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Education for the SDGs – a critical role for global skills

On Wednesday 27th April, Think Global and the British Council were pleased to welcome a range of stakeholders across the education sector to the second of our three-part seminar series about the role of the education in achieving the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

IMG_6474While our first seminar focused on the movement underway to raise awareness about the SDGs and the conditions necessary for human behaviours to change, this second session delved deeper, looking at various initiatives to support teachers and students develop the skills, attitudes and values that will enable them to thrive in a complex global world. Such global skills and competencies are vital if the SDGs are to be realised. It was a pleasure to have three speakers share their insights – Dominic Regester from the British Council, Liz Allum from the Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC) and Morgan Phillips from Keep Britain Tidy and the Eco-Schools programme.

Dominic launched the seminar by introducing the British Council’s work to develop the “Core Skills” of students’ across the world, and the rationale behind it. Through the professional development of teachers and head teachers, the Core Skills programme aims to build young people’s capacity in five key areas: communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving, citizenship and student leadership. It’s exciting to reflect on huge potential of such an initiative to prepare all young people for an increasingly interconnected world – especially when considering the British Council’s global reach. With offices in 110 countries, last year it had face to face engagement with almost 11 million people, and with 116 million people online!

IMG_6453Liz’s presentation, “How do we know it’s working?” focused on global skills development at the UK level. She spoke about RISC’s work measuring attitudinal change, clearly demonstrating how it enable enables teachers to deliver global learning more effectively, and most importantly, to measure young people’s willingness and ability to take action for change. This is crucial in context of achieving the SDGs, where the success of the goals depends on learning progressing to action. It was fascinating to hear of case studies where pupils had moved from a charity to more of a social justice mentality, and could make the connection between local actions and global impacts.

Morgan closed the speaker session by reiterating the core message of the seminar – that if we are to succeed with the SDGs, then time in school needs to be given to the development of global skills, attitudes and values, alongside traditional learning outcomes. This is a core aim of the Eco-Schools programme, and an area they are focusing on in teacher and environmental educator training. Morgan emphasised in particular the importance of compassionate values in motivating people to express social and environmental concern, and therefore change their behaviour, resonating clearly with Zhi Soon’s presentation about behaviour change in the first seminar.IMG_6457

The speaker presentations provoked vibrant discussion, with seminar participants highlighting the challenges of convincing teachers to prioritise global learning alongside an ever-increasing workload and the current policy climate, and the intricacies of parental and community engagement. The importance of individual contact with schools and teachers was emphasised by both speakers and participants, considering that every school and community has its own context and identity.

IMG_6462Think Global and the British Council would like to thank everyone for their participation in the seminar and for their thoughtful contributions.

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