Ahmedabad workshop on SDG 16: Crucial role of education in developing and promoting peace and non-violence in the world

sdgThe 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by world leaders at the UN Sustainable Development Summit held on September 25–27, 2015 in New York. The ambitious Agenda consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and 169 Targets and addresses the five critical areas of people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. Goal 4 of the SDG, says, “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” The Goal 16 of the SDG urges all to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all level.” Education here plays a crucial role in developing and promoting notions of peace and non-violence at world level.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) in collaboration with the Calorx Teacher’s University is organizing a one day workshop on “Education for Goal 16” on March 14, 2016 between 2 and 5 pm at Calorx Teachers University, Ahmedabad. The workshop is aimed at contextualizing Sustainable Development Goal 16 from the lens of education.  Themes of discussion will include topics such as, “Analyzing the  relation between SDG Goal 16 and Education”; “Understanding the perspective of Human Rights Education”, “Critical Analysis of curriculum from the perspective of Goal 16”; “Sharing of experiences of  Megadhanush at integrating diversity into education”; and “Sharing of experiences of implementing 25% inclusion of EWS category children into schools”. It will be attended by students and teachers from various schools in Ahmadabad. Aim of the programme is to trigger cross-pollination of innovative ideas and practices resulting in germination of numerous creative ideas that would have a positive cascading effect on the SDG’s framework on education.

Text of the concept note, based on which the programme is proposed:

On 1st January, 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at a historic UN Summit — officially came into force.  Over the next fifteen years, with these new Goals that are universally applicable to all, countries shall mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind. While the SDGs are not legally binding, Governments are expected to take ownership and establish national frameworks for the achievement of all the Goals.

Goal 16 specifically talks about promoting “peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, and providing access to justice for all and to build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”  In this highly diversified world, where some sections of the society enjoy sustained levels of peace and others suffer from various sorts of conflicts and violence, the SDGs intend to reduce all forms of violence, and work with governments and communities to find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity.

Education as a key to achieve Goal 16:

To quote Goal 4 of the SDG, it says, “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Education is inevitable for the achievement of a peaceful and just society with strong, inclusive and efficient institutions. Education will primarily result into providing information – not only essential but also life-saving in certain scenarios. For example, a lot of people in India today suffer from injustice because of lack of awareness about the existence of legal rights. The basic information about child labour, bonded labour, child marriage, Right to education, Right to free legal aid will empower many to raise voice against injustice and live a relatively peaceful life.

Education also plays a crucial role in developing and promoting notions of peace and non-violence at world level. Education at school level can play a major role by creating an environment where children understand, learn and uphold the values like peace, non-violence, free discussions and debates, social justice etc. Imbibing such values at a tender age is more likely to result into a more efficient and just society. Education is for the justice system to function. More educated people are more likely to claim their rights and not be excluded from the legal system.

Peace, stability, human rights and effective governance based on the rule of law are important conduits for sustainable development. We are living in a world that is increasingly divided. Some regions enjoy sustained levels of peace, security and prosperity while others fall into seemingly endless cycles of conflict and violence. This is by no means inevitable and must be addressed.

High levels of armed violence and insecurity have a destructive impact on a country’s development, affecting economic growth and often resulting in long standing grievances among communities that can last for generations. Sexual violence, crime, exploitation and torture are also prevalent where there is conflict or no rule of law, and countries must take measures to protect those who are most at risk.

Promoting peace and justice is one of 17 Global Goals that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. An integrated approach is crucial for progress across the multiple goals.The proposed conference tries to explore various ways in which education can be a catalyst in achieving Goal 16. It will explore the following themes:

  • Promoting diversity through education: In this world littered with discrimination and hate crimes, a lack of awareness of cultures often deemed as ‘the other,’ is a prevalent problem in many countries. For this reason, Governments need to introduce reforms from their primary educational systems itself that would introduce the vibrant diversities of this world. This is because children at that age are the most vulnerable to having their minds molded. Positive depictions of global diversity are therefore essential in that stage to produce citizens who will be educated, respectful and tolerant in their conduct in the long term.
  • Inclusive schools: The Indian Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 has several path-breaking clauses. One of them section 12(1)(c) states that: “(private schools) shall admit in class 1 (or pre-primary), to the extent of at least twenty-five per cent of the strength of that class children belonging to weaker section and disadvantaged group in the neighbourhood and provide free and compulsory education till its completion.”From the academic year 2013-14, private schools must offer free admission to atleast 25 percent of their classroom seats at the entry level for children aged 6 years or less from socially disadvantaged and economically weaker sections (EWS) in the neighborhood.
  • Values that promote human rights: Human rights education is essential to forming a just society. The reduction of human rights violations and the establishment of a culture of peace depend on the continuous effort of civil society. In order to fulfil this function, society must respect human dignity, accept and appreciate diversity and be knowledgeable about human rights. Early education grants the opportunity to foster such values in society.
  • Critique of curriculum from the SDG lens: Curriculum of educational institutions, especially at school level, can be the means through which the goals of Sustainable development can be realized and brought into practice. There is a need to keep students aware about the pressing needs and issues of the world at large. Formal education system can help students understand, explore and even practice various aspects of SDGs which in turn promotes sustainability and welfare for all. Inclusion of SDGs in school curriculum will help children connect with the rest of the world and make them realize that their actions can actually have wider impact than they ever imagined. For example, Environmental education is used as a tool for sustainable development at school level in India. In pursuance of National Curriculum Framework 2005 and the directive of the Supreme Court, NCERT has developed a graded syllabus for EE for class 1 to 12 standards. Similarly, there is a need to make changes and additions in school syllabus to make it more relevant for achieving various SDGs by 2030.
  • Experiments in alternate education: Systems of education evolve when alternatives to the mainstream are absorbed by it. When this does not happen and the mainstream resists the assimilation of new ideas, the system ossifies. The situation we face in India has far too many symptoms of resistance to reform for anyone to feel comfortable. As parents, teachers, principals and administrators, we must all worry and find ways to soften the system so as to make it porous enough for the new ideas developed by the seekers of alternatives to slip into the system and germinate there. Applying Paulo Freire’s ideology, education should be a practice of freedom rather than a practice of domination. It should inculcate the habit of questioning and the spirit of inquiry.

Center for Social Justice’s “The Education for Human Rights Programme”, has been emphasized on diversity, dignity, equality and justice. The programme had operated in 110 schools in the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades in eight districts of Gujarat and aimed for students to have instruction for two periods per week over three years. Under this programme, teachers had undergone training to encourage a re-analysis of issues of identity based on caste, gender, and religion, among others. While the population was different in each district—and that had meant a modified approach based on the respective constituency—what was common across CSJ’s Education for Human Rights Programme was its emphasis on diversity and pluralism as a core component of education for human rights, participatory methodology for instruction, and the creation of teaching and learning materials that are context-specific and designed by the teachers themselves.

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