Education International and UNESCO report: Teachers motivated to teach sustainable development and global citizenship but need more support

published 3 December 2021 updated 4 April 2022

Education International and UNESCO have launched a joint report on teacher readiness for global citizenship education and education for sustainable development. The survey focused on four key topics: education on climate change, sustainable consumption and production, tolerance and cultural diversity, and human rights including gender equality.

Over 90% of teachers feel these topics are important and over 80% of teachers want to continue to learn about them. One in four feel they need more support and training to teach these subjects.

The survey was designed and the report constructed with the input of an expert group including Education International representatives from: AEU, Australia; UEN, Norway; CSQ, Quebec, and ZIMTA, Zimbabwe.

Based on responses from 58,000 teachers globally, “Teachers have their say: Motivation, skills and opportunities to teach education for sustainable development and global citizenship” shows that over 90% of teachers feel these topics are important and over 80% of teachers want to continue to learn about them. One in four feel they need more support and training.

The report finds that teachers understand the importance of the cognitive, behavioural, and socio-emotional learning dimensions across all four themes. However, teachers feel more confident teaching cognitive skills, and less confident and knowledgeable about behavioural learning and socio-emotional perspectives, especially in education for sustainable development.

The most common challenge faced by teachers in terms of skills was not being familiar with suitable pedagogies to teach sustainable development and global citizenship. About a quarter of respondents also noted that the pedagogical approaches they would like to use were not feasible to apply in online or distance teaching.

In terms of system level challenges, lack of curriculum coverage was identified as the most profound barrier. At the school level, the most frequently reported barrier was a lack of relevant equipment and tools. Teachers also suggested that students do not have sufficient voice on education for sustainable development and for global citizenship in schools, especially at primary level.

The report provides an important contribution to the evidence base on the role of teachers and how systems can better support them to give students the tools to build a more just and sustainable world.

EI’s Director for Policy, Advocacy, and Research, Antonia Wulff, underlined the importance of listening to teachers as a starting point for developing successful and sustainable teacher policies. “Importantly, this survey asks teachers directly about the challenges they face, the support they need and the reforms they suggest to enhance education to promote sustainable development and global citizenship.” she said.

Wulff emphasised the need to involve teachers and their representatives in designing policies, curricula, and assessment methods on global citizenship education and education for sustainable development. She ended by stating that strong, well-resourced, and equitable public education systems are a crucial precursor to enabling education’s transformative potential.

The crucial role of teachers for transformative education

The report’s key findings were presented in a session at the 5th UNESCO Forum on Transformative Education for sustainable development, global citizenship, health and wellbeing this week.

Policymakers, practitioners, and other stakeholders discussed recommendations for supporting teachers to effectively deliver transformative education. Key for all speakers was ensuring that teachers receive high quality pre-service and in-service training on these issues. Quality was defined by a young teacher from Vietnam as being training that is relevant to teacher needs, practical, and context specific.

Other key recommendations included ensuring that these topics are core parts of the curricula, that teachers are trained in suitable assessment methods, and that teachers have a supportive school environment for transformative education. Professional autonomy, quality teaching and learning resources, and time were also highlighted as key enablers. It was also noted that further research is needed to understand better the context specific inequalities on teaching transformative education.

Education International hopes that the report sparks commitments from governments across the world to take further concrete measures to support teachers to provide transformative education.

Read the report here. Stay tuned for versions in Spanish and French in 2022.