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Module 1: QUALITY EDUCATION (SDG4) - IT
QUALITY EDUCATION (SDG4) AND THE ACQUISITION OF 21ST CENTURY SKILLS
The overall aim of Sustainable Development Goal 4
The overall aim of Sustainable Development Goal 4, “Quality education”, is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. According to the United Nations (2015, p.7), the right of education must be guaranteed at all levels – early childhood, primary, secondary, tertiary, technical and vocational training – and should encompass all people, irrespective of sex, age, race or ethnicity, and persons with disabilities, migrants, indigenous peoples, children and youth, especially those in vulnerable situations. Furthermore, learning must be merged with real life and occurs in different contexts (formal, informal, no formal).
Fullan and Scott (2014, p. 7) sustain that learning that “looks at the world from many different perspectives (…) is relevant to the real world interests, needs and challenges of our students, is (inter) active and which concentrates on developing the capabilities that are not just for today but for a sustainable future” as well.
According to the United Nations (2015, p. 17) the main targets of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 are:
4.1. Universal primary and secondary education
4.2. Early childhood development and universal pre-primary education
4.3. Equal access to technical/vocational and higher education
4.4. Relevant skills for decent work
4.5. Gender equality and inclusion
4.6. Universal youth and adult literacy
4.7. Education for sustainable development and global citizenship
4.a. Effective learning environments
4.b. Expand the number of scholarships available to developing countries
4.c. Increase the supply of qualified teachers
Why is it important for the educational community?
In order to promote inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, it is essential to adopt a broad and integrative perspective of the educational processes. It includes different educational methods, not only formally organized, but also those that provide contacts with different knowledge and practices, inside and outside the school/academic context (Zucchetti & Moura, 2010). It means that educational response to the transformations that result from economic, demographic and social changes necessarily requires greater investment in collaboration between the formal and non-formal system.
In Portugal, this ecological perspective and socio-educational practice, in formal and non-formal educational contexts, at different levels of education, has occupied over the years a position of prominence and growing expansion (Silva et al., 2010) among all agents, namely those directly or indirectly involved in it. In fact, from those directly in charge of the teaching and learning process, curriculum and program organizers, policy mentors and supervisors, students and their families, this ecological perspective is recognized far more than a purely local matter; by contrast, presents itself as an object of broad interest, with increasing visibility and legal structure (idem). This broader, inclusive and equitable perspective, that sustains the lifelong learning principle, requires communication and articulation of different languages and different knowledge, in a context of informality, which will help to promote creativity and diverse skills (knowledge, reasoning, communication, attitudes), leading to innovation and citizenship development. This networking scenario favors the emergence of new educational practices promoting social cohesion, which is in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 4: “Quality education”.
To understand the global aspects of society and, at the same time, act to transform its local and community reality, inclusion presupposes the right of all to full and effective access and participation in the same educational contexts. At this moment, the Portuguese Government Program establishes, as one of its priorities, the commitment to an inclusive school where each and every student, regardless of their personal and social situation, finds answers that enable them to acquire a level of education and training that promotes their full social inclusion (Law 54/2018, 6th July). This inclusive commitment, in line with UNESCO (2009), integrates specific support resources for learning and inclusion, as community resources.
Taking into consideration the generational effects of educational processes, as we develop quality education today with the above assumptions, its effects will certainly be verifiable in the long term, meaning in future generations. So, quality education aims to build answers for the local challenges that each one faces, in different moments and in a macro scenario of global transformation intending to be socially inclusive.
Key dimensions of Sustainable Development Goal 4
The key dimensions of SDG4 are associated to cognitive, socio-emotional and behavioural learning objectives (UNESCO, 2017, p. 18).
The cognitive learning objectives are related to: understanding the role of education and lifelong learning opportunities for all; acknowledge that education is a fundamental human right; recognizing the lack of equitable access to quality education and lifelong learning opportunities; understanding the role of culture in achieving sustainability and the importance of education to the creation of a more sustainable, equitable and peaceful world.
The socio-emotional learning objectives are related with: the learner ability to raise awareness for the importance of quality education for all; motivate and empower others to demand and engage education for sustainable development and other educational opportunities; identifying their own learning needs and personal development and improving their skills, especially for employment and entrepreneurship.
The behavioural learning objectives are related with the capacity to facilitate and implement quality education for all, at different levels; promote gender equality; demand and support the development of policies; empower young people to learn throughout their life and promote sustainable development.
The interplay between Sustainable Development Goal 4 and the acquisition of 21st century skills
Ensuring quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all is essential to the acquisition of 21st century skills. In this perspective, the “whole-institution approach and transformative pedagogies are recognised as key drives for the education for sustainable development. (..) It involves rethinking the curriculum, campus operations, organizational culture, student participation, leadership and management, community relationships and research” (UNESCO, 2017, p. 53).
The pedagogical approaches (PA) related with the quality education for sustainable development (UNESCO, 2017, p. 55) are: learner-centered, action-oriented and transformative learning. This framework is consistent with the possibilities for the acquisition of 21st century skills, as can be observed in Figure 1.
Figure 1 Possible Interplay between pedagogical approaches for Education for sustainable development and 21s century skills
As systematized in Figure 1, the pedagogical approach (PA) learner-centered approach can be related to the 21st century skills (21C) character.
PA learner centered
students as autonomous learners
requires learners to reflect on their own knowledge and learning processes in order to manage and monitor them.
21C - character
Learning to learn, and ability to regulate the learning process; work goal-directed; self-regulation
The PA action-oriented learning can be related to the 21C: collaboration and teamwork, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and imagination.
PA action-oriented learning
increases knowledge acquisition, competency development and values clarification by linking abstract concepts to personal experience and the learner’s life
refers to Kolb’s theory of the experiential learning cycle with the following stages: 1. Having a concrete experience; 2. Observing and reflecting; 3. Forming abstract concepts for generalization; and 4. Applying them in new situations
21C - collaboration and teamwork, communication, critical thinking and problem solving creativity and imagination
cooperate in teams; solve conflict
communicate in a purposeful way using a variety of methods, including digital tools; adapt the communication to different groups
solve problems; critical assessment and the ability to question information; ability to see connections and patterns; explore, reflect upon and follow up ideas in real life
raise innovative ideas and non-traditional solutions; employ own creativity into an action process
The PA transformative learning can be related to the 21C: thinking as global citizens
PA – transformative learning
It aims to empower learners to question and change the ways they see and think about the world in order to deepen their understanding of it
21C -Thinking as global citizens
to explore global problems (using deep understanding and different values and worldviews); genuine interests and abilities to solve complex real-world problems which affect sustainability; ability to define alternatives for action and set priorities; ability to make smart and informed decisions