Education for sustainable development comes to town

Education for sustainable development comes to town

May 03, 2019

Education for sustainable development comes to town

UNESCO experts explain how to implement the principles of education for sustainability at a local level, integrating them within cities which never stop learning.

The topics of education for sustainable development and learning cities were discussed in the video tutorial presented by UNESCO during the last United Nations’ Climate Change Conference (COP24). As experts confirm, the 7-minute video explains in particular how virtuous cities can, at a local level, implement the strategies of education for sustainability, fundamental for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, also by using to the best advantage any projects already underway in various urban centers. Many themes are considered in the tutorial, which follows another 7 videos on how to create a real learning city: from climate change to pollution, with all the risks for physical and mental health generated by the same.

Learning cities

The so-called learning city is, for UNESCO, an urban center that promotes continuous lifelong learning for all. They are, in other words, cities that use their resources to promote inclusive learning from basic to higher education, to facilitate and sustain learning in families, communities and in the workplace, also thanks to the use of new technologies. “Lifelong learning lays the foundation for sustainable social, economic and environmental development. The idea of learning throughout life is deeply rooted in all cultures. However, it is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s fast-changing world, where social, economic and political norms are constantly being redefined”, says the website of UNESCO’s Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), where the experts remind us that those who keep learning throughout their lives acquire greater resilience, i.e. they are better equipped to adapt to changes in their surrounding environment. “Learning cities are really drivers of change. I hope that many more communities around the world will become learning cities and contribute to lifelong access to quality education and learning opportunities,” says Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, since 2018. In order to sustain this effort by the most zealous cities, UNESCO has created the Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC), an international network that provides ideas, inspiration and best practices to foster the achievement of the sustainable development goals, in particular, number 4 (Equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all) and number 11 (Cities and human settlements that are inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable). 

Educating for sustainability

Education for sustainable development (ESD) must start at school, but it should certainly not be confined to the classroom. The video tutorial presented by the UNESCO experts is also based on this principle; they are always seeking to improve access to quality education at all levels and in all social contexts, also for the purpose of implementing concrete actions aimed at the achievement of the sustainable development goals planned for 2030. “Education for sustainable development (ESD) empowers people to take informed decisions and responsible actions for environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society,” says the website dedicated to lifelong learning. The connection between the approach based on education for sustainable development and the goals set by the United Nations was recorded in black and white in the document “Education for Sustainable Development Goals: Learning Objectives”, which explains how this type of educating for sustainability can contribute to the achievement of the 17 targets. 

But this is still not enough. For this concept of learning to really become an integral part of the cities and of the everyday life of citizens throughout the world a Global Action Programme  such as the Global Action Programme on ESD, coordinated by UNESCO, is needed. 

The final purpose? To contribute to the achievement of the vision proposed in the dedicated decade to education for sustainable development (2005-2014): “a world in which everyone has the opportunity to benefit from education and learn the values, behaviors, and lifestyles required for a sustainable future and for positive societal transformation”. 

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