Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 4.7 reinforces earlier global education goals that are critical to achieving the SDGs as a whole:
By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development
In early 2017 a group of international academics and practitioners joined forces to promote the integration of Target 4.7 themes and related social and emotional skills into textbooks and other education materials, particularly in countries facing resource shortages, prolonged violence or post-conflict reconstruction.
Following well-attended workshops at the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) conferences in 2017 and 2018, as well as at UKFIET 2017, the UCL Institute of Education (2017) and George Washington University (2018), this group undertook a soft launch of a structured networking initiative, entitled Networking to Integrate SDG Target 4.7 and Social and Emotional Learning into Educational Materials (NISSEM), at the CIES workshop in March 2018.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be achieved without significant reform to current systems of education. It is today’s learners who will be called upon to implement the SDGs and live with their consequences. SDG Target 4.7 is critical in this regard. The global indicator for Target 4.7 encourages countries to review and reconsider existing (a) national education policies, (b) curricula, (c) teacher education and (d) student assessment to assess how adequately they incorporate Target 4.7 themes. Implementing Target 4.7 is particularly pressing in settings where conflict has damaged education systems or where insufficient resources or traditional pedagogy limit the range and relevance of teaching and learning materials.1
In many such contexts, textbooks constitute “the first and sometimes the only books that a young person may read [and] in most classrooms they determine what and how teachers teach.”2
Target 4.7 highlights the importance of Global Citizenship Education (GCED) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) that can promote lasting, informed and value-based changes in the attitudes, skills and behaviour of young people. Effective GCED and ESD therefore demand teaching and learning approaches that foster a range of social and emotional skills, including self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making. Such skills are rarely integrated into existing textbooks and teacher preparation programs.
1 See Appendix A “Why focus on textbooks in low resource and conflict affected contexts?”
2 “Few instruments shape children’s and young people’s minds more powerfully than the teaching and learning materials used in schools. Textbooks convey not only knowledge but also social values and political identities, and an understanding of history and the world. Teachers and students trust textbooks as authoritative and objective sources of information, assuming that they are accurate, balanced and based on the latest scientific findings and pedagogical practice.” UNESCO. (2016). Textbooks pave the way to sustainable development. Global Education Monitoring Report: Policy Paper. Paris: UNESCO. 28. December. 19. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002467/246777E.pdf.