Integrating sustainable development goals with school education

Nirali Dagli

Today’s students are tomorrow’s citizens. They will play a crucial role in solving many of the global challenges we are surrounded by. It is the responsibility of the education system and teachers to ensure that students are prepared to tackle the issues that will shape their future. For this, classroom teaching needs to be relevant to real-world issues. Integrating Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into school education is a powerful tool to instill a sense of responsibility and awareness among students.

That said, SDGs should not be limited to curriculums alone. True understanding comes from out-of-class learning, delving into practical issues, and working on ground-level solutions. When children understand the authentic meaning of SDGs, it becomes a fundamental part of their value system. Inbuilt value systems guide children to act wisely, moving beyond merely completing a curriculum and forgetting about it.

An example of successful SDG incorporation was witnessed in a campaign against single-use plastic initiated by our school. Following the prime minister’s declaration in July 2022, various activities were organized, including a stage show by younger students and the making of paper and cloth bags. The activity left a lasting impact, eliminating single-use plastic on campus. Student-led event management ensured plastic-free occasions, with steel and glass bottles replacing their plastic versions.

Sustainable practices and education must work hand-in-hand for their principles to permeate future generations. SDG 4٭ (The 17 goals—Sustainable development) which focuses on quality education, underscores the importance of educating people with the right sense of sustainable living and practices. Schools serve as vehicles for promoting critical understanding of SDGs, and mobilizing actions towards their achievement. The National Education Policy (NEP) rightly emphasizes the need for sustainability in education, acknowledging that without it, all other education will just be mere curriculum.

Technology has further empowered schools to share knowledge and best practices easily. Our school has been engaging with ISM International Academy, Ecuador  under their “DO IT’ project for the last four years. The initiative has enabled students in both countries to exchange ideas and solutions related to SDGs and share their best practices about the implementation of SDGs, local heritage and conservation ideas, and much more. Children, with their innovative mindset, can leverage technology to create awareness about sustainable practices, policy formation, and informed decision-making.

Implementing sustainable practices in schools is not as easy as it may seem. In an age when the priority of most parents, and also teachers and students, is grades, including SDGs in the curriculum comes with its challenges. The biggest hurdle often lies in the existing value systems and the reluctance of the older generation to adapt to the changing needs. Overcoming these challenges requires a collective effort and a willingness to embrace change.

Schools are places to embrace cultural diversity through various activities. Cultural diversity, when aligned with the United Nations SDGs, becomes a powerful tool for instilling understanding and acceptance among students. Heritage trails, outings to historical places, and conservation efforts contribute not only to learning (SDG 11), but also to cultivating tolerance and appreciation for different cultures. 

Empowering students to take the lead in designing and managing school events is a transformative approach. When aligned with global challenges, the outcome can be multi-pronged. Recently, we organized the annual school function on the theme of clean water, which is SDG 6. The students became researchers, scriptwriters, collaborators, and leaders in the process. Trusting students to take ownership develops a sense of responsibility and leadership, preparing them to address future global challenges.

Our school has always focused upon the integration of Sustainable Development Goals in education that goes beyond the four walls of the classroom and the textbooks.The efforts towards sustainability have made considerable impact on environmental awareness, use of plastic and recycling and water conservation initiatives over the years. The key for schools is to help students become responsible and aware citizens and play a vital role in addressing the challenges of our constantly and rapidly evolving world.

٭ THE 17 GOALS | Sustainable Development (un.org)

The author is the Principal of Kalorex Future School, Ghatlodia. She is a woman with an extraordinary vision of transforming education. Mrs. Dagli tirelessly networks with renowned professionals nationwide to provide students with platforms to explore and diversify their learning opportunities instead of being restricted to conventional education modes. She has introduced Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) to students, encouraging awareness about pressing global issues.

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