Future imperative

Sustainable Development Goals in Education

For Çelebi KALKAN  a well-planned STEM programme is essential for meeting UNESCO and UN sustainability targets.

Reimagining our future

UNESCO’s 2021 report “Reimagining our future together: a new social contract for education” argues that we need renewed and more effective approaches to help students develop their ability to adapt and mitigate climate change. Education is key to shaping fair and sustainable futures and according to the report, the relationship between humanity, nature and technology has to be recalibrated.

As far as UNESCO is concerned, ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ should become a core component of all education systems by 2025. Moreover, education for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should involve cognitive, social, emotional and behavioural dimensions to develop knowledge, awareness and action. Schools need to empower students of all ages to address interconnected global challenges, including climate change, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, poverty and inequality. As students learn about SDGs, they are better equipped to tackle daily life problems while discovering new technology and career opportunities, mindful of what sustainable development implies.

Transforming Education Summit, September 2022.

As the world changes in many different ways, what is required is nothing less than the transformation of education, with SDGs at its very heart. This is not just for the provileged few, but for all children, everywhere. This radical need was highlighted at the Transforming Education Summit, which took place at the United Nations in September 2022, and addressed the need to build schools and learning environments for the future, to transform teacher training, curriculum, pedagogy and educational resources and place education as a key priority for government spending.

Complex issues require transformed education : STEM and SDGs

Unfortunately, education today still does not deliver on its promise to help us shape peaceful, just and sustainable societies. Therefore, it has never been more important to redesign the way we learn, what we learn and how we learn. In this context, STEM education is particularly important for students of all ages as they develop the technical knowledge and skills to meet the global challenges our world faces today and will face tomorrow.

The truth is, the world is confronted by more complex challenges than ever before, from developing a cure for Covid-19 to tackling global climate change or making sure we have enough water, food and energy. Solutions to these problems are not found in textbooks or multiple-choice tests. Society needs problem solvers who can tackle such issues in creative and innovative ways while working within a multidisciplinary team. One of the main tasks of this education is to prepare people for actively addressing real-world challenges and questions.

The key is to design a learning scenario that identifies a challenge in a real-world context and requires students to apply their innovative solutions, designs or ideas to audiences outside of the classroom. The multidisciplinary approach implied by STEM education involving rich, student-centred activities that replace rigid, subject-based teaching strategies has to be one of the most important vehicles for ‘transforming education’, with the issue of sustainability at its very heart. Outcomes will include solutions to daily life problems while at the same time, developing skills young people will need to compete in the global workforce.

The race for sustainable development
Students celebrating the theme “Inspire for the Future: The Role of Forests in Ensuring Sustainable”. Production and Consumption

The Organisation for Economic Collaboration and Developments (OECD)’s 2030 vision for education and skills, also argues forcefully for systemic educational transformation in order to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world in a sustainable way. As schools face a growing demand to prepare students for rapid economic, environmental, technological  and social change, they will need support to achieve the focus for these goals.

As the recent COP27 conference in Egypt highlighted, humankind is now racing against the clock to reverse the environmental impact of its economic activity. It is also becoming increasingly clear that the regions facing the worst impact of climate change have had the least to do with causing it. Hence the need for a sense of equity as education is transformed.

The UN has set 2030 as the target for delivering on the promise of SDGs. In order to achieve this, present and future generations must be equipped not only with technical knowledge and skills, but also with a deeper understanding of the values needed to create a peaceful and sustainable future. It’s up to all of us to take on the challenge. There is simply no alternative and a well-planned programme of STEM education will be an important way of moving us forward to order to achieve this goal.


Çelebi KALKAN is a primary school teacher in Turkey. He is the author of STEM+A with Tales for Children and Sustainable Development Goals for Children Competency Books.

He is also a climate change and sustainability leader and Scientix Ambassador, and presented on the subject of “STEM Education for Sustainable Development Goals” at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on Sustainable Development in September 2022.



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FEATURE IMAGE: by stem.T4L on Unsplash

Support images kindly provided by Çelebi.