Iraqi childrenIraqi refugee children shelter in Syria in 2012 (photo James Gordon via Wikimedia Commons) - millions of children are out of school

The UN's Sustainable Development Goals are crucial - and need to gel with the learning in schools too

It took media photos of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach to jolt many people into recognising the awful plight of refugees. But how many people know that 57 million children are currently out of primary education?

There is only one organisation capable of co-ordinating a solution, and that is the United Nations. Which is why "Preparing a Better World", the 14th Education Fast Forward debate, (September 24, 1-3pm BST) was devoted to the UN's new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UN challenged the world in 2000 with its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for the year 2015. They met with mixed success so now the UN has created a new set of goals to be established for the next 15 years. They are being launched later this week at a special summit. This time it's important to involve more people in spreading the message, especially schools. Hence the involvement of Education Fast Forward.

UN goals 'can bring real and deep meaning to the curriculum'

Jim WynnJim Wynn: 'passionate'"The exciting shift built into the new goals is that all all of them are integrated and education threads through them all," says EFF co-founder and chief executive Jim Wynn. "I’m passionate to be part of the process to raise awareness of the goals, especially in schools where they can bring real and deep meaning to the curriculum. 

"These new goals revolve around areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership.  The 17 goals are seen as integrated and indivisible areas of sustainable development that will affect the future for all of us."

EFF14 should be a lively event and will be joined by Unesco education project officer Dr Carolina Belalcázar who will open the debate. She will be joined by Karen Cator, the president and CEO of the new non-profit organisation Digital Promise, authorised by the US Congress to spur innovation in education.

Karen CatorKaren Cator of Digital PromiseA former teacher from Alaska, she is also a longtime friend of teachers through her former role as adviser to the White House on educational technology.  Her talk, contributed from New York, will draw on her extensive experience to explore what technology offers in terms of the new SDGs and what teachers and learners might do to work towards them.

EFF14 will follow the format of the former debates, drawing on its own speakers and scholars based in Polycom video-conferencing studios across the world to join the debate, chaired by EFF co-founder and trustee Gavin Dykes. From Egypt they will be joined from Cairo by Dr Tarek Shawki, secretary general of the region's Presidential Specialised Councils which have been tasked with transforming education in Egypt.

It's the kind of discussion that, if you don't have time to stay for the whole event, is ideal for dropping in and out of on the streamed video link and following on Twitter via the hashtag EFF14. The twitter stream will be supported and mediated by the UK educator John Connell.

 With the UN due to launch its 17 new Sustainable Development Goals later this week, all themed clearly by education, it's an important time for education communities worldwide to get involved if these goals are to fare better than the last. Jim Wynn concludes: "Young people are always asking 'What’s the point in me knowing this?' Well the SDGs give the context, and have the potential, to stimulate learning and a desire to build a better planet. 

"My dream would be that schools re-organise their curricula into a shape which involves new subject areas that reflect the goals so that every learner not just knows about the issues of the availability of clean water, for example, but can think about ways of solving the problem. Our young people are our future and Education Fast Forward will be doing its bit to bring the SDGs to everyone’s attention.

"EFF challenges every educator to integrate the goals into teaching plans and learning activities so that our youth can be part of the SDG movement." Tune in to EFF14 on Thursday to be part of the debate.

More information

Education Fast Forward 14 - "Preparing a Better World – Education and the UN’s new SDGs" is on September 24, 1-3pm BST
The debate is free. There is no need to register - just click to watch. Streamed live via
Take part on Twitter - @effdebate, hashtag #EFF14
Photo credit: James Gordon, Los Angeles, California, USA, via Wikimedia Commons


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