A better world in 13 years?

Agenda 2030 – the UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, all 193 United Nations member states endorsed the Sustainable Development Goals, representing an ambitious agenda for global development by 2030.Simon Schmidt and Lubna Haddad look at the goals and their potential impact on sustainability education.

This set of 17 goals is follows the Millennium Development Goals MDG) – eight global goals for the 2000-2015 period which sought to address long term problems such as poverty, illiteracy, infant mortality and access to water.

Unlike the MDGs, which focused primarily on the needs of the developing world, the Agenda 2030 SDGs are intended to address all aspects of global development and to provide a set of overarching targets for all countries to aim towards.

Australia is a signatory to the SDG agenda, but our current government is lagging behind many other countries in adopting the goals in any practical sense, or in laying out a path towards meeting its obligations and targets. There is however great opportunity for educators here and around the world to use the Goals to frame and focus their teaching and for current and future generations of students to engage meaningfully and constructively with Agenda 2030.

Education itself is an integral element of the Sustainable Development Goals agenda. The fourth SDG (Quality Education) focuses on the resourcing and delivery of safe, universal and inclusive education, and along with Gender Equality (Goal 5) and Decent Work and Economic Growth (Goal 8), is a priority campaigning focus for Education International, the global federation of education unions of which the IEUA, the AEU and the NTEU are members.

For the purposes of teachers and curriculum developers, however, educational priorities are woven through the whole SDG agenda – providing a powerful and coherent framework for a curriculum which encourages and empowers our students to imagine and to actively participate in a healthy, peaceful, sustainable and prosperous future for our planet and its people.

Simon Schmidt is an Officer of

IEUA VicTas sschmidt@ieuvictas.org.au

Transforming our world from our classrooms

Equipping our students with the life and work skills and knowledge to address the multiplicity of challenges that face us locally and globally is one of the most important responsibilities we have, as educators – and the United Nations SDGs provide a fabulous framework for teachers.

I remember allocating classes – as Head of Human Society and Its Environment (HSIE) and as a History and Legal Studies teacher – obviously preferring to take only my favourites. But good leadership meant that I needed to practice what I preached about cross curriculum professional development, so I took on what I thought back then was a dreaded Geography class. How wrong I was, because I discovered the wonderful hands on focus of Geography and the ways in which the stages 4 and 5 syllabus embedded the UN’s Millenium Development Goals (which expired in 2015).

Although the new syllabus in NSW is less explicit, the opportunities for embedding the SDGs are ample, and not limited to the secondary content. The Australian Curriculum also embeds general capabilities that all students should be taught, including ethical and intercultural understanding, personal and social capability, as well as cross curriculum priorities focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures, Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia, and Sustainability.

More to teach?

As teachers though, we dread having to find ways to fit more in. But the beauty of the SDGs is their universality and wide application. They don’t have to meet denominational ethos, accreditation authorities’ standards or state legislations, and I think that is exciting in a very ‘nerdy’ kind of way. The teacher’s autonomy is in selecting what and how to teach students about the SDGs, and the curriculum possibilities are limited only by your imagination, and definitely larger and broader than the scope of this article.

Nonetheless, let’s unpack a couple of ways the SDGs can be integrated into the curriculum and programming without too much fuss. In fact, the SDGs can be a great lesson starter and the UN’s website provides a range of resources, so there is no need for hours of research for reliable information. It’s click and go.

Integrating the SDGs in our curriculum is exciting, challenging, creative, and wonderfully invigorating for education, teacher collaboration and student learning.

Cross curricular opportunities

The SDGs offer a practical approach for cross curriculum lessons and assessment, an approach which many schools, or departments such as HSIE are already utilising to reduce the assessment tasks for students and teach explicit links and knowledge across different Key Learning Areas (KLAs). Queensland trialled New Basics with what they called transdisciplinary rich tasks, as did Tasmania with Essential Learnings. Cross curricular approaches actually make teaching easier, and students are not relearning the same information in different KLAs and telling you that they’ve already done this in their last class.

