The COVID-19 pandemic dominated the headlines and every aspect of our lives in the last few months, a study found that in 50 years one billion people could live in insufferable heat.We must unite to fight the impending threat of COVID-19, which has already killed over 400,000 people. But we cannot forget that the climate crisis is also a battle for our lives, and that many will die from its effects if we do not act now. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called upon Governments to “build back better” after the current crisis by creating more sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies. This must include education, as societies cannot transform if what and how we learn remains the same.
School closures in over 180 countries have laid bare inequalities in education, deficiencies in remote learning, the cost of the digital divide, as well as the important role schools play in student health and wellbeing. After this crisis, Governments around the world will need to reassess learning systems to meet these challenges.
Last year, the UN General Assembly recognized Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as a model for rethinking learning to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. ESD reassesses what we learn, where we learn and how we learn. It develops the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that enable learners to make informed decisions and actions on global problems such as the climate crisis. Equally important for the immediate crisis response and the prevention of future crises are individual socio-emotional skills.
Governments, policy makers and education leaders need to ensure that Education for Sustainable Development continues to be built into education frameworks at every stage of national education. The commitment to ESD must include learning in all contexts, for all learners no matter their gender, location, socio-economic status or connection to the internet.