Worlds of Education

Thematic Series:

Teach for the Planet

Credit: DFID / Pippa Ranger
Credit: DFID / Pippa Ranger

"What obstacles for Education for sustainable development among teaching staff?", by Dominique Bernier.

published 15 April 2021 updated 11 January 2023
written by:

Education International launched a survey on March 1 to measure teachers' perceptions of their individual capacity to teach the four thematic areas of education for sustainable development and global citizenship education (EDD / ECM). This survey also aims to assess the extent to which they are supported in their training and practice to do so.

A survey to shed light on the monitoring of the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals

The survey is set against the backdrop of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of universal goals developed to address the pressing ecological, political and economic challenges facing our world. The 17 SDGs constitute a global call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people live in peace and prosperity.

This survey constitutes an important contribution to facilitate the achievement of SDG 4.7, which specifically addresses education for sustainable development and aims to “Ensure, by 2030, for all students the knowledge and skills required for the promotion of sustainable development, in particular through education for development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, the promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and the appreciation of cultural diversity, as well as the cultural contribution to sustainable development ”.

Indeed, by making it possible to clearly identify the obstacles experienced by teachers to actively integrate ESD / ECM into their professional practice, EI will be able to offer innovative solutions, including to the challenges experienced in the field. Trade unions will also be better equipped to demand the necessary changes to initial training and the school curriculum if necessary, as well as better support to help their members instill this knowledge and skills in students.

Sustainable development is a broad concept, which covers most fields of human activity. In the context of the survey, four main themes were targeted: climate change, sustainable consumption and production, human rights (including gender equality) as well as cultural diversity and tolerance. Education for sustainable development and global citizenship must therefore be understood as bringing together these four dimensions.

Rediscover the importance of Education for Sustainable Development in a context of crisis

The current context, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, broadly highlights the difficulties facing teachers and the critical lack of support in educational institutions.

The implementation of sanitary measures adds to an already too heavy daily task. The alternation between face-to-face and distance education, sometimes carried out without notice during outbreaks or at the discretion of government authorities, affects the morale of education personnel, already weakened like the general population by more than a year of social distancing, and their ability to perform their job satisfactorily.

In Quebec, national public sector collective agreement negotiations add to this reality, and the contempt of the ruling class adds insult to injury by refusing to recognize the dedication and exceptional flexibility shown by women workers and health and education workers. By refusing to improve its insulting salary offers at a time when more work is required from education personnel and when Quebec is facing an unprecedented shortage of teaching personnel, the government cannot continue to pretend that education is a priority!

It goes without saying that in this context, EDD / ECM does not appear at the top of the list of priorities for teachers in Quebec. However, many are aware of the fact that the ecological and climate crisis that has already started will strike even harder than the pandemic. Indeed, if we delay taking action, it is a succession of major health crises resulting directly from climate change that awaits us. Education for sustainable development and global citizenship is therefore more important than ever to face contemporary challenges.

Give teachers a voice to better meet their needs

The EI survey makes sense here, as many education staff see ESD / ECM as an essential lever and already integrate it into their practice. However, this integration is uneven and many face major difficulties, whether related to shortcomings from the point of view of initial training, lack of time for continuous training, lack of access to adequate pedagogy equipment and resources to carry out enriching educational projects or simply resistance from recalcitrant school principals or school service centers.

In Quebec, the Movement of Collective Actions in Environmental and Social Transition of the Centrale des Syndicates du Quebec (ACTES Movement) as well as the Network of UNESCO Associated Schools of Quebec (RésEAU) are working to put in place tools innovations aimed at better supporting and equipping its members in the context of their practice related to ESD / ECM. A tool aimed at creating a community of practice dedicated to this subject as well as a platform for the certification of establishments in favor of the just transition will be launched soon.

For the CSQ and the ACTES Movement, as well as for the RésEAU, the EI survey is a unique opportunity to take stock of the difficulties experienced in the field, both by our members and by teachers everywhere in the world. The results of this survey will undoubtedly constitute valuable data that will allow us to better assist them by responding in a concrete way to their needs.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.