NISSEM – a networking initiative launched at a CIES 2018 Pre-Conference Workshop – addresses challenges faced in pursuing the global goals of education for sustainable development and responsible citizenship, including gender equality, respect for diversity, culture of peace and human rights as set out in SDG Target 4.7, with a focus on low- and middle-income countries and post-conflict situations.
In particular, NISSEM focuses on the potential of textbooks and other education materials, which continue to be among the most influential levers for achieving these goals in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and post-conflict settings.
The NISSEM Book Launch at CIES 2020 is timely since SDG Target 4.7 directly addresses the Conference theme of redefining what it means to be human and the reconfiguration of the relationship between humans and the Earth, or sympoiesis. LMICs face many practical as well as societal constraints to implementing curricula supporting social cohesion and environmental challenges through Target 4.7 themes. Many recommendations for teaching sustainable development, citizenship, peace and life skills cannot easily be scaled up in low-resource, traditional and crisis settings.
NISSEM’s ambitious volume of collected briefs and reflections – including experiences from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Botswana, Ghana, India, Lebanon, Rwanda, South Sudan, Somaliland, Tanzania and elsewhere – points to the conclusions below:
-A growing number of national and local stakeholders recognize the intrinsic value of Target 4.7 themes and SEL. These take diverse forms and have different priorities in different countries, cultures and settings.
-School textbooks often are the curriculum and represent education policy. They traditionally reflect hidden or overt biases that favor dominant economic, political and cultural groups. Textbooks should instead help students build inclusive and multifaceted identities, embracing prosocial agency. There are many practical as well as political constraints, however.
=Textbook writers can incorporate Target 4.7 themes and SEL through cross-cutting content and embedded pedagogy. Space, funds and time are needed to develop materials for integrating locally prioritized Target 4.7 themes and SEL into core school subjects.
-Reading materials for learners of all ages represent a less problematic entry point than textbooks, but scalability and sustainability constitute immense challenges.
=Assessment of the impact of Target 4.7 and SEL-related innovations can identify cognitive learning but faces social desirability bias in terms of attitudes. Youth focus groups and EGRA-style short interviews may provide useful feedback from students exposed to current or innovative materials. Global monitoring of progress and international collaboration can help move the agenda forward.
-A ‘selective strategy’ for SDG Target 4.7 themes and SEL – focused on education materials – can achieve impact by 2030 if interested education ministries, donors, consultancy groups and NGOs adopt this low-cost high-impact approach.
The papers and overviews in NISSEM Global Briefs provide an unparalleled resource for everyone working in this area.