In 2015, we switched our Development Agenda to the Sustainable Development Goals or Agenda 2030.  This is a detailed and comprehensive set of goals that encourages us to solve the most urgent issues facing the world, however, can we achieve these with the current paradigm of education?

I don’t think so.

One of the central goals that is crucial for the achievement of the other 16, is SDG4. The basic understanding of SDG 4 (Quality Education) is “‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all” – possible through Global Citizenship Education and Education for Sustainable Development.

Some people, especially policy makers or politicians, think that the concept of GCED can be a little simple or weak. However, it is strong, powerful and transformative to the people who receive education through the appliance of this conception.

What GCED is?

UNESCO’s approach on GCED places an emphasis on addressing learning contents and outcomes, pedagogy and the learning environment in formal, non-formal and informal learning. It’s also transformative as it enables learners to transform themselves and society. Moreover, it promotes universally shared values such as respect and dialogue. Nevertheless, the concept itself isn’t something completely modern and from this decade. The process to reach the concept of Global Citizenship Education was started many years ago, specifically in 1974, with the “UNESCO Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”.

One of the advantages of GCED is that it can be contextualized, meaning that you can use it focused on what you want to teach. For instance, I do Workshops on environmental issues, so, using this format and concept, for me this means: “GCED is the education that could bring to all people the knowledge, actions, values and communications skills to take care about their ecosystems. Education for sustainable development is a holistic way to educate (social, economic and environmentally speaking) in this globalized world that is facing challenges as climate change, poverty, social and political issues.” It can be focused on environmental, human rights, gender equity or even prevention of violence. GCED helps to empower citizens in order to face the current challenges in the world.

GCED aims to develop three main cores: Behavioural, Socio-emotional and cognitive. Imagine that GCED is a puzzle, the first piece encourages us to act local, national or globally to create a more peaceful world. The second component inspires to have a sense of belonging to a common humanity and finally the third piece motivates us to acquire knowledge and to critically think about global issues and the interdependency between countries and problems.

But in simple words, what GCED is? Global Citizenship Education is linked to the civic, social and political socialization function of education, and with the final objective of education: contribute in preparing children and youth to handle the challenges of today’s world. It endorses the vital purposes of education related to the development of citizenship taking into account that we live in a globalized world with no boundaries between countries and problems.

How can this concept help to achieve all SDGs?

As mentioned before, GCED together with Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) are connected with SDG 4 particularly with target 4.7 and without SDG 4 we cannot achieve the rest of them. If we do not prepare children and youth, the people that will receive the world in a couple of years, regarding the issues that are currently facing us (Such us extreme violence, climate change or even health problems) they will not know how to deal with them. The world is becoming increasingly interconnected, issues too, if we do not foster education for global citizens we cannot achieve the left 16 SDGs.

For instance, if a child cannot learn the primary knowledge (read, write or count) could she or he understand the path to follow in case of a climate disaster? If I am certain, no. So that, she or he will be undeniably a victim of climate change. Education in early age and to young people through the promotion of critical thinking, values based on peace and non-violence will help in achieving the ultimate goal of SDGs “Transforming the world”.


Patricio Roulier Pazos is a Project Officer for Networks at SDSN Youth. All opinions expressed on the blog are the opinion of the authors and not of SDSN Youth. To get in touch with Patricio, please email networks@sdsnyouth.org