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Inspiring Best Practice 29 November Nov 2019 0739 29 November 2019

Beyond Fridays for Future: how sustainable development involves schools

The protocol between the Ministry of Education and Asvis focuses on the dissemination and understanding among students and teachers of the UN’s 2030 Agenda topics, promoting projects and competitions in all educational levels. After the first edition was started in 2016, it has now been renewed for another three years

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Greta Thunberg has made the school strikes her bulwark for the fight against climate change. But why should we not address the topic of environment and sustainability even during the school years? This is what the Ministry of Education, in agreement with the Alleanza Italiana per lo Sviluppo Sostenibile (Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development ASviS) has done, implementing a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate the spreading of sustainability culture in view of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals”. Signed in 2016, the alliance has set out to work “on the topic of promoting and disseminating information initiatives, training and broadcasting the culture of sustainable development and enhancing sustainability education in every level of education”, opening the doors of schools to workshops, competitions and training activities.

The collaboration is based on the issues of the UN 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals linked to it, from the fight against malnutrition to the transition to renewable energy, and it is now being renewed for another three years. “Almost four years ago, when we started, people were saying: ‘the 2030 Agenda, what are you talking about?’. Today, however, not only do many people know what we are talking about, but we feel the commitment of many who share this extraordinary adventure of saving the world,” Enrico Giovannini, spokesman for the Alliance, stated at the presentation of the ASviS 2019 report.

But what is this protocol? In these three years, various actions have been completed, including “a competition for schools of all levels, including the Cpias (Provincial Centers for the Education of Adults), entitled “Facciamo 17 goal (Let’s strike 17 goals)", to promote the 2030 Agenda and the realization of projects with classes or interclasses, on the topics of the objectives”, Martina Alemanno, head of secretary and education area of the AsviS, explains. The competition in particular has distinguished itself as one of the most successful initiatives, with an increasing participation and 472 projects presented in the 2019 edition. Among this year's winners, the 3-D book “History of a sandwich” made from recyclable materials by a kindergarten in Bressana Bottarone, and “From the 'sieta' to circular apples”, a bread and apple recipe for
“zero waste” from the Ferrero secondary school of Alba.

But that’s not all. Thanks to the protocol, “actions have also been implemented to support teachers and help them to incorporate these issues into school curricula, as well as a collaboration with the National Institute for Documentation and Educational Research (Indire) which from 2017 introduced an E-learning course on Agenda 2030 aimed at teachers”, Alemanno adds. Moreover, “Since June of this year, a collaboration has also been launched on the School2030 portal at the Festival of Sustainable Development, which provides insights and documentation available to all full time teachers. Finally, the book A Sustainable World in 100 Photos, a photographic exhibition of the SDGs (the Sustainable Development Goals) and the links between the different themes contained in them.”

According to this year's ASviS report, between the years 2010 and 2017 Italy showed signs of improvement on 9 out of 17 targets, while the situation worsened significantly on 6 other targets

Overall, the training involved about 61,000 teachers, tutors and educators over the three-year period, and reached a large number of schools. “Many thanked us, because they felt part of a reality that goes beyond the territorial stage, they felt connected with the rest of the world and other educational worlds” Alemanno explains. “Schools are often the aggregation centre of a neighbourhood, so awareness and information are absolutely necessary to train, not only for young people, but also adults.”

Despite the lack of specific funds for the implementation of the protocol, the actions taken thanks to the will of many schools and the committee have enabled good results and increased sensitivity among young people and their mentors. But “they would certainly need resources, especially in the field of education," according to the educational manager. Additionally, much remains to be done on the UN Agenda: according to this year's ASviS report, between the years 2010 and 2017 Italy showed signs of improvement on 9 out of 17 objectives, while the situation has deteriorated significantly on 6 other objectives, those related to the fight against poverty, economic growth and employment, inclusiveness and sustainability of cities, environmentalism and the promotion of peace and justice. “We are working on many fronts, but on others we are falling behind," Alemanno concludes, also observing that: “As many as 21 targets on the agenda have a 2020 deadline, which is just around the corner; even though results are positive, they must be kept an eye on.”

The political world, for its part, admits that “more public and private investment is needed, more clearly oriented in the direction of environmental and social sustainability. We need to bring together all the national and European instruments we have to mobilise a greater mass of investment,” according to the new Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri, who was present at the presentation of the report. Paolo Gentiloni, now the European Commissioner, also stressed the need to act in sync at an EU level and to concert sustainable development strategies among all Member States. After all, the awareness of the new generations on these issues cannot be disconnected from an all-round commitment also from the policy makers side. Everyone's future is at work.

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