ESD experts discuss education and SDGs


This report is a summary of delegate reports with kind contributions by Unnikrishnan Payyappallimana (UNU-IAS), Ikuno Suzuki (UNU-IAS), Kim Smith (RCE Greater Portland) and Jim Taylor.(WESSA).

Over 750 participants from 22 countries shared their thoughts on the role of education in realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), at the international conference ‘Education as a Driver for Sustainable Development Goals’, which began at CEE, on 11th January, 2016. 

The conference was held in the big and beautiful campus of the Centre for Environment Education (CEE) in Ahmedabad, India. The plenary session on SDGs and Role of Education offered various aspects and interpretation of "education", as well as the characteristics of the SDGs in comparison to MDGs.

The SDG’s and the Paris Agreement can be seen as ‘charters’ for sustainable societies, and thus reflect the approach of collaboration and integration which is central to RCE’s. With the ambition for achieve social and environmental goals, including reducing poverty, increasing access to health and education, and in integrating climate responsibilities into all aspects of sustainable development, there is correspondence with many RCE initiatives.  The RCE network supported participation of six members – four from the RCEs and two members from the global service centre. They were selected based on their expertise in the new strategic action plan areas of the RCE network such as Higher Education, Sustainable Production and Consumption (SCP), Climate Change, Biodiversity and Health. 

A parallel RCE event was organized on the 2nd day of the conference attended by around 20 members from 12 RCEs. The meeting discussed the latest strategic road map for the network. 

As for the individual members of the RCE network, Charles Hopkins facilitated a session "Transforming Formal Education - School System). Betsan Martin (RCE Waikato) made a presentation at the Climate Change session and shared her thoughts and experience at COP 21. 

Kim Smith (RCE Greater Portland) represented UNU-IAS in the area of Higher Education. "I value the collective impact of meeting with international colleagues who understand the power of sharing ideas on how to move sustainability efforts forward.  We all try to address sustainability curriculum and training efforts within our own countries, but we are not able to scale efforts up until we work together."

Roger Petry from RCE Saskatchewan, Nguka Gordon and Unnikrishnan Payyappalli also made presentations in working groups like of Sustainable Consumption and Production, Health and Biodiversity respectively. 

As a part of the conference outcomes, the Ahmedabad "Framework for Action", which provided the context of the key policy developments from 2015 and provides an implementation and action plan, with education as the driver, for each of the 17 SDG’s from 2016 to 2030 was prepared. 

Furthermore workshop recommendations for each theme have been published as separate documents. The working group themes broadly corresponded to the SDGs and attempted to highlight the role of education in achieving the targets for a sustainable planet. These working groups met to discuss how each SDG could be reached through formal, non-formal and informal education efforts to address the Agenda 2030. Through scaling up applied ideas, projects, and initiatives, the working groups discussed shared knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and competencies relevant to addressing the issue/SDG and developed a competency framework for each respective SDG, thereby developing recommendations to make education systems more relevant and responsive to addressing the SDGs.

Over the course of three days, each working group met to:  

  1. Assess the role of education (formal, non-formal and informal learning settings) in addressing the issue/SDG through sharing of case examples
  2. Identify ideas/projects/initiatives to be scaled up  
  3. Discuss knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and competencies relevant to addressing the issue/SDG and develop a draft competency framework on the respective SDG
  4. Develop recommendations to make education systems more responsive to addressing SDGs.

WESSA was represented at the conference by Jim Taylor. The conference provided an excellent opportunity to strengthen WESSA’s role as a participating partner of the UNESCO Global Action Plan (GAP), the UNEP Global Universities Partnership on Environment and Sustainability (GUPES) process, as a Climate Change Education NGO (with UNFCCC) as well as developing discussions with businesses that are interested in developing their work footprint in Africa such as the Tata Corporation and WIPRO telecommunications.  

Photos of the conference have been uploaded on facebook. For more information please visit the CEE website.

Other outcome documents of interest: