Education and sustainable development beyond 2015


A slight change in my blogging style – this is a thought piece for some of my BTechEd students.

As a member of the UNESCO International Bureau of Education, I engage and contribute towards the achievements of the EFA (Education for All) and MDG (Millennium Development Goals) through the COP. The UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda produced a thematic thought piece in 2012 which looked at the education and skills required for sustainable development beyond 2015. Following on the outcome of the 2010 High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations Secretary-General established the UN System Task Team in September 2011 to support UN system-wide preparations for the post-2015 UN development agenda, in consultation with all stakeholders. The Task Team is led by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme and brings together senior experts from over 50 UN entities and international organisations to provide system-wide support to the post-2015 consultation process, including analytical input, expertise and outreach (United Nations 2, 2012).

Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to education”. Education is not only a right but a passport to human development. It allows people make decisions that meet the needs of the present without compromising those of future generations.

The post-2015 publication explores:

  1. Enabling and driving inclusive and sustainable development;
  2. Trends in international educational development;
  3. The international education agenda beyond 2015;
  4. Emerging trends and the future of education.

It is easy to see how education can contribute widely to the MDGs with focus on environmental sustainability and global development. Students studying Learning for Sustainable Development via Technology, Industry and Society T3 (University of Glasgow BTechEd) may wish to draw upon the concepts outlined within the paper which examine current global development contexts: The growth of information, the move from teaching to learning, looking beyond a classroom-centred paradigm of education and blurring the boundaries between learning, working and living.

It is recognised that vocational skills are best developed through work-based learning. The key challenge remains to ensure that the life-long characteristics of workplace learning are reflected in education and skills strategies and policies. These include development of new approaches for recognition and validation of non-formal and informal learning and enabling flexible access to skills development and qualifications. Curriculum for Excellence provides scope under the auspices of outdoor learning (Scottish government, 2010) to make some of these connections. In a society where global citizenship, technology and sustainable styles of living are connected; the social, cultural, economic and environmental influences and the impact that technological infrastructure has on our world, manifests in many different ways through products – industrial contexts and commercial interests. Many medium to large scale organisations will have a policy on sustainable development and as we prepare our young people through formal and informal learning, we have an inherent responsibility to bring such issues to the classroom for discussion.

In Scotland, the term Learning for Sustainability (LfS) has been adopted to reflect an extended concept that weaves together the three fields of Sustainable Development Education, Global Citizenship and Outdoor Learning. When LfS reaches its fullest potential, it is a transformative experience: changing our understanding of the world, our place in it and our interactions with it. LfS is a developing field and the way that we learn within this context is not yet fully understood. There are many definitions and many interpretations, however the focus of LfS within Design and Technology must reflect:

  • The social progress – recognising the needs of everyone;
  • Effective protection of the environment;
  • Prudent use of natural resources;
  • Maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment;

Consider how you can translate this into your classroom teaching. There are a number of questions which can be framed under social, cultural, economic and environmental sustainability and examples can be found on Moodle.

Multifaceted changes in global development since 2000 are having a significant impact on education, training, and skills development worldwide (United Nations 1, 2012). The current debates concerning the post-2015 international development and education agendas are underway and this may provide some additional background reading.

Further reading:

The Scottish Government. (2010) Curriculum for Excellence through outdoor learning. Education Scotland [online]. (last accessed 14.1.15)

United Nations 1. (2012) Beyond 2015 – education for the future. [online]. (last accessed 14.1.15)

United Nations 2. (2012) Education and skills for inclusive and sustainable development behind 2015. [online] (last accessed 14.1.15)

Image: Cameco


Academic Staff University of Glasgow and Author of Science Fiction

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