The International Academic Forum hosted its annual Asian Conference on Education and International Development (ACEID 2016) in Kobe, Japan on 3-6 April. The theme for this year’s event was “Education for Social Justice” and scholars from over 40 countries used the opportunity to discuss the latest trends and topics in education in both national and international development.
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) dominated as a theme throughout the conference, with participants sharing ideas and concepts on how ESD can be tied in with development and social justice. Researchers presented on a variety of topics related to ESD. These included the unique needs of small island states in creating a sustainable labour force, the challenges that teachers encounter with parents over lessons on sustainable consumption, and the need for ESD to be incorporated in civic intuitions, beyond formal schooling systems.
Philip Vaughter, a research fellow at UNU-IAS, presented on the need for increased attention to how highly developed countries are engaging with ESD. He also mentioned the fact that under the new 2030 development agenda, all countries are developing countries. The presentation was one of three in a session that emphasized the need for effective implementation of ESD in developing and developed nations. While the focus of the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015) was on developing nations, shifting to a sustainable development framework will require developed countries to realign their education policy objectives.
During the discussion part of the session, participants questioned the North-South and South-South ESD collaboration. They suggested looking at South-North and North-North as possible alternatives for adopting good ESD practices. The role of ESD in realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was also examined. Formulating best practices and making concrete policy recommendations were identified as the most important tools.
The transdiciplinary nature of ESD was another reoccurring theme, with educators and researchers from the arts, social sciences, and humanities expressing their desire and competency for engaging with ESD. At the same time, this group also felt disheartened that school systems (including higher education systems) continue to view sustainability education as the purview of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. The need for meaningful engagement with all fields of study in regards to ESD was considered a social justice issue in itself. Creating learners who are able to not only identify problems but construct creative and possibly unorthodox solutions was another issue discussed throughout the four day event.