The fundamental role of teachers in achieving quality education was the main message conveyed by Education International (EI) to the more than 1,100 delegates attending the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan, on 10-12 November.
EI President Susan Hopgood welcomed UNESCO’s efforts to promote Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), arguing that education was the key to achieving sustainable development and the full development of children, young people, and adults.
Speaking at the opening plenary of the conference, Hopgood outlined some of the positive steps taken by the UN to promote ESD. One such step was the Rio+20 conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2012, where UN Member States agreed to promote education for sustainable development. They also agreed to integrate sustainable development more actively into education beyond the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development ending this year.
“It is encouraging to note that ESD has been included in both the UN Open Working Group Recommendations on post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and UNESCO’s Muscat Agreement,” Hopgood said. “It’s vitally important to ensure that ESD is maintained in the final post-2015 development and education frameworks.”
Hopgood highlighted recent initiatives by EI and its members, education institutions and educators to promote ESD. “Through the Unite for Quality Education campaign, we have been promoting a comprehensive vision of quality education which encompasses quality teachers, quality tools and quality environments.”
EI members globally have been putting pressure on governments to protect the planet, she said. And they continue to advocate and promote ESD policies, programmes, and actions that promote the priorities of the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development through greening of schools, research and professional development, among others.
However, inadequate teacher training, professional development and support, and the narrow testing agenda promoted by governments in a number of countries are some of the biggest barriers to achieving education for sustainable development, Hopgood noted.
Narrow education agenda
“Competition-based accountability measures promoting testing and the publication of league tables quite often force teachers ‘to teach to the test’ and schools to pay more attention to those subjects that are tested, thus leaving essential subjects such as ESD on the margins of curriculum implementation,” she said.
Hopgood argued that instead of competition, governments should promote collaboration and a broad vision of quality education addressing the full development of the individual and society.
Support for ESD teaching
EI, together with the UNESCO Chair on Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability and the Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding, organised a workshop on teacher education and ESD. The workshop, moderated by EI Senior Coordinator Dennis Sinyolo, discussed the contribution of teacher education to ESD and devised recommendations on how governments should support teachers to improve the teaching of ESD. The recommendations covered a wide range of issues, including research, pedagogy, initial teacher education, continuous professional development and support.
Future ESD priority areas
The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, for which UNESCO is the lead agency, began in 2005. In 2013, the 37th session of the UNESCO General Conference endorsed a Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD as a follow up to the UN Decade. The GAP has five priority action areas for ESD: policy support, whole-institution approaches, educators, youth, and local communities. The Nagoya conference reaffirmed the importance of ESD and called on governments and partners to implement the GAP.
To read the Aichi-Nagoya Declaration, please click here