From Global ESD Policy to Practice: Research Progress and Paradigms

It is in early childhood that many of the most foundational values, attitudes and understandings that are relevant to sustainability are first put in place. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has also been regarded as the; “key enabler of all the other SDGs” (UN General Assembly, 2017), and yet early childhood educational research may be considered to have had very little influence upon the policies of many state governments.

Our recent pandemic experience has highlighted many of the problems that we have in reconciling the priorities, knowledge and understanding of policy makers with the public, and with those of the research communities. In education, as in every other field of concern, the research community has a critical role to play in its engagement with policy and public understandings. There is much to learn from the challenges of our recent Covid crisis, and efforts need to be made to improve all of our communicative and collaborative practices and processes in the face of climate change and the threats to biodiversity.

In early childhood education we have already seen misinformation, and conspiracies being peddled through social media and the press to frustrate efforts to promote gender equality and anti-racism. These are both crucial concerns of significance to climate change education and the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In the context of many environmental concerns, adaptations and mitigation efforts, green-washing, and challenges to ‘political correctness’ and so-called ‘woke’ thinking are also increasingly being circulated. We need to stand in solidarity against these challenges and provide a strong independent voice, presenting ourselves as trustworthy ‘honest brokers’.

Prof. John Siraj-Blatchford is an independent educational researcher and consultant, and currently a visiting Professor at the National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan. He is also an Executive Member of OMEP UK, and the Green Early Years Choices Champion Organisation (GECCO). He is the author of several books and has contributed widely in peer reviewed journals and in professional publications. He co-founded SchemaPlay, and The Land of Me. John was previously employed at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education and served as an Associate Director of the ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme.

His work in the research and promotion of early childhood education for sustainable development, carried out in association with OMEP (l’Organisation Mondiale pour l’Éducation Préscolaire) has spanned more than two decades, and in 2014 he was commissioned by UNESCO to co-author (with Ingrid Pramling-Samuelsson) an early childhood review of the UNESCO Decade for Education for Sustainable Development. He chaired the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) for Sustainable Development workshop at the 2015 UNESCO ‘End of Decade’ ESD Conference in Nagoya, Japan.

John Siraj-Blatchford is currently providing leadership for the OMEP UK Early Childhood Education for Sustainable Citizenship Award Scheme, and is actively promoting effective learning through Play in the UK and more widely.

See: Siraj-Blatchford, J. (Ed.) (2016) International Research on Education for Sustainable Development in Early Childhood, Springer (with Park, E. and Mogharreban, C.)

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