—be it in schools, homes or communities. With its particular emphasis on competencies related to empathy, solidarity and action-taking, ESD and GCE are considered essential to the achievement not only of SDG#4 (Quality Education) but also to the underlying goals of Agenda2030 of dignity, well-being and collective prosperity for all.

Last updated 16 September 2019