The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were officially announced in January 2016, yet only 24% of the British population have any awareness of them and what they mean in practice. As such, a scheme of workshops is being rolled out to showcase the SDGs, and how local businesses and researchers are putting them into practice. I recently attended one of these sessions and found it hugely informative in terms of explaining how the SDGs were developed, how they will be measured and how achieving them will impact our planet and people.
However, I did leave feeling somewhat disappointed. The room was full of people like me who already have at least a basic knowledge of global and regional inequalities, climate change, and the SDGs. What these workshops could be doing is engaging the other 76% of the population who remain unaware of and/or disinterested in these issues.
Following the plenary speakers, we had time to discuss our opinions and I broached the subject of how we should go about spreading awareness of the SDGs, particularly with young people. I was surprised to hear many attendees suggesting that it would be easy for teachers to use online resources to incorporate the goals into lessons and after-school clubs. However, working with schools on a day-to-day basis, I know the challenges the rigid curriculum poses and the limited opportunities there can be for teachers to modify lessons. Additionally, lunch times and after-school sessions are routinely used for “interventions” aimed at pushing students to achieve their target grades.
Finally, how many teachers fall within the 24% of our population who are aware of the goals? If we want to mobilise the next generation we must first ensure our educators are fully aware of the SDGs. They need to understand how they can be delivered and what the impact of meeting the goals will mean across society. To do this we must give schools and teachers more opportunity for staff development and independent learning, plus the space in the curriculum to allow student-staff discussions of these issues. Creating informative, and free, resources is fantastic but we must also provide schools with space. Space to use these resources and for follow-up discussions, allowing our young people and teachers to fully appreciate the challenges our planet faces and find their own way to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Written by: Dr. Jess Mitchell, S4TP Programme Coordinator, North England & Scotland
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solutions for the Planet Ltd.