G-STIC conference highlights

The Global Sustainable Technology and Innovation Community community held its 4th Annual Conference on 26-28 October 2020 in Brussels and Antwerp, but also online. It brought together inspiring world-renowned keynote speakers on sustainable development for empowering breakthrough innovations for the SDGs (UN Sustainable Development Goals). One of the main strands was Education, and our Director, Eszter Salamon was invited as a keynote speaker there You can read here contribution here). SDG 4, aiming for quality, inclusive education provisions and opportunities throughout life has been identified as the critical factor in achieving all other SDG’s, and speakers addressed issues around learning and learning provisions in light of that. All keynotes will soon be available in a written format, we are only aiming for highlighting some main ideas in this report.

The implementation of SDG’s is commonly considered to take place in a VUCA world – one characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Francoise Chombar, a Belgian “STEMinist” (feminist focusing in STEM) called for a braver approach and identify VUCA with vision, understanding, clarity and agility.

Dirk Van Damme (OECD) highlighted the fact that the current, partly digital transformation of education is not a highly technical thing, but it is rather about social and political transformation around education provisions. Education innovation is driven by technical skills demand, lifelong learning needs, social innovation elements and a focus on well-being. He flagged that while education is not a fast changer, historically when education was lagging behind societal and technical evolution, it resulted in social pain – for example around the World Wars in the 20th century. He also demanded that the “damage done to our children” by covid school closures needs to enter political debate. He also called attention to parents moving away from public education as a sign to re-thing the purpose of education as well as provisions. Moving away from standardisation is one of the main elements of necessary change according to him, as well as according to our own research leading to #NewEducationDeal #ParentsFirst

Won Jung Byun (UNESCO) introduced the UN Resolution on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and highlighted the importance of stakeholder involvement. The ESD framework will officially be launched in May 2021 and will demand transformative action, structural changes and a technological future.

Ides Nicaise (University of Leuven) focused on paradoxes that have arisen from transforming education. Focusing on advantages of technology, such as a it being a partial solution for teacher shortages or making it possible for teachers becoming innovative by relieving them of repetitive teaching, he also called the attention to the risk of commercialisation and the need for universal accessibility, low cost and quality.

Sara Baiocco (Centre for European Policy Studies) made a presentation on lifelong learning very relevant from a parental perspective. She highlighted the role of lifelong learning policies and practice in building on skills from informal and non-formal learning for up- and re-skilling.

Nuria Oliver (Vodafone Institute) elaborated on the definition of Artificial intelligence (AI). According to her, AI will impact education in 2 major areas: supporting and improving learning, and helping teachers and administrators. For the first, she highlighted the ever growing possibilities of language translations, adapting teaching to special learning needs or difficulties, outreach to rural areas with the best teaching available and personalisation opportunities.

Chandika Bahadur (SDG Academy) recalled the detrimental impact of school closures on achievements with learning poverty increasing by at least 9%. At the same time, she also highlighted the possibilities arising from this, especially in focusing more on lifelong learning. She made the optimistic statement that currently we have better chances to bridge the digital divide than ever as there is attention to the topic.

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