In secondary schools, Geography and Science are a perfect combination as are English and History, and in primary curriculum, Science and Technology are already combined. The SDGs are so easily applicable to many subjects, for example, SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy (Science), SDG 9 Industry Innovation and Infrastructure (Design and Technology), SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities (Geography), SDG 13 Climate Change, SDGs 14 and 15 Life below water and Life on Land (Science, Biology, Geography)

For Legal Studies (Years 11 and 12) topics such as Individual and the Law, Human Rights, Crime, World Order and Sources of Law, the SDGs are perfect as a lesson starter or underlying focus to introduce global legal goals (SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions). Another of the goals is to promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all, which is fundamental, especially when the statistics tell us that the most corrupt of all legal institutions are the judiciary and police. This is pertinent to the essential learning outcome of assessing the effectiveness of the Australian legal system and international mechanisms measured by accessibility, resources efficiency and enforceability, application of the rule of law, protection of individual rights and so on.

Envisioning our ideal world by 2030 is to plant the seed of creativity for the next innovation in clean energy that reduces our carbon footprint, creates sustainable communities especially in developing countries and mitigates the way in which we build our cities and infrastructure to reduce our impact on life on land and under water. It also improves our access to quality education (SDG4), decent work and economic growth (SDG8 in Economics), and responsible consumption and production (SDG12 in Commerce, Economics). The combinations are endless.

What about the primary curriculum?

Nevine Tita, a Sydney primary teacher of seven years experience, with a marketing career behind her, believes that implementing the SDGs looks harder than it actually is. She has looked at how she would implement SDG3 – Good Health and Well-Being, and was able to integrate it into PDHPE where she would teach about malnutrition and its effects (which also relates to SDG1 No Poverty, and SDG2 Zero Hunger. She links it to Science by looking at environmental factors which affect health, and creatively links it with English, as reading and literacy exercises the brain and nurtures good health and wellbeing.

Her examples foster further applications – in Mathematics when students are dealing with the relevant statistics, in History when studying the changing patterns of agriculture, Geography when mapping affected areas, and Science and Technology when examining alternatives to electricity – particularly when 1.4 billion people worldwide have no access to it! And there’s your segue to SDG7 Affordable and Clean Energy, and SDG14 Climate Change.

I remember asking my Year 7s to go home and count how many items in their homes require electricity. Their shock when they returned to class with the data was genuine and that led us to a fantastic discussion about Australia’s carbon footprint and we then used an online carbon calculator to measure their individual carbon footprint. Their engagement was what teaching is all about!

Integrating the SDGs in our curriculum is exciting, challenging, creative, and wonderfully invigorating for education, teacher collaboration and student learning. As I said before, the possibilities are endless and you never know who in your classroom is the next Elon Musk.

We have a social and moral responsibility to nurture tomorrow’s generation to build a world better than the one we are leaving them. We can even start with The Lazy Persons Guide to Saving the World. Our mission as educators is to be at the coal face of it all, especially tasked with dispelling ‘fake news’ and letting the evidence speak for itself. I would love to hear how you are integrating the SDGs in your classrooms, social justice committees and pastoral lessons, and working across different KLAs.

Lubna Haddad is an Officer of IEUA NSW/ACT lubna@ieu.asn.au


United Nations http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2015/12/sustainable-development-goals-kick-off-with-start-of-new-year/

SDG Index – How do we perform?

AITSL - https://www.aitsl.edu.au/teach/standards

ACER https://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com.au/&httpsredir=1&article=1003&context=

Essential Learnings, Tasmania


New Basics – Queensland

WWF http://www.wwf.org.au/what-we-do/climate/causes-of-global-warming#gs.zKFBUaI

EPA - http://www.epa.vic.gov.au/AGC/home.html

Lazy person’s Guide to taking action