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The National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development 2014-2020 provides a framework to support the education system in working towards a more sustainable future. It aims for learners to be equipped with the relevant knowledge, dispositions, skills and values that will motivate and empower them, throughout their lives, to become informed active citizens who take action for a more sustainable future. This is to be achieved through the existing curriculum and pedagogical approaches to develop key skills, dispositions, knowledge, and values. The Strategy also includes the recommendation that students should be consulted on the issue of Education for Sustainable Development to inform future policy.
Irish Aid is the Irish Government’s programme for overseas development. It includes development education funding, which aims to increase awareness and understanding of global development issues among the Irish public. The long term goal of Irish Aid Development Education Strategy 2017-2023is that through the provision of development education, people are empowered to analyse and challenge the root causes and consequences of global hunger, poverty, inequality, injustice and climate change. Irish Aid works in partnership with educators across the primary, post-primary, higher education, youth and adult and community education sectors, to increase the accessibility, quality and effectiveness of development education in Ireland. Irish Aid is managed by the Development Co-operation Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
WorldWise Global Schools is Ireland’s Global Citizenship Education programme for post-primary schools, established in 2013. The programme has worked with 350 schools nationwide, aiming to integrate Global Citizenship Education into all aspects of teaching and learning at post-primary level. WorldWise Global Schools is funded by Irish Aid. It is implemented by a consortium of organisations: Self Help Africa; Concern Worldwide; and The City of Dublin Education and Training Board Curriculum Development Unit.
The Irish approach to Education for Sustainable Development, within the senior cycle, includes both the integration of Education for Sustainable Development across the curriculum (for example, within essays in language subjects) and the provision of Education for Sustainable Development specific programmes and courses in school.
Transition year is an optional year in secondary school, which may take place as the first of three years in the senior cycle. Transition year is discussed further in Chapter 6.1 Youth Policy Governance. Several short transition year courses, each designed to be taught over 45 hours, discuss global issues.
Global Development Issues introduces development issues. It engages students in analysis, reflection, and action for local and global citizenship. Teachers can choose to teach 3-4 thematic strands: Poverty; Conflict; Gender Inequality; Sustainable Environments; Trade; Health and HIV/AIDS; and Human Rights. This transition unit aims to:
- help students gain knowledge and understanding about the unequal development in our world
- enable students to become more skilled and independent in researching, analysing and understanding our world
- foster a positive attitude so that students feel empowered to act to make the world a more equal and just place.
Pamoja-Together for Rights helps students to explore development and human rights issues in a global context. It supports a student-centred approach to learning as students examine a human rights issue of interest to them, complete a project and undertake awareness-raising actions. It aims to:
- engender a sense of empowerment, agency, and personal effectiveness amongst students
- cultivate empathy and understanding towards other people, particularly towards those in the developing world.
What’s with the Weather explores the impact of climate change. Through experiments, role-plays and project work, students decide how they can change their own habits to make a difference. It aims to:
- help students understand the global concern of climate change and global warming
- encourage students to look objectively at evidence of global warming in the world today
- promote students to consider their role in and responsibility for caring for the environment and the planet’s future health.
Environmental Studies encourages students to explore issues that are affecting their environment. Students carry out practical projects and actions such as developing a community garden, recycling, tree planting, bulb planting, wildlife gardens, environmental surveys etc. It aims to:
- develop an awareness of the local and global environmental issues that affect us
- promote an appreciation of the positive aspects of the local environment and its potential
- encourage students to develop their abilities to plan, prepare and present their project
- develop students’ belief in the positive actions that they can take
- help students recognise through practical participation the positive impact that they can have on their environment.
Setting up a Green School encourages students to audit, evaluate and change their school environment for the better. Its objective is to lead schools to being awarded the status of 'Green School' from An Taisce. An Taisce is the national trust and its funders include the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications. Setting up a Green School aims to:
- provide students with a forum for finding working solutions to environmental issues affecting their school
- develop students’ appreciation of their role as stewards of the environment and a sense of their power as agents for change
- foster the development of a range of skills including communication, teamwork, and portfolio presentation
- enhance the quality of the school environment through the students’ actions.
How the World Works provides students with the opportunity to explore how structures of poverty and inequality are maintained on a global level and how they can help change the way the world works by assuming their responsibility as global citizens. It aims to:
• promote awareness about the causes of global inequalities
• create an understanding of how individuals and organisations can bring about change through their actions
• cultivate empathy towards people in the Global South linked to a sense of responsibility towards working to support justice in the world.
The Leaving Certificate Examination is the Irish state examination taking place during the senior cycle. The Leaving Certificate is discussed further in Chapter 6.1 Youth Policy Governance.
The Leaving Certificate Established subject Politics and Society includes global issues, such as Human Rights and Responsibilities (in Ireland, Europe, and the wider world); Globalisation; and Sustainable Development. Climate change is covered within optional Leaving Certificate Established subjects Geography and Agricultural Science. Politics and Society, Geography and Agricultural Science each have 180 hours of class time, over a two-year period.
Non-formal and informal learning
Green-Schools is an international environmental education programme and award scheme. It is a student-led programme with involvement from the wider community. Green-Schools promotes long-term, whole-school action for the environment. Internationally it is known as 'Eco-schools'. In Ireland, Green-Schools is run by An Taisce, operated in partnership with Local Authorities and supported by several government departments. The award part of the scheme comes in the form of a green flag. To ensure schools maintained environmental standards, the green flag award requires renewal every two years.
