“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”
From this definition, it is amply clear that intergenerational equity - the idea of fairness or justice between generations - is an integral component in sustainable development. This makes our kids, our students, our children, among the most important stakeholders with respect to Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development has seen significant action from actors at all levels all across the world, whether academia, industry, government, multi-laterals, civil society. However, much of Sustainable Development is articulated and acted on through the voices of professionals and adults, with most of the younger generations having both limited awareness as well as avenue, and consequently, ability to lend their voices and action to this area, despite being a critical stakeholder and beneficiary group.
This problem may be compounded in economies with developing education systems, like India, and even more so in rural areas. For example, in a study conducted by Brainwiz, about half the students surveyed (over 1000 respondents in four cities) did not know about the SDGs or who they were designed for! This raises a question. Are we equipping the future generations with enough information on a subject that is of utmost importance to them? Why should they know about the SDGs? To list a few reasons,
To enable them to empathize and understand the need for Sustainable Development
To provide them with the skills and understanding needed to promote sustainability in their own lives.
Knowledge is imperative to inculcate a culture where decision makers are held responsible and accountable
In the future, they will be the ones taking major decisions in industry, in government, in many avenues and they must be equipped with the knowledge and skills to make the right calls for the world!
How can this be done though? Integration into curriculum is one way, but there are several other interactive ways to do this. Activities like Model United Nations, Debates, Mock Parliaments and others could be a very useful tool to learn in a manner that promotes attention and retention. Similarly, promoting student leadership and student action for sustainable development within a community or school environment could be a great way to make students start thinking practically and decisively about sustainable development, while creating a sense of pride and ownership. These methods of Education on Sustainable Development (ESD) could also promote several integral life and socio-emotional skills as well as a healthy knowledge of current affairs and the world around them.
There is no doubt that we need to find ways to build awareness and knowledge among students, so that we can continue on the path towards sustainability. In fact Goal 4.7 of the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which all countries are aiming to achieve by 2030, is precisely about this! It reads,
"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.”
The time has come for us educators, decision-makers and concerned citizens, to prepare to hand over the baton, and provide the skills required to our future generations so they can carry the baton through the next leg of development!