The United Nations (UN) has pledged to ensure that an inclusive and equitable quality education is accessible to everyone, and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, by 2030. The targets, agreed by world leaders in September 2015, set out in the Sustainable Development Goals, state that all learners should ”acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development”.
In an effort to teach students the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals, schools across the world are taking part in the “World’s Largest Lesson” during the week of 18 September in a bid to get young people to consider what they can do to help their own communities and communities around the world. There are many resources available on the initiative’s website to help students learn about the Sustainable Development Goals. For example, the ‘Heroes for Change’ comic book introduces the Goals to young learners in an interactive way and invites them to become superheroes for change. This initiative aims to empower and mobilise a generation, with almost 500 million girls and boys between the ages of 8 and 14 years expected to take part.
The “World’s Largest Lesson” is an excellent opportunity for IB World Schools to raise students’ awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals and of the challenges that are shaping their futures. But the initiative also goes beyond raising awareness, encouraging students to actively engage in efforts to achieve the goals and to drive change in their own communities. This focus on engagement and action is at the heart of an IB education. Teaching and learning in the IB is based on a cycle of inquiry, action and reflection, and the prominence given to action not only reflects the importance of learning by doing, but also promotes the importance of “principled action” in terms of making responsible choices and exploring the ethical dimension of decisions to act or not to act. The focus on action is particularly apparent in elements such as service across IB programmes. It is also the basis of an internal assessment task for the new IB Diploma Programme global politics course. For this task, students complete an “engagement activity” where they explore a political issue through activities such as interviewing members of Non-Governmental Organisations, organising an awareness raising campaign, taking part in a Model UN activity, etc. In this way, students are encouraged to explore global and local issues in a way that empowers them to be not just globally aware, but globally engaged.
Get your school and students involved
For 2016, the “World’s Largest Lesson” is encouraging schools and students to focus particularly on the issue of gender equality, starting by taking part in a survey on gender equality in their communities. The Sustainable Development Goals recognise the key role that education can play in helping to achieve and maintain a safer and fairer world for everyone, resonating strongly with the IB’s mission to create a better and more peaceful world.