Is observance all we can do? Support teachers & quality education for all! International Day of Education

With a shorter history that Teacher’s Day, the International Day of Education (24 January) was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly as such in 2018. The reason was to celebrate the role of education in bringing global peace and sustainable development. Education has been linked with a paradigmatic change that can happen learners live in more harmony with the world surrounding them, but its potential is not yet achieved.

The upcoming Citizenship and Lifelong Learning Monitor’s new edition, its 6th, attests how education for sustainable development and education for environmental sustainability are in many European countries just add-ons that get lost through the cracks as they are implemented cross-curricularly. Education is many times referred to for what it can be, in terms of preparing learners to be active in society and bring about structural change that can make the world a more sustainable and inclusive space, but this reference requires work and effort in achieving it. Otherwise, education remains a passive exercise of passing knowledge while the world around learners becomes increasingly complicated and provides them with a wealth of knowledge but without the tools to swift through it. For this reason, it is time to stop observing education or celebrating teachers, and actually, support both in their quest to give learners the needed tools for adapting to the contemporary challenges, which as of right now are the digital and green transition.

SOLIDAR Foundation’s Global Citizenship Education Policy Paper (2020) proposed the revision of the education paradigm to ensure that learners receive political education on a global scale which prepares learners to develop a sense of belonging to the global community, to get involved and to take an active role in society in order to contribute to a peaceful, just world in which ecological resources are preserved. Comprehensive teacher training is needed alongside sufficient time and financing for the teachers to engage in this, if this paradigmatic change is to become a reality. A curricular review as well as a review on the methods of teaching in order to be able to tackle topics such as decent work in a globalized green and circular economy, feminism in the new society, human mobility and migration, solidarity, social justice, democratic participation or the social and ecological costs of a post-colonial living. This also matters for how such topics are tackled, in a way that allows learners to engage in co-creation and co-teaching, as well as to practical experience the learning that they are doing.

None of this can be achieved without adequate funding to provide quality education that is accessible by all. To this end, SOLIDAR Foundation’s policy paper on the Commodification of Education (2021) has explored the way the governance of education has to change to go beyond observing education and actually acting in ways that are consistent with the narrative of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals or the European Pillar of Social Rights. SOLIDAR Foundation opposes the increasing privatisation and marketisation of education and wishes to see stakeholders such as teachers, parents, learners, civil society organisations, educational support personnel involved in the running of the education institutions in a way that connects the work of the institution with the needs of the community in which it operates. For this reason, SOLIDAR Foundation also proposes increased public funding in education to at least 10% of the GDP, the involvement of formal, informal and non-formal education providers in education policymaking, and a review of the EU’s economic governance framework to ensure that public investment in education is not calculating for the deficit and debt rules, so that Member States can more freely invest in the sector.

With this demands in mind, the 2022 International Education Day arrives just as the European Commission has launched the European sustainability competence framework (GreenComp) and a Proposal for a Council Recommendation on learning for environmental sustainability. SOLIDAR Foundation commends both publications and acknowledges the importance of steering the conversation to a new way of learning that is needed in face of the current global crises. Now it is time to stop observing and celebrating education and actually mainstreaming the sustainable competences and ensuring adequate investment to reform education everywhere in Europe. Stay tuned for the 2021 Citizenship and Lifelong Learning Monitor, to be released in April 2022, to see the way in which informal and non-formal education can support the mission of formal education in delivering quality, green education for all!