Soon to present to a number of authors and editors about making reference to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in new education resources, I have been compiling a suggestion list which obviously starts by acknowledging Target 4.7.
The field of global and development education in the UK has a long history of creating useful guides to support teachers that want to embed a global dimension (or global citizenship education, or sustainable development education – whatever term sits most comfortably) into their teaching and resources. There have been many successful attempts over the years to map the relationship between subjects and global learning to support this process – for example Oxfam and the GLP have done this, the Development Education Association produced a number of subject guides over 12 years ago, and I still have somewhere the Council for Education in World Citizenship’s set of cards that maps global citizenship to school subjects from over 25 years ago! One of the most useful resource bank for teachers in the UK currently comes from Think Global in the form of an easily searchable database of subject-linked (and whole school) resources. For science, technology and STEM teaching, I also recommend visiting Practical Action's collection of teaching resources.
Talking about ‘SDG education’ (in relation to target 4.7) is a popular and recent global learning and development education theme. Global educators like myself are fast learning that this is an accessible, not-too-divisive term for what we have been doing for some time… and it is a term being used globally. Educators active in the field(s) of #GCED (Global Citizenship Education) and #ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) around the world are rightly doing more and more to galvanize interest in engaging with the SDGs in schools and joining movements like #TeachSDGs. Not surprisingly, new resources and recommendations are emerging with speed, e.g. ‘Empowering Students to Improve the World in Sixty Lessons’, UNESCO’s Global Citizenship Education: Topics and learning Objectives and the more recent Education for Sustainable Development Goals.
Last month the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) launched its guide to embedding sustainable development in textbooks, quite timely given my upcoming task. I’ve not yet read it in depth, but I have focused in on the underlying pedagogy, objectives and approach… it looks excellent and I hope it gets used.
There are a growing number of wonderful educators around the world that are finding motivation, inspiration and a renewed passion for teaching and learning through the idea of #TeachSDGs. This is fantastic, as I've celebrated elsewhere. It is just tiny bit frustrating when I occasionally read pieces or tweets suggesting that this is somehow an entirely new form of education, almost implying no-one before them has tried to engage students with important global issues like poverty, health, equality and sustainability before. Similar frustration arises when people talk about ‘educating’ schools or teachers about the SDGs, without considering that they might be addressing many of the issues in different ways already (in many ways, for many years, at least this is the case in the UK). It is as much about tapping in to what is already happening, and working with teachers' pre-existing passions, as it is about including new ideas. But my frustration is very ‘gentle’, SDG education is at the heart of my own mission and there is plenty of room for innovation.
Another dimension to this resource discussion, of course, is that one of the joys of engaging with the Global Goals is that they are intrinsically interdependent and interdisciplinary (see points 1 and 2 here). Without wishing to go into an academic recollection of the history of school subjects, it is fun to re-engage with the idea that they are all constructs involving a 'selection' of knowledge, bounded and compartmentalised in a particular (not always helpful) way. It is not surprising, therefore, that #TeachSDGs activities often manifest themselves in a #PBL (Project Based Learning) methodology with critical thinking at their heart - next blog will be on different models of #TeachSDGs practice in schools. The 'Goal' themed resources and lesson plans of the World's Largest Lesson fit well with this approach. For teachers or older students who wish to approach SDG and development education issues in a deeper way, I'm also a big fan of 80:20 Development in an Unequal World.
So I return to my list of suggestions about what to recommend, but I am doing this with acknowledgement of what has gone before. Global or development education pedagogy has been around for a long time, for decades global educators and teachers in the UK have been trying to challenge stereotypes and the dangers of a single story, encourage awareness of perception, and get key (sometimes challenging) global issues in education resources. With this in mind, my list is looking very small and neatly formed:
Try to acknowledge the existence of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, 17 goals to change the world by 2030 and that the UK is one of the 193 signatories (therefore the goals relate to what is happening here as well as other countries).
Try to use the SDGs as example themes in case studies and illustration