Celebrated last year with 73 events from 115 different countries with the participation of more than 106,500 people online, this year the “Global Goals Week” has taken place entirely online. Between the 18th and the 26th of September 2020, civil society, businesses and academia, organized a series of events to promote action on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and accelerate their progress.
Why should we include topics of sustainability in STEM education?
The concept of sustainable development was first defined in 1987 by the Brundtland Report of the World Environment and Development Commission as “development that meets today’s requirements without compromising the ability to meet the needs of future generations“. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all the United Nations Member States in September 2015 followed up on the Report by providing a common blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future. In short, the Agenda is a universal call to action to eradicate poverty, protect planet Earth, and ensure that all people live in peace and prosperity.
To accomplish these objectives, the United Nations have delineated 17 SDGs to achieve by 2030. One of them, SDG 4, calls for working towards more Quality Education. Amongst the many efforts taken towards the achievement of SDG 4, the United Nations Education 2030 Framework Action, coordinated by UNESCO, aims to “provide equal, equal quality education to all and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all“.
The role of interdisciplinary education
STEM education in the 21st-century relates directly to the achievement of the SDGs as well. In addition, it aims to develop and present innovative solutions to global issues. Industrial Revolution 4.0 is gaining momentum and affects every aspect of our daily life. The boundaries between STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and non-STEM fields are getting more and more blurred.
The quantum leap in technology forces us to rethink the ways we train in STEM and non-STEM fields. Sustainable STEM pedagogy extends to daily life skills, natural environment knowledge, values and ethics. In addition, it includes the acculturation of technology components and helps children acquire skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity. It also helps them improve their communication, collaboration and entrepreneurial skills, all mandatory in the 21st century.
Innovation and technology as reflected through Sustainable Development Goals
Tools and topics such as digitalization, big data, and artificial intelligence are becoming increasingly important in various fields: medicine, mobility, urban design, energy. Hence, technology cannot be neglected in sustainability practice. Indeed, the use of innovative technologies is crucial for the achievement of most, if not all, SDGs. Technologies are relevant, for example, to improve access to food, clean water, health, and affordable and clean energy (SDGs 2, 6, 3, and 7). The same is true for the protection of marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and the mitigation and adaptation to climate change (SDGs 13, 14, and 15). Technological improvements also play a decisive role in the design of sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), and in the area of responsible consumption and production (SDG 12).
Adopting meaningfully SDGs
However, the human and technical skills needed for achieving sustainable development worldwide cannot be developed without quality education. The pioneers of the future will not be those that merely use technology, but those that will design, produce, and control new technological systems, and will apply them in all areas of life. We need visionaries who will design this system for generations, apply STEM knowledge and skills, and promote entrepreneurial initiatives to young generations. From our side, we have started an eTwinning project ‘STEM Education for Sustainable Development Goals “. Our aim is to enable our students to produce solutions to global problems related to the future of the world by using STEM skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking.
About the author: Çelebi KALKAN is a Scientix Project Ambassador from Turkey