First of three blogposts by Margaret Sinclair, marking five years of NISSEM
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the founding of NISSEM – Networking to Integrate SDG Target 4.7 and SEL into Education Materials. The prequel to founding the group was a pre-Conference CIES 2017 workshop on embedding SDG Target 4.7’s societal and environmental themes and SEL into education materials. This workshop, organized jointly by USAID’s Education in Crisis and Conflict Network and the Education Above All Foundation, led to a planning workshop in February 2018, hosted by George Washington University, and the launch of NISSEM at CIES 2018 in Mexico City.
Fast forward five years: NISSEM has gained recognition globally through its advocacy, publications, and research, focused on education in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Our strategy is networking to promote our cause. Throughout the past five years, we have reached out to experts globally, collecting their insights and experiences in a series of NISSEM Global Briefs that now stands at over 150 contributors and some 80 papers. We have conducted studies for UNESCO, its Futures of Education Commission, and other institutions.
To mark our fifth anniversary and address the continuing challenges, our group of academics and practitioners was expanded in 2023 by creating a NISSEM Transitional Advisory Group, including experts from the Global South. Professor Esther Care, of the University of Melbourne, brings her wide international experience of assessment of SEL competencies in LMICs to the Group, having presented aspects of her work at NISSEM’s 2017 and 2018 CIES events. Vishal Talreja, co-founder of Dream a Dream, based in Bangalore, agreed to bring his experience of SEL and curriculum renewal in India to bear on NISSEM’s future. John Mugo, Executive Director of Zizi Afrique and principal investigator for RELI (the Regional Education Learning Initiative, which works across East Africa) on Assessment of the Life skills and Values of adolescents in East Africa (ALiVE) also agreed to participate. Abdennasser Naji, President of the AMAQUEN Foundation in Morocco, also accepted to join. Vicky Colbert, founder and Executive Director of Escuela Nueva in Colombia, honored NISSEM by agreeing to share her lifetime’s experience of bringing enriched education to marginalized groups. Sam Loni, Program Director of the Global Schools Program, part of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, agreed to join the advisory group, as did Danielle de la Fuente, founder and CEO of Amal Alliance, which has developed SEL for Syrian refugees and supported other aspects of humanitarian response.
This exciting development means that NISSEM has a global profile with rich and distributed expertise and leadership in the area of transformative learning.
With the support of the NISSEM Transitional Advisory Group, we developed a statement of the challenges the group addresses, the approach it adopts, and the need to design education materials that can serve as a carrier of, rather than a barrier to, social and emotional learning and SDG Target 4.7 themes. Proposals for action include strengthening policies and developing partnerships and a platform to support the creation and sharing of innovative materials.
Schooling is a national or state-level activity. Our next steps must be to work with national partners to explore ways of strengthening SEL and nationally prioritized SDG 4.7 topics in curricula, syllabi, and education materials for different subjects and grade levels. We aim to initiate a ‘proof of concept’ project of this nature in the near future and to move towards establishing an online platform of exemplar materials and their use. At the same time, the Transitional Advisory Group will help us develop a timetable for disseminating a declaration of principles that might be endorsed – and adapted in context-appropriate ways – by education organizations globally and at national level. Watch this space!