‘Education can, and must, contribute to a new vision of sustainable global development’ (UNESCO, 2015)
The University feels strongly about ensuring that students understand, and are concerned about, global issues of sustainable development. Our students go on to play key roles affecting and safeguarding the future of the planet. Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship (ESDGC) is a fundamental part of many modules across the University.
Our Foundation Year students, in all subjects across the University, are required to complete a module on Contemporary Issues in which they study and discuss topics such as climate change and genetic modification.
Education for sustainable Development (ESD) is an explicitly recognised part of UNESCOs targets for 2030. This will 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 nonviolence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development (United Nations 2015).
It’s generally considered that citizens require competencies to allow them to engage constructively and creatively and responsibly with today’s world. Key competencies include:
- Systems thinking competency: the abilities to recognize and understand relationships; to analyse complex systems; to think of how systems are embedded within different domains and different scales; and to deal with uncertainty.
- Anticipatory competency: the abilities to understand and evaluate multiple futures – possible, probable and desirable; to create one’s own visions for the future; to apply the precautionary principle; to assess the consequences of actions; and to deal with risks and changes.
- Normative competency: the abilities to understand and reflect on the norms and values that underlie one’s actions; and to negotiate sustainability values, principles, goals, and targets, in a context of conflicts of interests and trade-offs, uncertain knowledge and contradictions. Strategic competency: the abilities to collectively develop and implement innovative actions that further sustainability at the local level and further afield.
- Collaboration competency: the abilities to learn from others; to understand and respect the needs, perspectives and actions of others (empathy); to understand, relate to and be sensitive to others (empathic leadership); to deal with conflicts in a group; and to facilitate collaborative and participatory problem solving.
- Critical thinking competency: the ability to question norms, practices and opinions; to reflect on own one’s values, perceptions and actions; and to take a position in the sustainability discourse. Self-awareness competency: the ability to reflect on one’s own role in the local community and (global) society; to continually evaluate and further motivate one’s actions; and to deal with one’s feelings and desires.
- Integrated problem-solving competency: the overarching ability to apply different problem-solving frameworks to complex sustainability problems and develop viable, inclusive and equitable solution options that promote sustainable development, integrating the above competencies.