08.03.2017 - Education Sector

Experts and practitioners discuss way forward for Education for Sustainable Development at global forum in Canada

© Canadian Commission for UNESCO - Forum participants at one of the exhibition booths

More than 250 practitioners, policymakers, experts and stakeholders of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) from more than 90 countries are gathering in Ottawa, Canada, from 6 to 8 March for the Review Forum for the UNESCO Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD: Implementation and Innovation. The event is part of the UNESCO Week for Peace and Sustainable Development: the Role of Education (6-10 March 2017).

The GAP was launched in 2014 as the official follow-up to the United Nations Decade of ESD (2005-2014) with the aim to scaling ESD approaches. The Review Forum provides the opportunity to take stock of progress achieved since its launch and examine the way forward with a focus on pedagogical approach. Soo-Hyang Choi, Director of UNESCO’s Division for Inclusion, Peace and Sustainable Development, said: “The preparation of the post-GAP period has already started. We have launched a consultation process, which will continue at this meeting.”

Algonquin Elder Claudette Commanda opened the meeting by offering a welcome to the traditional territory. She and Christina Cameron, President of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, highlighted the role of indigenous knowledge in understanding how to protect our planet and how to live together in peace. “Education is the most efficient tool to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals,” Cameron said. “This gathering is an opportunity to collectively roll up our sleeves and find innovation.”

A new publication, “Education for Sustainable Development Goals: Learning Objectives”, was also launched at the Forum. It was developed by UNESCO to support policy-makers, curriculum developers and educators to promote learning for the SDGs. The publication contains learning objectives and suggestions for classroom activities to address each of the SDGs as well as guidance on how to integrate ESD into policies and teaching. Anantha Kumar Duraiappah, Director of the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP): said: “Knowledge itself is not sufficient. We have to trigger empathy and compassion in people.”

Isao Kiso, former Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Japan to UNESCO, emphasized the role of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) to multiply and scale up ESD approaches. “ASPnet is used in Japan very strategically as the focal tool to promote ESD at the local level,” he said. “The number of Japanese Associated Schools has increased since 2005 from 20 schools to over 1,000.” Worldwide, there are more than 10,000 Associated Schools worldwidein more than 180 countries that serve as multipliers of transformative education and whole-school approaches.

In a panel discussion entitled “What makes a good ESD teacher”, several ASPnet teachers presented pedagogical approaches to ESD in their countries and schools. Josephine Udonsi from Nigeria said: “I apply the three ‘Is’: 'Initiate, Innovate, Integrate' to teach my students about sustainable development.” Jean-Marc Septsault from France said that schools should “be more open to dialogue with all local actors” to enrich teaching and learning about sustainable development.

The 3-day Forum is mainly organized along interactive concurrent sessions and town hall debates on different topics such as “Effective teaching and learning for transformation”, “Preparing educators for ESD” and “Emerging global issues for ESD”. Participant and workshop facilitator Bianca Bilgram from the German National Commission for UNESCO said: “The content and format are giving us many new ideas and inspiration for our work.”

The GAP Review Forum will be followed by the Third UNESCO Forum on Global Citizenship Education (GCED) with a joint day and official opening of the UNESCO Week on 8 March. This is the first time that UNESCO is bringing together under one banner these two of its main educational programmes, ESD and GCED.

The UNESCO Week is organized jointly by UNESCO and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, with additional financial support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan through the UNESCO Japanese Funds-in-Trust for ESD. Additional support for the Week is provided by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, the Global Centre for Pluralism and the Canadian Museum of History.

Follow the event on Twitter under #UNESCOweekED.

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