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Sustainable education and global citizenship

Beyond borders and differences: an education that connects all and expands horizons, bringing people and nations together through education, culture and science with an endeavour to build durable peace.

Learning how to read, write and count matters – these tools open a window to the world. However, with pressing national and global issues transcending country borders, literacy and numeracy skills may not be enough to make sense of it, pursue one’s dreams and find purpose in life. What a young person will see through this window and how they choose to act on it largely depends on the values, content and context of education.

Global citizenship education (GCED) looks into these elements to support learners of all ages to become ethical, empathetic, and respectful human beings who can adapt to the rapidly moving world, even amidst its most complex challenges and threats. UNESCO is advancing GCED across subjects and in all spheres of life to provide them with knowledge, skills and attitudes that cultivate tolerance, respect, and a shared sense of belonging to one global community to ensure human rights and peace.

Education for sustainable development (ESD) gives learners of all ages the knowledge, skills, values and agency to address interconnected global challenges, including climate change, loss of biodiversity, unsustainable use of resources, and inequality. It empowers learners of all ages to make informed decisions and take individual and collective action to change society and care for the planet. ESD is a lifelong learning process and an integral part of quality education. It enhances the cognitive, socio-emotional and behavioural dimensions of learning and encompasses learning content and outcomes, pedagogy and the learning environment itself.

UNESCO is the United Nations’ leading agency for ESD. It is responsible for the implementation of ESD for 2030, the current global framework for ESD, which takes up and continues the work of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005- 2014) and the Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD (2015-2019).

UNESCO’s work on ESD focuses on five main areas:

  • Advancing policy
  • Transforming learning environments
  • Building capacities of educators
  • Empowering and mobilising youth
  • Accelerating local-level action

UNESCO supports countries in developing and expanding educational activities that focus on sustainability issues such as climate change, biodiversity, disaster risk reduction, water, the oceans, sustainable urbanisation, and sustainable lifestyles through ESD. UNESCO leads and advocates globally on ESD and provides guidance and standards. It also provides data on the status of ESD. It monitors progress on SDG Indicator 4.7.1 on the extent to which global citizenship education and ESD are mainstreamed in national education policies, curricula, teacher education and student assessment.

Digital technologies have brought immense changes to how we learn, access information, shape our understanding of ourselves and engage with others and the planet,” “says Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education UNESCO.

These changes have presented unprecedented opportunities and formidable challenges, highlighting education’s pivotal role in shaping learners to become agents of change propelling societies towards sustainability and peace. “As the development of digital technology continues to accelerate, the new worlds they create can feel unfamiliar and disorienting, even as we understand their potential to enrich our lives, improve our relationships, and open new horizons for education. The very technologies that have revolutionised our world have also amplified certain obstacles, such as the spread of misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories and hate speech,” he added.


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