Transformative learning in the Asia-Pacific region: technical paper
The UNESCO Commission on the Futures of Education noted in their 2021 report, Reimagining our futures together: a new social contract for education, that human societies and the planet face urgent and difficult challenges in the coming decades. The Commission proposed transforming education so that it helps students face the uncertainties and challenges of the 21st century – developing their capacity and motivation to transform society and keep our planet habitable. The present background paper follows on from the ‘5th UNESCO Forum on Transformative Education for Sustainable Development, Global Citizenship, Health and Well-being’, which revealed both the urgency and complexity of this dimension of education (UNESCO, 2022a).
Transformative education has many facets, covering the inputs, processes and outputs of the education process. The present paper focuses in particular on ‘transformative learning’ oriented to ‘macro’ goals, including peace and global citizenship education (GCED) and education for sustainable development (ESD). The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include SDG3, ‘good health and well-being’ and given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this paper notes the importance of education for health and well-being (EHWB), which is addressed more fully in a companion paper.
ESD, GCED and EHWB entail learning about ‘macro’ concerns such as poverty, climate change, ecological damage, disaster risk reduction and public health – themes which can be linked to and deepen subject matter learning. This thematic learning needs to be complemented by the social and emotional learning (SEL) practice of ‘21st century competencies’, ‘life skills’ and associated positive values, attitudes and behaviours. Social-emotional learning supports academic learning as well as personal well-being and it is critical to learning recovery after losses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic (World Bank et al.,2021).
The present paper first identifies education policy commitments to these macro concerns and personal competencies. It then considers barriers to implementation and how these can be overcome through embedding transformative learning into education materials, teacher professional development and assessment/examination processes, as well as ‘whole school’ policies and the ‘school climate’.
Opportunities for sharing and collaboration between countries are briefly discussed. If transformative learning is to take root, it should feature in ‘hardnosed’ post-COVID discussions of national and global funding for ‘building back better’, promoting well-being now and laying the foundations for a sustainable and peaceful future.