Our 2021 New Year’s Resolution? Continue supporting Education for Sustainable Development.
It goes without saying – it’s been a whirlwind of a year. COVID-19 has disrupted, restructured and redefined our lives. Amidst the overhaul, one thing remains not just true, but thoroughly amplified: we are in a climate emergency and we need to act fast.
We believe Education for Sustainable Development, or ESD, is central to our response to the emergency and in ensuring future generations inherit a liveable planet. ESD is the process of equipping learners with knowledge, skills and attributes to live responsibly – not just for themselves, but so that future generations can enjoy environmental, economic and social wellbeing. ESD ensures our responses to the climate emergency are effective by being long-term and holistic. When implemented formally, it breaks down subject silos by ensuring the principles of sustainability are at the heart of all learning.
Education has faced many challenges this year. COVID has caused the reshuffling of resources within schools, colleges and universities, which has impacted progress to embed sustainability in teaching and learning. Adding to this, the chief inspector of schools in England, Amanda Spielman, recently released an Ofsted statement resisting and oversimplifying urgent calls to reform the curriculum in response to the climate emergency.
Nevertheless, the need for education reform remains critical for a sustainable future. The road to a liveable planet is paved with ESD. Mock COP, the youth-led climate conference with over 330 delegates representing 140 countries, culminated in a declaration which included climate education as a key theme. Teach the Future, a student-led campaign to repurpose the education system for the climate emergency, launched Scottish and Welsh branches, inching closer to its campaign goals. The QAA and Advance HE have released their revised ESD guidance which is undergoing public consultation, indicating that not only is ESD here to stay, but we can and should shape it.
In the past year, SOS-UK’s education programmes, including Responsible Futures and For Good have supported institutions and students to progress ESD.
2021 will mark the 8th year of Responsible Futures. Over 30 partnerships between students’ unions and institutions have taken part in the accreditation scheme to embed sustainability in the formal, informal and subliminal curriculum. This year, our host partnerships, De Montfort University and Students’ Union and the University College of Estate Management are delivering a programme of support for the national Responsible Futures cohort. Their support includes webinars on decolonisation, gaining senior leadership buy-in and commitment to ESD and excitingly, a student-led event on ESD and Responsible Futures – highlighting the importance students play as co-creators in education transformation.
Our For Good platform has hundreds of students registered and ready to be paired with organisations to use their education as a force for environmental, social and economic good. We’re excited to announce 11 new organisational members, including 9 organisations from the Devon Community Foundation, who will begin promoting their projects, dissertations and placements to enthusiastic students by the new year. We look forward to registering more organisations and students in 2021.
We’ll begin 2021 raring to go and pushing for ESD within the education sector and generally. Not just because we want to, but because we absolutely need to.