An international conference: Education as a Driver for Sustainable Development Goals is being organized by Centre for Environment Education (CEE), in partnership with UNESCO, UNEP and the Government of India.

The Conference will take place from January 11-13, 2016.  It aims to bring together global experience and expertise to “highlight and strengthen the role of education” in realizing the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

It will, the organisers say, be an opportunity to build on the UN Decade of ESD and recognise education as a “key enabler”.  They add:

“The SDGs are applicable to the world as a whole.  Increasingly, the emphasis has moved away from a solely economic view of development to a larger view that includes the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, social and economic.  With this new emphasis comes also the recognition that policy instruments or technological solutions are not going to be enough and that behavioral change was critical to achieving Sustainable Development.  Thus the role of education in its broadest sense including training and capacity building, communication and creating public awareness, scientific research, sharing and access to information and networking; and partnerships becomes a key strategy for achieving the SDGs.  The objective of the Conference is to bring together the global experience and expertise of using education as a way of achieving SDGs.”

There will be working groups based on the 17 goals:

Goal 1: Poverty Alleviation
Goal 2: Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition
Goal 3: Health and Well being
Goal 4: Quality Education
– 4.1 Formal School Education
– 4.2 Early Childhood Care and Development
– 4.3 Higher Education (HE) and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET)
– 4.4 Youth Empowerment
– 4.5 Capacity Building of Teachers
Goal 5: Gender Equality and Empowerment
Goal 6: Sustainable Management of Water and Sanitation
Goal 7: Access to Sustainable and Modern Energy
Goal 8: Sustainable Economic Growth
Goal 9: Sustainable Industrialization and Infrastructure
Goal 10: Reduce Inequality
Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements
Goal 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production
Goal 13: Combating Climate Change and its impacts
Goal 14: Conservation and Sustainable use of Marine Ecosystem and Resources
Goal 15: Conservation and Sustainable use of Terrestrial Ecosystems and Resources; combating desertification and land degradation
Goal 16: Peaceful and Inclusive Society and Institutions
Goal 17: Strengthening Means of Implementation


This is a deliberately broad view of what ‘education’ is: “... training and capacity building, communication and creating public awareness, scientific research, sharing and access to information and networking; and partnerships …“, which, up to a point, is helpful (it’s not just schools, then), but it does make you wonder where all this ends.

Whilst, all the things on this list must involve learning, it is not obviously helpful to call them all education.  But this is an old issue – the relationship between education and learning – and it is obvious to say that much (most?) learning takes place without an educator (as viewed within Goal 4) anywhere in sigh, which is why many now think it’s better to talk of learning (something we all do, most of the time) than education, which most view (probably wrongly) as a specialist, professional role.

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