Education for sustainability, an objective to pursue

Education for sustainability, an objective to pursue

September 11, 2020

Education for sustainability, an objective to pursue

Adopting sustainable behaviors - not only at the table - is also and above all a matter of education that must involve the entire population, from children in schools to adults and the elderly.

“With a world population of 7 billion and limited natural resources, we - as individuals and society - must learn to live together in a sustainable way” say experts from UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO’s commitment to Education for Sustainable Development (Education for Sustainable Development), which is becoming increasingly important internationally, arises from this need. 

It is about providing “education on sustainable development at all levels and in all social contexts”, as also stated in two of the Barilla Foundation’s 10 Actions from Farm to Fork: “increase awareness and education” and “enable healthy and sustainable diets”, actions 8 and 9 respectively. 

Active involvement

According to UNESCO’s experts, multiple tools are needed to achieve sustainability goals, in particular those related to climate change: ranging from political interventions to economic incentives and technological improvements. However, none of these tools can work without the active involvement of the entire population. “We need to change the way individuals think and act to 'change minds, not the climate'. And education is crucial” says the website. In fact, education is both an objective in itself and a tool for achieving all the other sustainable development goals, as emerges from a document dated 2017, in which UNESCO set some of the learning objectives for each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. 


Young people undoubtedly have a key role to play in these education for change processes. This is demonstrated by the fact that increasingly it is they who take initiatives to influence local and national governments on various issues and demonstrate a desire to be an integral part of the change towards achieving sustainability, while admitting that they lack the necessary knowledge to understand how to be truly effective. We need to achieve a transformative and responsible involvement that schools, together with other actors, can help to achieve with the help of technologies and social media, which are very effective tools for change among the younger generations. All these concepts are described in detail in the document “Teaching and learning transformative engagement”, published by UNESCO in 2019. 

Sustainability in school

Sustainability education must begin at school. It is no coincidence that one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goalsnumber 4 – is dedicated to quality education, a key tool for overcoming inequalities and achieving sustainability goals. Goal 4.7 in particular says: “By 2030 ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including among others through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.” 


With its 11,500 members spread across 182 countries, UNESCO’s Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) is a network that unites different education centers working, among other things, to make sustainable development and quality education a reality. From Argentina to Germania, including Japan, Bahrain and Zimbabwe, there are many success stories that demonstrate how it is possible to integrate sustainability issues in schools and in the entire community. 


The international commitment to education for sustainability is getting even stronger: in November 2019, during the 40th session of the UNESCO General Conference, a new global plan was adopted called “Education for Sustainable Development: Towards achieving the SDGs” (more briefly “ESD for 2030”). Created to continue and implement the actions already taken during the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) and in the Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD (2015-2019), the program will be officially presented during the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development planned for May 2021 in Berlin.


BCFN’s commitment

Forever active in the field of education for sustainability, over the years the Barilla Foundation has created numerous educational programmes dedicated to students of all ages, presented on a dedicated page of the website. 

“We, food and our Planet” is the name of the educational program launched in May 2018 and the subject of a memorandum of understanding with the Italian Ministry of Education. It is a completely free initiative addressed to teachers of primary, lower secondary and higher secondary schools, and subsequently extended further, which offers teachers online training tools and digital tools to be used in classroom lessons, to raise awareness even among the youngest children about the close link between individual food choices, personal health and the health of the planet.

The “sCOOL Food” and “Save the planet” programs, both launched at the Milan Expo in 2015, represented two further opportunities to reaffirm the importance of education for sustainability, particularly using innovative teaching tools and interactive activities for students of schools at all levels. 

Finally, to demonstrate that education for sustainability has no age limits, there are Gunter Pauli’s Fables, designed to explain seemingly very complex issues to young children, and the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on “Sustainable Food Systems: a Mediterranean Perspective”, developed in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and SDG Academy to provide an overview of the challenges and opportunities of the agricultural sector in the Mediterranean basin and which recently joined the European Commission’s Erasmus Plus Virtual Exchange

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