Set To Collaborate With MoE To Integrate UN SDGs Into The Curricula | Asia Pacific University (APU)

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Set To Collaborate With MoE To Integrate UN SDGs Into The Curricula

APU-UNESCO Chair leads the efforts to upskill the teachers for SDGs via micro-credentialing

Since the United Nations (UN) adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, they have come to be regarded as imperative to advancing efforts to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.1

To bring explicit attention to the UN SDGs in curricula for schools and higher education, about 300 local tertiary academicians and undergraduates, school teachers and children, and stakeholders at home and abroad were brought together for the first formal event in a new initiative known as the Sustainable Development Goals in Curriculum (SDGiC) programme.

Professor Dr. Edward C. Robeck, Director of Education and Outreach at the American Geosciences Institute, is conducting a workshop for APU faculty members in which they explored the modules they teach related to the UN SDGs.

Led by the SDGiC programme’s initiator, Professor Dr. Abtar Darshan Singh, the APU-UNESCO Chair for Harnessing Innovations in Technology to Support Teachers & Quality Learning, a series of workshops, talks, and meetings were conducted at the campus of the Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) for several target groups from November 29 to December 5, 2022.

Invited visiting speaker, Professor Dr. Edward C. Robeck, Director of Education and Outreach at the American Geosciences Institute, who is also a Professor Emeritus at Salisbury University, USA, showed the potential of the SDGiC programme by undertaking demonstration lessons with students from private and public schools that were developed to promote data literacy2 and adapted to Malaysia. This potential was further explored with local educationists through workshops and discussions about how to implement instruction that is directed toward the SDGs.

During his visit to APU, Professor Dr. Edward C. Robeck undertook two days of demonstration lessons with students from several private and public schools.

The information gained through the interactions will also inform the design of a set of micro-credentials as part of the SDGiC programme. Those micro-credentials will guide educators as they learn about SDGs and how the courses they teach are relevant to advancing students’ ability to contribute to the SDGs in their daily lives and future work.

The SDGiC programme will make use of a diverse and growing international knowledge base. “While sustainability in environmental terms is of course very important, in today’s world, that has to be seen as one of several components of sustainability. For example, most research related to sustainability now engages with three overlapping areas: environment, economy, and society. As well, ethics and explorations of quality of life also play substantial roles in meaningful understandings of sustainability,” explained Prof. Robeck.

He also expressed the intention that, “The SDGiC programme will provide educators with the foundational knowledge to explore sustainability in these rich, multi-faceted ways.”

The goal of the SDGiC workshops organised by the APU-UNESCO Chair was to help the faculty members to see that their instruction can empower learners to take an active and meaningful role in achieving the SDGs. In this picture, Professor Dr. Edward C. Robeck (left) is discussing with APU’s faculty members.

While conducting a workshop for APU faculty members, Prof. Robeck guided them through a collaborative process in which they explored how the modules they teach are related to the SDGs. “Many of APU’s lecturers already had a strong knowledge of SDGs, and some even teach about them explicitly,” stated Prof. Robeck.

He pointed out that the goal of the workshop was to help the faculty members to see that their instruction can empower learners to take an active and meaningful role in achieving the SDGs, through whatever profession they join.

Giving an example of a computer science faculty member who recognized through research done in the workshop that the use of “blockchain” technologies has an impact on energy consumption (SDG 7), Prof. Robeck suggested that a significant feature of the SDGs is that they are enabled by external factors and by each other.

“We explored these relationships among SDGs, starting with the example of how the availability of clean water (SDG 6) enables good health (SDG 3), which in turn enables school attendance and, therefore, quality education (SDG 4). Good education is in many ways essential for gender equality (SDG 5) and expanding options for decent work (SDG 8),” he elaborated.

Articulating what the organiser wished the school teachers to take away from the programme, Prof. Abtar explained that implementing curricula that support SDGs, also known as Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), is not something being done in addition to current standards. Rather, current standards can be met through lessons that simultaneously highlight the targets of the SDGs.

During the demonstration lessons with Malaysian students from 13 to 14 years old, Professor Dr. Edward C. Robeck is addressing the instruction of flash flooding topic, and what can be done to mitigate its effects.

The approach described above was demonstrated during the visit by Prof. Robeck. As Prof. Abtar explained, “The demonstration lessons that he conducted for schoolchildren focused on the phenomenon of flash flooding, which is a highly relevant topic in Kuala Lumpur. The lessons used real-world data from area rivers, physical models, and multi-media learning tools and strategies such as Google Earth and GIS analysis. Using these features the lessons addressed curriculum standards in geography while also connecting those standards to several SDGs, such as those about water (SDG 6) and resilient infrastructure (SDG 9).”

Prof. Abtar first presented the idea of the SDGiC to the UNESCO International Bureau of Education in Geneva in early 2022. It was then highly endorsed as an innovative programme that could benefit education internationally.

For this effort to be successful, the APU-UNESCO Chair will collaborate with the Malaysian Curriculum Department under the Ministry of Education of Malaysia and other related departments. It is anticipated that those collaborative relationships will expand over time, both inside and beyond the Malaysian context.

In supporting and endorsing APU-UNESCO Chair’s SDGiC programme, partners from the USA, UAE, and India participated. From left - Ms Subaashnii Suppramaniam, SDGiC Planning Committee member, APU; Maya Al-Hawary, Doctoral student at Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University and Chairperson of the board of governors at Dubai Carmel School; Prof. Dr. Abtar Darshan Singh, APU-UNESCO Chair; Prof. Dr. Edward C. Robeck, Director of Educational Outreach, American Geosciences Institute; Prof. Dr. Shriram Ragunathan, Deputy Director – Placement & Training, VIT Bhopal University, India; Ts. Jonathan JS Kovilpillai, SDGiC Planning Committee Lead, APU.

In supporting and endorsing the SDGiC programme, there were officials from the Ministry of Education of Malaysia partaking in the programme at APU, joining the representatives from NGOs, and the APU-UNESCO Chair’s partners from the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and India, which ultimately granted a fruitful outcome for this first endeavour of the SDGiC programme.

​2 Acknowledgement - This material is based upon work supported by the US National Science Foundation under grant numbers 1906264 and 1906286. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.