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Learning through life a key to the future

22 February 20170 comments

Life-long learning is a key element in enabling societies to deliver equitable and sustainable global development, a Melbourne seminar has heard.

Educating communities at grass roots level is vital if the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be met, the seminar, held this month at RMIT by the Pascal International group, was told.

Associate Professor of International Development at RMIT Robbie Guevara said that education, and particularly life-long learning, was one of the key sustainable development goals laid out by the UN.

“But life-long learning, in and of itself, is critical to achieving most of the other sixteen goals,” Prof Guevara said.

“Life-long learning is about giving the opportunity for learning to happen outside the formal system and acknowledging that learning happens at different junctures,” he said.

“At the core of the educational goals in the SDGs is the right to quality education for all and it’s not just about education in the developing world, it’s about education here in Australia too,” Prof Guevara said.

The SDGs are a set of seventeen aspirational “Global Goals” with 169 targets between them.

They were arrived at through a deliberative process involving its 194 Member States, as well as global civil society.

The SDGs were largely informed by the often quoted assertion by the then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that “there can be no Plan B, because there is no Planet B.”

The goals include: ending poverty in all its forms everywhere; ending hunger and achieving food security; promoting healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages; ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting life-long learning opportunities for all; and, achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.

The goals include also target issues like clean water, affordable clean energy, decent work and economic growth as well as equality, climate action and peace and justice.

Greenpeace Australia board member and University of Melbourne Emeritus Professor Jim Falk told the seminar that public education and life-long learning was crucial to action on climate change.

“We need urgent action to control the climate change and its effects… and education has an important role tom play,” Prof Falk said.

He said that 2016 was the hottest year on record and that sixteen of the seventeen hottest years ever were recorded this century.

“We are seeing increasing unstable and extreme events after 35 years of warming,” Prof Falk said.

“Improving education on climate change is important and is central to our response; and much of this needs to happen in the context of like-long learning where people can contribute to the response in their daily lives,” he said.

Prof Falk said studies of attitudes to climate change show that older people get more sceptical.

“There is no time when it is too late to be educating these people about the problem,” he said.

“It is even more important now in a time of paralysed politics and where we have a sense of powerlessness growing in civil society and the perception that the power of the nation state is being eroded by globalisation.

“So any response to climate change must be done locally. People have to do it on the ground and education, especially in a non-formal, life-long learning context is important,” Prof Falk said.