Well it's all happening this week! The Social Good Summit is on now in NY (live-streamed here) and it's the Global Goals Week - here are just some of the events going on. Friday 15th was also International Day of Democracy and Thursday 21st will be International Day of Peace. In the UK, many of us in the education sector are getting involved in the World's Largest Lesson 2017and the fabulous Global Learning Programme (now extended to July 2018!) is going to be supporting the WLL's theme of food, sustainability and hunger by tweeting links to a number of opportunities and resources out there. As part of this special week schools are getting involved, and I'm particularly excited about joining in Haygrove School's #TeachSDGs day in Somerset on 20.9.17 - still a free few places left if you're quick (click here, UK teachers only I'm afraid).
Last week the Teacher Education for Equity and Sustainability Network (aka TEESNet) also held their 10th Annual Conference on the theme: 'Making the Sustainable Development Goals Real: The role of teacher education in promoting quality education for sustainable development and global citizenship education in schools'. Reflecting the fact that the SDGs seem to be 'on trend' in the #GCED and #ESD fields at the moment, this conference was sold out and brought together NGOs, universities, teachers and other organisations and interested individuals. Thank you so much to Andrea, Phil and everyone at Liverpool World Centre involved in its organisation and facilitation.
Conference participation used to be a regular activity for me, but in recent years it has become more of a luxury. I therefore make even more of an effort these days to take the time to reflect upon the highlights in terms of my own learning, and in terms of realistic, potential future collaborations. Below are some of the themes I took away from the day:
Another education system is possible! Irmeli Halinen (Head of Curriculum Development, Finnish National Board of Education) kicked off with a superb keynote articulating inspiring examples of 'collaborative mindset' and teacher and student (60,000 no less!) participation in national curriculum change. Key guiding questions for all those involved in the reform process were: 'how is the world changing, what is worth learning in that world, and what kind of future do we want to build?' She talked about the aim to enhance joy and meaningfulness in learning, building a strong basis for lifelong learning and rethinking school cultures as learning communities. A core idea that I took away, was that of 'making things happen' (there is no Finnish word for 'curriculum'), rather than 'implementing'. Let's just imagine a shift to this sort of discourse in the England for 5 minutes... it's a very pleasant dream-like state isn't it? That said, Irmeli was also keen to dispel some myths about the Finnish education system too, and especially determined to expose the inaccuracies of Michael' Moore's take.
Sustainabeing. I've been working a lot recently on the core ideas and values associated with wellbeing and sustainability (and human rights) within education and other organisational settings. At the moment, the SDGs are the most effective tool I know to better engage with these vital concepts. Irmeli talked about how Finland has managed to put 'sustainable wellbeing' (defined as 'the pursuit of a good life within the earth's carrying capacity', maybe a preferable term to my 'sustainabeing') at the heart of the curriculum. It was unsurprising to learn that this had happened in a very different competence-based, rather than performance-based, curriculum.
Whole-school embedding of global learning and the need to let students lead. Though very familiar with the brilliant work of Torriano Primary School, I enjoyed learning more about their global learning journey (even though Susie Bush was keen 'not' to use the language of 'journey') in their workshop. She spoke about how the school had been immersed in the Rights Respecting School Award achieving the impressive Level 2 award, their being a first wave Expert Centre on the Global Learning Programme back in 2013 which Susie said had provided the school with 'wonderful' support to embed global learning in whole school activity, and their current role as a Ashoka Changemaker School. Susie explained the process of becoming the latter, and the Year 6 pupil that lead the final interview process, articulating the mission of the school better than any member of staff could. In other conference session discussions and questions, it was also recognised that the students are often the best ambassadors of GCED and ESD. Dr Karen Pashby recalls the important story of a group of 14-18 year olds being told they couldn't participate in the UNESCO International Youth Paper on Global Citizenship, presentations in Canada but getting on the bill anyway and doing an astounding job. Similarly, stories were told of the students presenting the Send my Friend to Schoolcase to parliamentin July, and others explaining to their parents why they need to do more to meet the global goals. There were examples of what many of us in the global learning field have known for some time, that students and schools have to own and drive the global learning agenda - but we also know that external support and help is really appreciated.
Occupying a 'space in-between', listening more and recognising that no-one owns or leads the agenda/field. As Andrea Bullivant explained, TEESNet aims to bring in different sectors and voices in the field. On a couple of occasions I heard teachers say 'well I'm just a teacher' and convey a sense that they felt that they were some how less experienced or knowledgeable about global learning and engaging with the SDGs. Others tried to counter this (mis)perception of course, but we all know that perception is everything. It is vitally important as a field that we try hard to make all voices feel equal, it's fair to say that some voices dominate more than others at times. Irmeli's presentation of the Finnish situation where teachers, NGOs, policy-makers and academics have an equitable relationship based on mutual respect and trust was a significant moment. There was plenty of self-critique and reflection on this theme too, aware of my own position of privilege. Some of us occupy a space as facilitators between academia, NGOs, schools, policy makers and the private sector. It is a challenging space and sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to be more firmly in one camp, but after an exciting discussion with David Connor and Les Bellmon from the new @2030hub in LiverpoolI was reminded that is a necessary space to be in at the moment.
Self-interest needs to be better recognised, we all have our motives! I recently finished reading Matthew Bolton's great little book 'How to Resist' which talks honestly about the idea of self-interest. There were many statements and conversations that reminded me of the need to recognise that in a liberal-left field like development education, it is not only OK but necessary to admit to what is motivating you and what your own personal or organisation's end goal is, and to respect those of others.
The power of collective, grassroots collaborations with a healthy dose of pragmatism and social-media savvy. Another great session was that lead by Debbie Watson and Katie Carr from Cumbria Development Education Centre. They approached the question of 'whose sustainable development goals' by getting us to think about agency, social responsibility and global citizenship in an interactive way. It really got me thinking about the collective knowledge, experience and creativity of global educators. It was fantastic that Stephen Twigg came along briefly and showed passionate support for and commitment to GCED and ESD, although he rightly admitted that his party was not in power. But I'm not entirely sure that always matters. I'm increasingly of the opinion that the science and tech world (especially silicon valley giants like Google and Facebook) wield more power than politicians in some areas, and that people collectively can take better advantage of this if they get organised. As a field of global educators, we have power to make things happen within formal and non-formal education sectors. We have power in our passion, expertise and dedication. We learned about the speedy expansion of the World's Largest Lessonand #TeachSDGs movement. The tricky situation comes when we need money of course... but funding is a whole different (albeit crucial) conversation!
More dialogue and immersion with teachers about the 'how'. A number of us are really fascinated by the pedagogy of #TeachSDGs, the level of critical engagement that accompanies projects and popular models of practice. Over wine and nibbles after the conference day, a few of us thought about how we would love to spend two or three days deepening discussions on this topic. Always keen to hear collaboration ideas - there was even talk of going to stay for 2-3 days at the Centre for Alternative Technology (my kids love this place) for a follow-on #TeachSDGs event!
PS: I'll post my presentation script here soon if anyone is interested. Much of it drew upon previous pieces like this and previous blogs, although a late session start and time-constraints meant that my contribution was rather squeezed & rushed. One thing I'd hoped to signpost for deepening of engagement with theory and practice of global learning, was the International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning which is wonderfully now open-access here.