23.07.2018 - UNESCO Office in Brasilia

Partnership between the São Paulo Municipal Secretariat of Education and UNESCO in Brazil is presented at the Meeting of Ministers of Education of Latin America and the Caribbean

The education system of São Paulo municipality was the first to include the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the school curriculum.

Which education do we want to provide today to shape the citizens of our city in 2030? That was the question that steered the partnership between the São Paulo Municipal Secretariat of Education with UNESCO in Brazil. The municipality developed a new primary school curriculum, released on December 2017, which in an unprecedented way, integrates the 2030 Agenda, connecting its learning objectives to each of the 17 SDGs. The experiment will be presented on Monday (23 July 2018) at the Latin America and the Caribbean High-level Regional Technical Meeting, a preparatory event for the II Regional Meeting of Minsters of Education of Latin America and the Caribbean, which will be held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, on 25 and 26 July 2018.

With the new curriculum, the São Paulo Municipal Secretariat of Education will produce global citizens, understanding that everyone (governments, UN agencies, organized civil society, private sector and every citizen of every country) has responsibilities so the world is capable of achieving the SDGs, adopted in 2015 by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. Within this perspective, the São Paulo Municipal Secretariat of Education (SME, in Portuguese acronym) is collaborating for the fulfillment of the global goals, involving its managers, teachers and students, which add up to more than one million people.

Released on December 2017, the city’s new primary school curriculum aims to offer quality education, as foreseen in the SDG 4, and collaborate to transform São Paulo into a sustainable city, as foreseen in the SDG 11. The curriculum is a key factor to promote a quality inclusive and equitable education, and to include Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), in line with the 2030 Agenda.

In the process of building a new curriculum, the school came to be seen in four different dimensions: The school as a physical space, its pedagogical practices, its governance processes and its relations with the SDGs. At the physical space, matters such as environmental management and school accessibility started to be evaluated. In pedagogical practices are addressed not only the cognitive contents and practices, but also the socioemotional and behavioral skills of the students. In governance processes, are taken into account the social web in which the school is inserted and the participative process of school decisions. Finally, relating to the SDGs, the idea is for students to incorporate them into their daily practices.

The approach is student-centered: “we want to form the students integrally; we want them to embody more sustainable ways of life and to include the SDGs targets in their lives”, says Wagner Palanch, director of SME's curriculum technical core.

Implementation, lessons learned and monitoring

Following the release of the document, the challenge consists in the implementation of the new São Paulo curriculum. To this end, the members of the Regional Directorates of Education are being trained so that they are able to pass on the information, themselves, to the teachers of the schools in their region. In turn, the teachers need to be trained to be able to visualize school challenges and look for solutions together with the students. These solutions must relate to the SDGs and be appropriate to the reality of each school and the community in which they are inserted. In this process, it is necessary to raise the awareness of teachers so they can look at the curriculum as a whole, and not only to the part referring to the subject taught.

Like every pilot project, it is important to list the lessons learned. For the consultant Barbara Oliveira, the main lesson is that there is a need for an even greater participation in building the curriculum, especially at its initial stages of development. All stakeholders must be involved from the beginning, and it is necessary to carry out the exercise of evoking the participative process even before connecting the curriculum to the SDGs.

In turn and according to Wagner Palanch, SME curriculum director, the key to making the process of development and implementation of a curriculum a success and truly incorporated by schools is to focus on territoriality and local identity. “The São Paulo curriculum has the face of the city”, states Wagner Palanch, director of the SME. The idea, therefore, is to point out ways for the development of a curriculum that brings along this identity, and not simply replicates the Brazilian National Common Curricular Base (BNCC, in Portuguese acronym) or the curriculum from other locations in other municipalities or in other states.

The next stages are aimed at monitoring the results and sharing the work carried out in São Paulo with other locations. One of the actions to be carried out with this purpose is the presentation of the development process of the São Paulo curriculum at the Meeting of Ministers of Education of Latin America and the Caribbean. The intention is to inspire the development of new curricula in other locations in Brazil and in the world using similar processes to what was done in São Paulo.

For Rebeca Otero, coordinator of the Education sector of UNESCO in Brazil, “the process of developing a new curriculum accomplished by the São Paulo Municipal Secretariat of Education can be replicated even in other parts of the world”. She states that taking advantage of the global discussion on the SDGs, which was attended by experts from all over the world and agreed on by UN Member-States, is a right idea when thinking about Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship. “This is a way to qualify education, making it transformative. We are not only passing on cognitive knowledge to the student, we are forming citizens”, concludes the coordinator.

The Secretary of Education of the city of São Paulo, Alexandre Schneider, emphasizes that all the material produced by the Secretariat is an Open Educational Resource (OER), that is, it is available for use by other secretariats of education or any other institution or individual that demonstrates interest. According to the Secretary, “we need to show that it is possible to create a curriculum rapidly and with the participation of students, teachers, communities, and that bringing the SDGs to the curriculum helps the process of integrally forming the students. If we take into account that we are talking to approximately one million people, at least five hours a day, we have the potential to bring about real changes to the municipality by 2030”.

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