We ended 2014 with one official consultation. We begin 2015 with another. The two couldn’t be more different.
In December we responded to the online enquiry of the House of Commons Education Select Committee into the UK government’s use of evidence to inform policy. Not for the first time, but in common with many of the enquiry’s other 500 respondents, we voiced deep concern that despite DfE’s ostensible interest in ‘evidence-informed policy’ its approach to evidence is all too often selective, ideologically partisan and methodologically naive. It remains to be seen whether the Select Committee will call DfE to account on this score, or whether its members will merely shrug and say ‘That’s politics.’ Which, depressingly, it is.
But all this will seem parochial in comparison with the agenda to which another organisation invites us to respond, for it deals with nothing less than the responsibility of national educational systems, including our own, ‘to improve the quality of life, promote decent employment, encourage civic participation and enable all citizens to lead a life with dignity, equality, gender empowerment and justice’. All citizens, everywhere, not just in the UK.
The quotation comes from a UNESCO concept note outlining how progress in global education should be monitored after 2015, the year in which the current UN Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education (which in many countries won’t be achieved) is superseded by an even more ambitious set of goals which apply as much to rich countries as to poor, and tie education firmly to the increasingly urgent global imperatives of equity and sustainable development.
Both of these happen to be among CPRT’s eight priorities, and if you check the new CPRT priorities in action page of our website you’ll see how we and our partners are beginning, within our modest resources, to pursue them. But if you want a sense of the gravity of the challenge we all face, read the UN’s December 2014 synthesis report The road to dignity by 2030: ending poverty, transforming all lives and protecting the planet.
The report ends thus:
Today’s world is a troubled world, one in turmoil and turbulence, with no shortage of painful political upheavals. Societies are under serious strain, stemming from the erosion of our common values, climate change and growing inequalities, to migration pressures and borderless pandemics. It is also a time in which the strength of national and international institutions is being seriously tested. Because of the nature and the scope of this daunting array of enormous challenges, both inaction and business-as-usual must be dismissed as options. If the global community does not exercise national and international leadership in the service of the peoples of the world, we risk further fragmentation, impunity and strife, endangering both the planet itself as well as a future of peace, sustainable development and respect for human rights …
The year 2015 is hence the time for global action … We must take the first determined steps toward a sustainable future with dignity for all. Transformation is our aim. We must transform our economies, our environment and our societies. We must change old mindsets, behaviours and destructive patterns. We must embrace the integrated essential elements of dignity, people, prosperity, planet, justice and partnership. We must build cohesive societies, in pursuit of international peace and stability … We have an historic opportunity and duty to act, boldly, vigorously and expeditiously, to achieve a life of dignity for all, leaving no one behind.
‘Think global, act local’ has become a cliché. Worse, it has been hijacked by multinationals to advance enterprises that are anything but sustainable or equitable. But educators can reclaim it. The UN’s global education agenda is directed at governments, so at the start of 2015 we should demand to know how our own government will respond, or whether this major report and the evidence that informs it, will be kicked into touch like so many before it. But the UN’s education agenda requires no less energetic action in the classroom. Teach local, learn global.
If your school is working to advance the UN – and CPRT – goal of ‘a sustainable future with dignity for all’ and you would be willing to share your ideas with others in the CPRT network, please let us know. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
You will find websites of these organisations relevant and helpful:
Sustainable Schools Alliance
Sustainability and Environmental Education
Think Global (the Development Education Association)
Tide Global Learning
TEESNet (formerly UK Teacher Education Network for education for sustainable development and global citizenship)
Contribute to shaping the focus of the 2016 report on Education, sustainability and the post-2015 development agenda (closing date for comments: 28 January).