31 Jan

Reflections: St. George’s House consultation on Further and Higher Education and the #SDGs

Sharing my reflections from a recent consultation I was invited to at St George's House.

On January 25th and 26th, I attended a consultation at St. George’s House┬áin Windsor Castle. St. George’s House convenes ‘people of influence and responsibility in every area of society…to explore and communicate their views and analysis of contemporary issues.’

The consultation focused on the role of #SDGs in advancing Education for Sustainable Development in Further and Higher Education. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) equips learners with the skills and knowledge to act sustainably. According to UNESCO, ESD ’empowers learners to take informed decisions and responsible actions for environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society, for present and future generations.’

The consultation was an intense and stimulating experience and I will update this post with the consultation report once it is published. Due to the private nature of the consultations, I cannot reveal who attended or attribute any discussion points to a particular individual. However, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share some of my reflections following the consultation discussions:

– How effectively can we teach sustainability education within the existing neo-liberal model of the university which prioritises competition, value for money and the needs of the labour market over the cultivation of the individual?

– How does Education for Sustainable Development in Further and Higher Education speak to student-led movements such as Rhodes Must Fall which are calling for a radical revision of the university as an institution?

– Education for Sustainable Development is about transmitting the skills, knowledge and values conducive to a sustainable future. Therefore Education for Sustainable Development is cultivating the heart and the mind.

– In order to incorporate ESD in Further and Higher Education, it is important to view the modern university as an ecosystem of learning. This ecosystem is composed of several components such as the governance mechanisms, the student body, the curricula and local communities.

– Education for Sustainable Development must take into account that learning is a dynamic process. The student is not a value-neutral entity but an individual who comes with pre-existing political, socio-economic and cultural ideologies. These ideologies interact with the curriculum and affect the ‘transformational’ potential of sustainability education.

– International institutions such as the UN have invested heavily in public engagement campaigns to raise awareness of the #SDGs. How do these awareness raising campaigns interact with ESD which aims to achieve transformational outcomes within individuals?

– How will Further and Higher Education institutions address rising trends in global education (i.e. distance learning, adult learning) when seeking to mainstream sustainability education?

– Education has been a pivotal tool for activists in social justice movements. I have recently read a few interesting resources including the ‘Critical Hope for the SDGs’ toolkit by the Presentation Sisters in Ireland, and ‘Learning Toward an Ecological Consciousness’ which reviews transformational learning practices for sustainable development. What can Further and Higher Education institutions learn from social justice activists on the pedagogies that achieve transformational outcomes in individuals?

Looking forward to your thoughts as always!

With gratitude,

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