European Youth Parliament Ireland
The European Youth Parliament (EYP) Ireland is a non-profit, non-partisan organisation that runs a number of weekend long conferences every year for young people. It is open to all fourth- and fifth-year students. EYP Ireland is one of 36 national committees of the European Youth Parliament International. EYP Ireland’s mission is to develop an interest in European issues in young people in Ireland. It seeks to empower youth to question the world around them and come up with innovative solutions to global problems, while emphasising concepts of cooperation and respect. EYP is volunteer-run and there is an entry fee for each participant. Participants have the opportunity to progress from regional, to national and international levels.
SDG Challenge Schools
SDG Challenge Schools, a World Wise Global Schools funded programme, was hosted in Ireland during 2020, by Development Perspectives. This programme focused on increasing the capacity of schools to raise awareness and action of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
SDG Challenge Schools involves Teacher Training; Parent Workshops; Classroom Visits; and School Action Projects. A development education approach is at the centre of SDG Challenge Schools. This interactive and creative educational process aims to increase awareness and understanding of the interconnected world which we live in. SDG Challenge Schools allows schools to explore the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values necessary to become global citizens. It facilitates schools to act for a more just and sustainable world.
Games 4 The Goals
Games 4 The Goals was a training course in 2019, ran by Development Perspectives and funded under the European Commission’s Erasmus+. It was aimed at youth workers, trainers, educators, and mentors who wished to explore the Sustainable Development Goals through gamification. The eight-day training course aimed to develop Global Education competences of youth workers and educators through game-based learning, with a focus on the SDGs. It aimed to harness the power of games to develop media literacy and critical thinking skills, examine values within society and encourage young people to take informed action related to the SDGs.
In terms of quality assurance mechanisms, assessment criteria are applied during the application for Erasmus+ funding. Following the application and reporting, feedback may be given by the national agency for Erasmus+, which in Ireland is Léargas. Should the organisation fail to meet quality standards, Erasmus+ funding can be withheld.
Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEAI) provides free resources to secondary school teachers focused on sustainable energy use in the home. Multimedia resources about various topics related to sustainable energy are available on SEAI’s website. SEAI is Ireland's national sustainable energy authority.
WorldWise Global Schools provides a comprehensive range of supports and interventions for schools — including grant funding, training, events, resources, and personalised support from its staff team. It equips both educators and learners with the knowledge, skills, and values to act ethically and sustainably in a world that is both complex and highly interconnected. WorldWise Global Schools is funded by Irish Aid.
Educators' Week is ran by ECO-UNESCO and includes a series of short workshops and events for Teachers, Youth Leaders and Mentors to learn more about the SDGs. During 2020 Educator’s Week took place from the 24th-26th August 2020.
The National Youth Council of Ireland runs trainings for youth workers on working with youths to address global issues, such as the SDGs. Some examples of these courses are:
- Action – Youth work and the SDGs
- Going Global – Connecting and Threading Practice and Organisation
- Intro to Global Youth Work and Development Education
Youth-targeted information campaigns on global issues
One World Week is a week of youth-led awareness raising, education and action where young people learn about local and global justice issues and are empowered to take action to bring about positive change. Each year has a different theme. In 2019 this was climate action and the sustainable development goals. 2020’s theme was power in youth work. Throughout the week young people and youth organisations will take part in local and regional activities funded through One World mini grants. The initiative includes a youth climate summit; free training; and a resource pack. The training, taking the form of a two-hour workshops, use non-formal development education methods to connect young people and youth workers with Climate Change and help take action in their community. Over 400 young people from different parts of the island of Ireland came together for the 2019 youth climate summit. One World Week is run by National Youth Council of Ireland in partnership with Concern Worldwide, Trócaire, and Goal.
Green-Schools’ Climate Action Week takes place in October in schools across Ireland. The annual awareness campaign on climate action highlights how climate change is impacting Ireland. The weeklong initiative encourages students, teachers, and the wider community to talk about climate change and get involved in local climate action.
For further information campaigns with the goal of promoting the knowledge and understanding of global issues among young people, please see information above.
There is no specific public authority or body responsible for disseminating information on global issues among young people. However, some relevant departments providing youths with information on global issues are:
- the Department of Education (DES): responsible for education and training
- the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications: responsible for communications, Climate Action, Environment, broadcasting, energy, natural resources and postal services.
ECO-UNESCO’s Young Environmentalist Awards
BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition
BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition is a competition open to Second Level students aged between 12–19 years. Categories include ‘Biological and Ecological Sciences’ and many entries are related to environmental issues.
An Taisce's Climate Ambassador programme is Ireland’s first ever initiative to train and support individuals taking action on climate change. The programme is co-ordinated by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce with support from the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications. The Climate Ambassador programme is open to second and third level students and members of the public aged 18+. Ambassadors are given the tools, resources and network to instigate change in their schools, campuses and communities.
Neat Streets is an Anti-Litter and Waste Programme for Secondary Schools. Participating students design a project to tackle litter and waste, which they feel will be effective in reaching their schoolmates and engaging the wider community. It is run by An Taisce, which provides ongoing support, training, and equipment.
For further initiatives to disseminate information on global issues, please see information above.