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A transformative target: SDG 4.7’s challenges and promise in Asia-Pacific

A transformative target: SDG 4.7’s challenges and promise in Asia-Pacific

A transformative target: SDG 4.7’s challenges and promise in Asia-Pacific

What is SDG 4.7?

Target 7 of Sustainable Development Goal 4 – the “education goal” – offers a transformative vision of education: By 2030, ensure that 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.

How does SDG 4.7 relate to the wider 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?

SDG 4.7 aims to provide learners with the knowledge and competencies they need to make all of the SDGs a reality. The focus is on cognitive, socio-emotional and behavioural learning outcomes that help learners in dealing with the particular challenges addressed by the SDGs. As United Nations Member States work toward achieving the SDGs by 2030, they are called upon to rethink education to contribute to the SDGs and 4.7 provides a needed framework in this regard.

How are Asia-Pacific Member States interpreting and implementing SDG 4.7?

Member States in Asia Pacific already incorporate aspects of 4.7 in their education systems, albeit in numerous different ways. Here are a few examples:

  • A recent UNICEF review conducted in coordination with Thailand’s Ministry of Education showed that the Ministry has policies mandating the provision of CSE in basic education, with content integrated into subjects such as health and physical education at the primary and secondary levels. (The MOE is strengthening teacher training and CSE implementation to ensure that content reflects current research on CSE, such as the importance of stressing gender and power relations.)
  • The Pacific Islands Climate Education Partnership aims to develop knowledge and skills to advance understanding of climate change and adapt to its impact by better incorporate climate change into state and national education standards.
  • Australia has incorporated global citizenship education (GCED) into its national education policy. (More on GCED, its interpretations and how it is being implemented in the region).

What are the particular challenges in mainstreaming SDG 4.7 in this region?

  • In November 2016, SDG4 National Coordinators working at education ministries throughout the region identified SDG 4.7 as a one of the priority areas on which they sought clarifications on key concepts as well as technical support in mainstreaming its core principles. Some of the challenges that have been identified include:
  • Priorities for SDG 4.7 differ among countries: whether to stress the moral aspects of SDG 4.7; ensuring there isn’t an overemphasis on the cognitive; navigating tensions between local and global, etc.
  • Terminology can be confusing. ESD is often misunderstood as referring solely to the environment, while ESD and GCED are often conflated.
  • There are challenges in effectively mainstreaming core concepts within SDG 4.7. For example, gender equality is poorly covered and is considered a low priority for many countries in the region compared to health education, for example.
  • Teacher education and teaching resources are inadequate. SDG 4.7 calls for a learner-centred pedagogy; however, in the region the teacher-led traditional approach remains most common (Schultz et al 2010 in GEMR 2016).
  • Lack of assessment systems for ESD and GCED.

How can we address these challenges?

There is an urgent need to make education more relevant to local and national needs and this is addressed via SDG 4.7. But if SDG 4.7 is not properly understood then implementation will be weak and this confusion exists, in part, because of the scope of the target. The upcoming APMED 2030 technical meeting aims to address these concerns. The meeting will work to clarify key concepts as well as produce regional recommendations on mainstreaming elements of SDG 4.7 at all levels; monitoring of and reporting on the target; regional level support to Member States; and strategic partnership development around SDG 4.7.

More on the 3rd APMED

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