Education and sustainable development: what about policy coherence?

Education and sustainable development: what about policy coherence?

Nelson Mandela once said, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Thinking about policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD), how can the Scottish education sector help us get closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, in Scotland and elsewhere?

We asked the staff at IDEAS (the International Development Education Association Scotland) for their thoughts.

Why is PCSD important within education?

A quality education is pivotal to fighting poverty and inequality and to addressing systemic issues. Through education, we have the opportunity to provide all citizens with the knowledge and tools needed to understand and act for sustainable development, making the connection between the interdependent nature of the world we live in.

Why is Global Citizenship Education (GCE) important? Can you give a concrete example of GCE in Scotland?

GCE is a transformative approach to education that supports a better understanding of PCSD. It is a mechanism for individuals to think critically, understand interconnections/interdependencies (both positive and negative) and take action as empowered politically engaged individuals.

GCE encourages learners of all ages to assume active roles, both locally and globally, in building a more just and sustainable world. It provides us with the toolkit to understand the realities of our local communities and global interconnections, to question systems of inequality, and to envision solutions for a better future.

Through the IDEAS network there are many charities and organisations across Scotland that are supporting practitioners to bring GCE to life in the classroom, engaging school pupils in participatory and reflective learning on complex global issues.

What is ‘Learning for Sustainability’ and why is it important in terms of policy coherence?

Within the Curriculum for Excellence, ‘Learning for Sustainability’ is the umbrella term for sustainable development education, outdoor learning, global citizenship and social welfare. It acts as a framework for encompassing a wide range of interconnected themes and approaches across all forms of education.

Can you summarise PCSD recommendations in the area of education in a few sentences? What are the key points?

The recommendations on the wiki focus on sustaining the existing role of GCE within international development and Learning for Sustainability, while integrating GCE more broadly across policy-making to capitalise on the wider benefits of this approach to transformative education. There is also a commitment to strengthening European links around GCE.

Why should we join the Global Education Network Europe?

To strengthen Scotland’s European links around GCE and development education, through opportunities for structured networking, sharing strategies, peer learning, and policy support.

If you were to pick one recommendation on PCSD and education, which one would you say the Scottish government should prioritise to have the most impact?

‘Draw on Scottish GCE expertise to support policymakers in the embedding of cross-government systems thinking approach for the implementation of the SDGs.’ If GCE is embedded within a PCSD approach in government, it would support cross-sectoral engagement, public awareness, and action for the Goals across policymaking and civil society.

Bridge 47, an EU funded initiative currently housed within IDEAS, are currently working with the Alliance, SCVO and the Scottish Government to create a new resource for this purpose. Once the resource is ready, the challenge will be ensuring it is used by policymakers across government. 

If I were a Scottish pupil in primary/secondary school, what would it mean for me if Scotland were to implement recommendations on PCSD in the thematic area of education?

With the values and tools of GCE further embedded across education and wider society, as a pupil, you would engage more critically with global issues in the classroom, have a deeper understanding of interconnections and inequalities, and ultimately become a more active citizen who can make informed decisions and take positive action in your community.