|4.7 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.|
Target 4.7 explicitly links education to the broad Sustainable Development agenda and captures the transformative aspirations of education in relation to other SDGs. It calls for key themes to be mainstreamed in curricular contents, teaching practices and assessment and be given greater importance in policy planning, even if these aims present a monitoring challenge.
The global indicator to monitor this target looks at the extent to which global citizenship education, education for sustainable development and gender equality are mainstreamed in national education policies, curricula content, teacher education and student assessment. The global indicator reflects the fact that the international community has recognised the importance of monitoring the content of education. This is positive, as it will encourage countries to reflect on what is taught in classrooms, and how, not just on numbers enrolling in or finishing a cycle of education.
However, it remains unclear how such information is to be collected and communicated at the national and global level. The currently proposed mechanism to monitor progress towards Target 4.7 is self-reporting by UNESCO member states in relation to the implementation of the 1974 Recommendation concerning ‘Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms’. In the past low response rates and uneven report quality undermined the monitoring value of such information. Country reports need to be complemented by a more systematic and rigorous approach to all aspects of the global indicator and target itself.
The 2016 GEM Report reports different types of evidence related to the global indicator. For example, it developed a coding protocol to analyse the prevalence of relevant terms in national curriculum frameworks and related curricular materials. In collaboration with UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education, the GEM Report reviewed over 110 national curriculum frameworks in primary and secondary education in 78 countries over 2005-2010. The review focused on five topic areas in target 4.7: human rights; gender equality; peace, non-violence and human security; sustainable development; and global citizenship/ interconnectedness.
These analyses carried out show the extent to which key terms related to the five topics were emphasized in countries’ curricular frameworks (see left).
The findings indicate that mentions related to the first topic on human rights are the most prevalent, with terms such as ‘rights’ appearing in 88% of countries’ curricula, ‘democracy’ in 79% and ‘freedom’ in 54%.
In addition, over 80% of the countries contained at least one term related to sustainable development. The most common terms were ‘sustainable development’ (73%), ‘ecology’ (55%) and ‘environmental education’ (47%). Key terms such as ‘social and economic sustainability’ and ‘education for sustainable development’ were present in less than one-third of the curricula.
While almost all countries included at least one term related to global citizenship in their curricula, the number of terms mentioned and the frequency with which countries make reference to them were more limited. Findings showed that about half of countries included terms like ‘globalization’ (51%), ‘multiculturalism’ (49%) and ‘global citizenship’ (42%); while only about 10% including concepts such as ‘global inequality’ and ‘global-local thinking’.
Gender equality is also less prevalent in national curricula: less than 15% of the countries integrated key terms such as ‘gender empowerment’, ‘gender parity’ or ‘gender-sensitive’, while half mention ‘gender equality’.
Such monitoring of the content of education is meant to supplement reflections of such themes in textbooks, teacher education courses, assessment items and policies. While the new analysis covers many more countries than any previous study, fewer than half of the world’s countries were included. The limited availability of up-to-date information on curricular contents and policies makes it hard to monitor the content of education at a wider scale.
We recommend that there be a new global mechanism to monitor the content of curricula and textbooks to help measure progress towards this target. [Tweet]. This would require close collaboration between national education ministries and regional or international organizations to ensure that the quality of the information is good and that the process is country-led. The mechanism could also cover other aspects of national policies, including teacher education programmes and learning assessments. It is an essential step if we are to know more about the types of things children are hearing when they step into class each day, and have an indication of the types of values they might end up having instilled in them by the time they leave at the end of school.
This is the fourth in a series of ten blogs on monitoring SDG4, which we hope will serve as a reminder of some of the challenges remaining, and as a call to join hands to address them. Join us over the next two weeks by direct tweeting some of our key recommendations from this blog series to members of the two groups finalising education indicators on our behalf.