Education

Sustainable Development Goal 4

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Overview

Education is foundational to sustainable development and to the achievement of the sustainable development goals. Through education and learning, we shape new ways of seeing the world and develop new practices and behaviors that can make sustainable development possible.

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is an important educational approach recognized within the targets of the proposed SDG to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.

ESD is an approach to teaching and learning based on the ideals and principles that underlie sustainable development and concerned with all levels and types of education. It promotes the life-long acquisition of knowledge and skills to help people actively find and apply innovative solutions to environmental, economic, cultural and social challenges.

It involves including key sustainable development issues, for example biodiversity, climate change, disaster risk reduction, poverty reduction, and sustainable consumption, into teaching and learning. It requires participatory methods that motivate and empower learners to change their behaviour and take action for sustainable development.

ESD is therefore an important approach to help safeguard biodiversity and test options for reconciling the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity with the growth of human activities. The issue of biodiversity should be introduced within both teaching and learning perspectives, with curricula and materials developed to create desired learning outcomes. Learning outcomes should include academic understanding, acquisition of values, increased capacity, skills development and the adoption of attitudes and behaviour conducive to the safeguard of biodiversity.

Challenges

Raising awareness and mobilizing people for biodiversity conservation is critically important. Many believe that the first tool for biodiversity conservation is awareness-raising. Among the many barriers to achieving the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the lack of public awareness on the importance of biodiversity ranks as one of the most serious. Without an awareness of the importance of biodiversity to human well-being, citizens and stakeholders are unlikely to take the necessary steps to mainstream biodiversity considerations into their lives and practices. This lack of public awareness contributed to the relatively low political priority given to biodiversity issues.

Biodiversity is not widely understood and as a result its economic, social and environmental importance is often poorly recognized. The values of biodiversity should be interpreted in the broadest sense, including environmental, cultural, economic and intrinsic values. While a better understanding of the values of biodiversity is important in building the motivation for action, it is not enough. Individuals also need to be aware of the types of actions they can take in order to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity. Every individual has a role in biodiversity conservation, from advocating action from government to being aware of the impact that their choices and consumption patterns have on the environment. Different segments of society can take different actions depending on the types of activities they have control or influence over. The more people become aware of the issues surrounding biodiversity, the more general awareness and understanding of a need for action will spread.

Therefore, there is a need to better incorporate comprehensive biodiversity and environmental sustainability education into curricula.

Messages

  • Biodiversity education is an integral part of ESD, which promotes mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystem services into all forms of learning as a critical contribution to sustainable development. This includes organizing thoughtful consumption and production behaviours that are sustainable from local to global levels.
  • In an ESD context, biodiversity education should appeal widely to all kinds of learners, be scientifically sound and develop critical thinking.
  • Biodiversity education should promote understanding of the complexity of biodiversity issues and management choices.
  • ESD that addresses biodiversity should develop individuals’ understanding of why biodiversity is critical for sustainable development.
  • Any education needs to motivate pupils to act to protect and preserve the diversity of nature.
  • ESD should provide opportunities for pupils to do research and contribute to knowledge about biological diversity.
  • Teachers and educators need to take advantage of opportunities to strengthen ESD and biodiversity education, for example: encouraging people to be in touch with nature and recognize their need for nature; encouraging collaboration and discussion between scientists, teachers, and students; integrating biodiversity and ESD topics into every subject, and; emphasizing the relevance of biodiversity and ESD topics to everyday life.