The new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were announced in September 2015. Global agreement was reached on 17 goals to be achieved over the next 15 years. Their achievement will be no mean feat – it will involve people everywhere working together to learn about them, share good practice, and decide what they can do to make them a reality. At Think Global, our spring seminar series and our Global Educator of the Year Award are just the beginning of our work to support the realisation of the SDGs.
So why are we at Think Global interested in the new ‘global goals’? Firstly they tie-in with our vision for a just and sustainable world. Through activities such as teacher training, awareness-raising campaigns and producing resources and publications, we help people to understand complex global issues such as poverty, conflict and migration. Our approach is to encourage ‘critical thinking’ – we don’t tell people what to think, we help them develop skills on how to think, and to make up their own minds. We empower people to take action, and then to reflect upon the impact of their action.
The SDGs provide a useful framework to hang learning about global issues, with the 17 goals targeting some of the biggest challenges we face in making our world fairer and more sustainable. That the goals are themselves ‘contested’ – in other words, they do not garner universal support as the prescription for a better world – is itself a powerful learning tool, encouraging deeper thinking and reflection of the issues presented.
Our spring seminar series, delivered in collaboration with the British Council, explored the role of education – particularly school education – in realising the global goals. While the first seminar focussed on the work to raise awareness of the SDGs and examined some of the conditions necessary for human behaviours to change, the second of the series delved deeper, focusing on the dispositions and abilities that will allow young people to move from learning about, to living the SDGs. The series closed by examining the concept of ‘global skills’ in more detail – their value for young people growing up in a global economy, and how these skills can be fostered both within, and outside of, the classroom. This might be through careers guidance for example, or with the support of external organisations!
Throughout the seminar series, participants engaged thoughtfully and critically with the information presented, analysing the opportunities for – as well as the challenges to – the contribution schools can make towards the global goals. This critical reflection is vital for us at Think Global, an approach we have also promoted through this year’s Global Educator of the Year Award. With its focus on the SDGs, we want to celebrate those individuals who have gone above and beyond in deepening people’s understanding of one or more of the goals, and who have encouraged people to take action. Nominations came from across the broad field of education – both from here in the UK and internationally! We look forward to announcing the winner and finalists in July, and sharing the brilliant work they have been doing to promote a just and sustainable world.