Virtual discussion focuses on ‘glocalizing’ education to empower young people to be champions for a sustainable future

School curricula are now ‘out of date’ in the way they teach children about the environment, education thought-leaders said during a Qatar Foundation discussion that focused on how global sustainability goals can be translated into local classrooms.

Speaking during the ‘Glocalizing Education for a Sustainable Future’ virtual session, experts said that the curricula are also too slow to evolve to the way students want to learn.

QF GLOCALIZINGMehdi Benchaabane, Director of QF’s Education Development Institute, explained:

In terms of what’s not working, the obvious answer is an overemphasis on teaching and not so much on learning. Curricula have no shortage of good examples of environment activities, but they don’t reach the learning level we are talking about reaching today. The reality of the world is that students have to learn in a way that is adapted to their reality, and curricula don’t get changed as quickly as they could be and can’t keep up with the speed at which children evolve.

QF GLOCALIZINGThe current state of curricula was also questioned by Sam Barratt, Chief of Youth, Education & Advocacy at the United Nations Environment Programme, who told the discussion:

They are out of date when it comes to the environment – we need to think a lot more deeply about interdisciplinary learning. The classroom is key, but we should think about what we can get people do with their head, their heart, and their hands.

Barratt said the decade ahead will bring ‘the greatest transition we have ever seen’, adding that the skills we will need haven’t even been created and will need to emerge.

It will require the children of this decade to be exceptional, and that, in turn, will require teachers to give them the ability to think beyond the horizons we have today. Young people are coming up with the most amazing ideas, so I believe the next generation are so well-equipped for what comes next. But we need to support them with the foundations, including non-formal education.

Alison Bellwood, Director of World’s Largest Lesson – an initiative that encourages children and young people to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – explained that they have tremendous opportunities to nurture very engaged young people who understand global issues and apply them locally and have the passion to make a difference but the challenges are equally tremendous.

Teachers have to be enabled to move away from simply imparting knowledge to becoming facilitators of learning, and to bring children into the learning process. That requires a big mindset shift.

One way is to allow children to determine what they want to learn about the Sustainable Development Goals – introduce them, see what they discover locally, and let that lead because children will instinctively be drawn to some more than others. When we are required to dig deep and be creative, we can be, and children can play a huge role in that. We need to be more aware of the need to trust them to be creative, and give them the framework and the tools to do that.

The virtual session was the last in the series aligning with Global Goals Week that Qatar Foundation (QF) – which is this year marking its 25th anniversary – organised to fostering dialogue and ideas that help to identify solutions to the world’s key challenges, reflecting its goal of driving local, regional, and global change through knowledge and innovation.

It examined ways of empowering pre-university students to take action that helps the world meet vital environmental targets, and how the ecosystems within which they learn have to change if a younger generation is to be given the best chance of making a difference.

Within education, ‘glocalization’ blends local and global contexts, placing themes and issues that affect the world into a local frame that enhances their relevance to students and makes learning more effective.

QF GLOCALIZINGThe session was also joined by Dr Nicole Bien, Director of Learning & Teaching at the International Baccalaureate – a provider of education programs focused on critical, independent thinking for learners aged 3-19, who said global issues can be relevant to many local contexts, and how this is exhibited differs from region to region.

We provide a framework for local schools and communities to make these issues relevant for their own contexts and encourage students to, for example, think about how they can make an impact in their local environment. When schools address environmental issues that relate to their local setting, it’s much more relevant to them, and we’ve seen incredible creative actions and service projects result from this.

QF GLOCALIZINGDuring the discussion, Sheikha Noof Al-Thani, Executive Director, Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships within QF’s Pre-University Education, gave the audience an overview the ecosystem of learning that QF has created in the 25 years since its establishment, and how it connects children and young people with research, cultural heritage and the Arabic language, and community development.

Our vision is to not only immerse students in the world around them but also in local learning opportunities and experiences. Connecting our schools with innovation, culture, heritage, and values at a local level is a way of creating engaging, personalised education for our students.

Mehdi Benchaabane, Director of QF’s Education Development Institute noted:

What we need to cultivate is hope, and the hope we cultivate in children comes from their reality, so we have to combine what we teach with the local reality that they live in, and empower children to understand concepts that will help them to take action in the future.