“This forum takes place at a significant time,” said UNESCO Assistant Director-General Stefania Giannini, in a message officially opening the UNESCO 2019 Forum on Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship in Ha Noi, Viet Nam on 2 July 2019.
“Next July 9, the UN High Level Political Forum in New York will review Sustainable Development Goal 4 for the first time since its adoption in 2015. This will be a platform to reaffirm the centrality of education for building a better world, and in particular by empowering children and youth with the awareness, skills and values to appreciate our shared humanity and planet. This stands at the heart of education for sustainable development and global citizenship,” she said.
As the lead agency to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Global Citizenship Education (GCED), UNESCO has brought together more than 350 experts, practitioners and policy-makers from 100 countries for the two-day forum which will explore the theme Learning and teaching for peaceful and sustainable societies: From early childhood to primary and secondary education.
UNESCO presented new publication ESD and GCED Up Close, which explores a holistic approach to education that emphasizes three dimensions of learning - the cognitive, socio-emotional and behavioural - and is based on the results of a recent UNESCO study to examine policies and curriculum documents from ten countries.
The forum addressed if and how these three dimensions of ESD and GCED are reflected in pre-primary, primary and secondary education, highlighting improvements to be made and challenges to overcome.
All speakers at the opening acknowledged the important role the three dimensions of learning play in achieving a sustainable future. Minister of Education and Training, Viet Nam, Phung Xuan Nha, said Viet Nam had begun radical and comprehensive educational reform in 2013. 'Our aim is not only to integrate sustainable development into education but also to mobilize education as an inclusive means of implementing all SDGs. However, we are still facing many questions with regard to day-to-day implementation."
He added: “I hope this Forum will offer many shared experiences and initiatives and that new perspectives, approaches, and partnerships will be gained.”
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Viet Nam and President of Viet Nam National Commission for UNESCO, Dr Le Hoai Trung, also affirmed: “Past achievements in social and economic development and international integration show that it is the human factor, not natural resources, that is the deciding element for sustainable development for every nation. This also means that the constant reform and renewal of education is an effective means to usher in human beings for a new age, endowed with courage and intellect to overcome the global challenges in an era of international integration.”
As a keynote speaker, Minister of Education, Bhutan, Jar Bir Rai, pointed out that imbalances in economic advancement and the degradation of the natural environment could be said to have resulted in global conflict. “The imbalance in our cognitive, psychomotor and affective domains: the so called the three domains of learning could be the reasons for many catastrophic disasters that have become the reality of today. It has become important for us to reflect on the present we have created and the future we want to design. And those involved in education have a much higher responsibility than we imagine.”
Using interactive plenaries and concurrent workshops, the forum session organized to expand and reinforce partnerships and networking opportunities around the theme, inviting debate and fostering dialogue as well as sharing practical information, best practices and knowledge.
Participants presented innovative and promising approaches on how to address gaps and fully harness the potential of the three domains of learning in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and in particular Target 4.7, which relates to ESD and GCED.
35 active members of UNESCO’s Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) including teachers and students from three countries (Burkina Faso, Trinidad and Tobago, Viet Nam) are also attending the event, along with eight ESD youth leaders from all regions.
The forum is organized by UNESCO in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Training of Viet Nam and the Viet Nam National Commission for UNESCO. Additional support is provided by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, the UNESCO Japanese Funds-in-Trust for the Global Action Programme on ESD, and the Asia-Pacific Center of Education for International Understanding.
The event will be followed up by a final meeting of the Global Action Programme (GAP) Partner Networks to review and analyse the past five years which were the follow up to the UN Decade for ESD (2005-2014). The meeting will also discuss next year's launch of ESD for 2030 which will replace the GAP.