Education for sustainability
In the last few months, the role of education and training as a crucial tool to fight climate change has been widely recognised. For the first time, education ministers took part in the COP26, a move that had been long overdue and which should stay and permeate the agenda of future COP assemblies. Education and lifelong learning are key enablers for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the transformation of our societies. This goes beyond education and training as a central instrument to achieve specific targets and goals—education and training when improved on its own terms and as an end in itself can successfully contribute to sustainable development across all dimensions at once.
Taking all of this into consideration, it is a very positive signal that the EU institutions and member states have started key initiatives to to take up this topic together. The LLLPlatform welcomes the commitment made by Education ministers regarding changes in curricula, but we should not forget that that education for sustainability is different from education about sustainability. This means that the changes need to go beyond adding sustainability concepts towards building the curricula based on sustainability. The LLLPlatform welcomes that the EU recognises this importance and is working towards establishing a common language to steer the exchanges, projects and policies around education for sustainability through the upcoming Council Recommendation on education for environmental sustainability and the European Sustainability Competence Framework (Greencomp).
Education as sustainability
Education is not just key to achieve the SDGs or a great tool to fight climate change. Improving education is in itself a crucial work that must be undertaken by the plethora of stakeholders involved directly and indirectly in lifelong learning: from the formal, non-formal and informal learning sectors. In the spirit of cross sector cooperation, LLLPlatfom welcomes the establishment of the Education for Climate Coalition, and the Education for Climate day, and expects for it to be a truly button-up, inclusive and forward-looking platform.
We also hope that this Coalition can take the conversation beyond education as a means to fight climate change and towards making our education systems sustainable themselves. Both are sides of the same coin and should be carried out in parallel since each side feeds on each other for better or for worse. If we don’t work to improve education systems, climate change or environmental education will be taught by using the same outdated patterns and pedagogies that have shaped the current un-sustainable system in which we are living. Similarly, if innovative practices used in climate or environmental education (i.e. experiential learning, nature as co-teacher, among others) do not permeate education systems, we risk missing the opportunity for a necessary paradigm shift.
Take a chance for education!
Therefore, a two pronged strategy is needed. While the call for mainstreaming climate change education and environmental education is welcomed. This change needs to be done in parallel with a reevaluation of education systems in order to build resilient and sustainable ones where learners’ needs are at the center, teachers are supported and well remunerated, innovative pedagogies are implemented, flexible pathways for learning are the norm and lifelong learning a reality for all. Let’s not waste the opportunity and take a chance for education: appropriate funding shall be given to unlock the full potential of education for sustainability across all learning sectors. Similarly, attention should be given to building closer and more operational synergies between different funding programmes and instruments so that innovation in learning is not lost to siloed-thinking and bureaucracy.
Finally, education and training institutions from all sectors supported and represented by community, civil society and non-profit organisations are one of the main actors to help people understand and take action on sustainability. We see in the various initiatives from the Commission that education’s multiplier effect has been acknowledged, but we believe it should be further exploited. The EU institutions have a key role to play in ensuring policy coherence and building synergies across EU policies and flagship programmes, namely, the European Green Deal, HorizonEurope, LIFE, Erasmus+, the European Skills Agenda,, Digital Education Action Plan, CAP and climate change policies. In order for policy coherence and implementation to be successful, EU policy should aim at involving all stakeholders alike in taking action, from supporting individuals, communities and organisations with little agency as well as ensuring that other actors with higher agency do not only complete a “tick the box” exercise.
The LLLPlatform solidifies its commitment to support the meaningful participation of civil society organisations in the different policy processes around education for sustainability. A starting point? The valuable contribution that learning in all its forms, supported by holistic and long-term policies, can make to achieving all SDGs.