It is encouraging to see how education is central to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and what they are trying to achieve. If the SDGs are to be met, then education will play an important part in this, which is why it is contained in a number of goals, not just Goal 4.
Since the 1970s when Trócaire was created, it has been a firmly held belief that as well as striving to make a difference overseas, we must also work hard at home to raise awareness and ensure that the Irish public is fully informed and equipped to take action. Education has played a central role in this endeavour, and continues to do so today.
The SDGs bring a welcome transition away from the idea that development is something that some countries have already achieved, and that everyone else should aspire to.
The universality of the SDGs recognises that, in an ever changing world faced with new challenges and new opportunities, all countries and their citizens are constantly evolving, developing and adapting to the pressures of globalisation whilst maintaining their unique national identity.
As always, education is the key to ensuring that this process of constant change happens in a fair and equitable manner, and is embraced by the entire human family.
This is even more important as we live in an age where our idea of what is local is changing, and threats to our continued ability to flourish on planet Earth seem even more global, and even more frightening.
Climate change may affect poor, vulnerable and marginalised communities around the world the most, but no one will escape its worst effects if we do not act together to tackle this problem head on.
Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 2 attempted to achieve universal primary education by 2015. Whilst this goal was not fully met, excellent progress was made in many ways towards increasing the possibility of primary education for boys and girls in what was then called the Developing World.
For example, primary school enrolment worldwide increased from 83% in 2000, to 91% in 20151, though of course this figure does not allow for regional variations, and no doubt in some parts of the world the situation is not as good. Many countries, most notably in sub-Saharan Africa and the Horn of Africa, are a long way off achieving 91%.2
It is encouraging to see that in Goal 4 of the SDGs, to ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all’, the focus has shifted away from narrow restrictive targets, to the idea of ‘quality education…for all’. It is certainly ambitious, hard to achieve and hard to quantify, but it is the only option if we are serious about trying to work towards a more just and sustainable future for all humanity.
In Trócaire, the SDGs are giving our work renewed energy and focus, but it is target 4.7 that really speaks to what we, and others in the wider Development Education (DE) sector in Ireland, are trying to achieve with our DE work:
‘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.’
Our efforts to deliver high quality DE to all formal education sectors (Early Years, Primary and Post Primary), as well as to the Youth sector, demonstrates our commitment to the Universality enshrined in the SDGs and in Goal 4. Trócaire’s work on climate justice education with all age groups directly contributes to Ireland’s efforts to achieve target 4.7.
Trócaire has been working in DE since the early 1970s, and even though the personnel and methods have changed over time, the goal has more or less remained the same, to enable children and young people to explore global justice issues, make connections between their own lives and those affected by these issues and be inspired and equipped to take action. Through the resources we produce, our work with student and practising educators and youth workers, our engagement with young people throughout the island of Ireland, and our work to ensure that the unique role that DE has to play is recognised and embraced, we hope that Trócaire is playing its part in working with the rest of the world to achieve the SDGs.
For more information on Trócaire’s Development Education work, please go to trocaire.org/education, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.