Today’s world is suffering from severe crises. As a young person, I feel deeply concerned about what the future will bring. The most vulnerable and unprivileged are already suffering from a lack of food, access to water, or energy. We are already seeing the consequences of climate change affecting crops, sea levels and even pandemics. It is just a matter of time that the “developed world” will feel threatened.
Returning from COP26, I have better understood how policy-makers think, and I have realised that shaping a more prosperous and fairer world is more feasible when change-makers – and that can be any citizen – has the will and power to take care of the environment, society, and economy. I am coming back from Bristol much more motivated and empowered, and I would love to use my role as a BILT Student Fellow to bring the change that, in my opinion, we need at University.
We need future leaders to be knowledgeable, open-minded and risk-takers to implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This requires an understanding and confidence on how to identify and solve issues effectively in a collaboratively, ethical, and sustainable way.
Hence, these are my three asks for change-makers at university to act on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD):
1. For every single educator to have a degree of understanding of ESD
Given that ESD is a novel approach at the higher educational level, professors and academics’ backgrounds are not necessarily familiar with the approach towards sustainable development. In the near past, many reported that they did not feel confident enough to teach on Sustainable Development, even though they agree that it should be implemented throughout education.
We currently count on the expertise of our academics from the Cabot Institute, corporate partners such as the IEMA, and external organisations such as the QAA. But such a structural change might require more investment in capacity-building.
Additionally, educational programs will be designed to be interconnected with each other, providing students with the opportunity to interact with each other and in different disciplines.
2. For every student to be equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, and tools to contribute to sustainable development
As I have and will keep emphasising, sustainability is for everyone. It’s within your attitude, your work ethic, and your mindset, and it can be tailored to any degree.
Discipline-specific teaching for every student at the university not only at any level, course, and department but in any unit. In other words, students will receive mandatory education on sustainable development throughout their entire education.
- Educators will stimulate the curiosity and interest in solving today’s global and local issues
- Students will develop the UNESCO’s ESD competencies (systems-thinking, anticipatory, normative, strategic, collaboration, critical thinking, self-awareness, and integrated problem-solving)
- Students will have an excellent extra-curricular range of opportunities to follow their interests further in education and establish networks for the future
- For the Careers Service and BILT to synergistically work on developing students’ (e.g. engagement opportunities and skills framework).
Additionally, students should be aware and able to adapt to the environmental and social changes caused by the climate crisis and, especially, to take action on the climate emergency.
3. For the University to be at the forefront of Education for Sustainable Development in the UK
I believe that the University of Bristol is already in a good position to lead ESD at the national level of the higher education sector. I must point out that we must seek cooperation, communication, and potential partnership with other universities and entities instead of egoistically competing with each other.
- Engagement with national discourse and dialogue, creating strong and healthy partnerships with other higher education institutions by, for instance, sharing best practice
- Presenting at international conferences
- Peer-to-peer reviewed publications
To make these changes happen, the university must significantly upgrade its capacity. A strategic plan must be made addressing specific details, targets, and roadmaps with relevant stakeholders. Stakeholders at our university, including Tansy Jessop, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Education, have welcomed these plans with open arms.
It is time to accomplish the Sustainable Development Agenda and ensure that we find purpose in our lives and careers. As always, please contact me if you are interested in taking part or would like to know more through email or on LinkedIn.