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How will education systems respond to the Sustainable Development Goals?

24 March 2016

Earlier this month, our Head of International Development and Education, Susy Ndaruhutse, joined a discussion panel at an event hosted by the British Council entitled 'How will education systems respond to the Sustainable Development Goals?'

Chaired by Mark Herbert, Head of the Schools Programme, other panellists included:

  • Rob Whitby, Deputy Head of the Education Policy Team at Department for International Development (DFID)
  • Prof Pete Higgins, University of Edinburgh and Chair of the Scottish Government National Implementation Group on 'Learning for Sustainability'
  • Kevin McCabe, Headteacher at Jervoise Primary School in Birmingham
  • Delphine Dorsi, Executive Coordinator, Right to Education Project

The audience included members of the British Council and other educationalists involved in DFID’s Global Learning Programme in England, school twinning/partnership programmes, and the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms project.

The discussion covered some of the challenges, limitations and successes of the Sustainable Development Goals and majored particularly on the overarching challenges of Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education, such as:

  • How do we measure learning?
  • What about the challenges of marginalisation and the millions of children who are still out-of-school so don’t have a chance to learn?
  • How do we measure what it means to be an active and responsible global citizen when the measurement of progress is so fixated on academic exam results

Susy was able to also share some specific examples from the Global Learning Programme in Wales, a programme we are implementing, funded by DFID, which seeks to raise awareness of sustainable development and help contribute to global citizenship. These examples included:

  • Schools in Wales took part in the World’s Largest Lesson to help raise awareness of the goals
  • A competition for Key Stage 2 and 3 (age 7-14) pupils to raise awareness of one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals by producing a poster or animation.
  • Cynnal Cymru (Sustain Wales one of  Wales’ leading sustainable development organisations) will run an event in April bringing together the Minister for Natural Resources, the new Future Generations Commissioner and the Chair of the Climate Change Commission for Wales. This will mark an important transition in how sustainable development is governed in Wales, catalysed by the Well-being of Future Generations Act which comes into force in April 2016. An exhibition of work by pupils in Wales on the Sustainable Development Goals will reinforce the link with the Act
  • Goal per class: One primary school, Johnstown in Carmarthen, a Global Learning Programme in Wales Lead School, has taken a different goal per class and is inviting in relevant providers and visitors.
  • The Send my Friend to School initiative, many schools in Wales help give a voice to the millions of children around the world who are being denied an education. Others are developing as UNICEF Rights Respecting Schools.

Following the announcement of the UK aid strategy in November 2015, a hot topic - raised by several of the audience - was whether and how UK government departments will work more closely together as aid spending will also be spent outside of DFID by the Department for Education and others in future. DFID hinted that this would mean more joining up and spending on a range of different programmes.

'How will education systems respond to the Sustainable Development Goals?' discussion panel event at the British Council