VCIES-2021: ESD Beyond Schools: Translating global goals to local actions through lifelong learning

This year’s 2021 CIES conference, held virtually under the theme ‘Social Responsibility within Changing Contexts’, featured a session ‘ESD Beyond Schools: Translating global goals to local actions through lifelong learning’ on 27 April, 2021, chaired by Prof. Shinobu Yamaguchi, Director, UNU-IAS. A panel from UNU-IAS and UNESCO shared research perspectives highlighting the importance of local implementation in the achievement of the SDGs and addressing education for sustainable development (ESD) beyond the classroom.

Panellists from UNU-IAS presented on education initiatives by RCEs working on climate action projects, as well as how ESD activities throughout the RCE network have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on the findings from the survey carried out with RCEs last year. Another presentation looked at how peer-to-peer social learning can impact policy-makers' actions and decision making through UNU-IAS’s Mayors’ Academy for Sustainable Urban Development training programme. Finally,UNESCO shared insights from their work in the Asia-Pacific region on the diverse approaches needed on ESD in local contexts.

This was followed by a panel discussion chaired by Ms. Maki Katsuno-Hayashikawa, Director of the Division for Education 2030 at UNESCO Headquarters. Speaking about her work on the Mayors’ Academy for Sustainable Urban Development programme, Dr. Mahesti Okitasari, Research Associate at UNU-IAS, explained that local contexts tended to define which SDGs local governments engage with, however mayors were very keen to engage on SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals), embracing peer-to-peer learning.

Mr. Mark Manns, Associate Programme Specialist, UNESCO Bangkok discussed examples of the implementation of global sustainable development at the local level within the Asia-Pacific region, namely Bhutan’s concept of gross national happiness and its role in the implementation of the global agenda in their national context, as well as the Philippines with their implicit concept of helping neighbours.

Dr. Jonghwi Park, Head of Academic Programmes, Innovation and Education, UNU-IAS spoke about key lessons that Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCEs) have learned in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the benefits of its unique modalities as multi-stakeholder networks, which have aided in the creation, coordination and delivery of trans-disciplinary projects with community partners in a timely manner during the multiple crises that the Pandemic imposed.

Another paper featuring the Global RCE network, by Dr. Philip Vaughter, Research Fellow, UNU-IAS, discussed education for climate action within the RCE community. Taking a look at the gaps within education on climate action, it was seen that SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) were not often addressed in ESD projects on climate action. Furthermore, education tends to be geared towards children and youth, even in non-formal settings, leading to education for adults and lifelong-learning being less embedded in such projects.

Discussion turned to lessons from past pandemics to address the current crisis, including the need to enact preventative measures and public awareness campaigns at the local level. The importance of local actions was also highlighted, with research showing that this understanding allowed RCEs to better target their climate projects, which were both connected to their communities’ behaviour but also their socio-emotional contexts. Observations were also made about findings that higher impact sustainability actions were seen in RCE projects from less developed countries, perhaps driven by greater flexibility and responsiveness to addressing local problems outside the formal education system.

In addressing competing priorities and contrasting tensions for educators, it was acknowledged one main challenge lies in competencies for ESD and GCE, with professional development in the teaching profession one way to ensure continual up-skilling in the areas of curriculum and assessment. The importance of lifelong learning and engaging older learners was also highlighted, in order for substantive change to be realised within a meaningful timeframe.

Videos of each presentation can be viewed here:

Role of Social Learning At the City Level: Mayor’s Academy In Asia-Pacific - Dr. Mahesti Okitasari, UNU-IAS

Education For Global Agendas within Localized Contexts: Insights From Asia-Pacific - Mr. Mark Manns, UNESCO

An Overview of Education On Climate Action: Trends and Next Steps - Dr. Philip Vaughter, UNU-IAS

Education for Sustainable Development: Promoting an Integrated Approach to Multiple Crises in a Pandemic - Dr. Jonghwi Park, UNU-IAS

Read more about the vCIES-2021 conference here.