Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS): The Hon. Jonel Powell, the Federation’s Minister for Education, Youth, Culture, and Sports, stressed the need for UNESCO and developed nations to assist small island developing states in calibrating education for sustainable development (ESD) elements in curricular structures, with relevance to the social, economic, and political context of small islands communities.
The Minister was one of the fifty-plus education ministers to be invited on 17th May to virtually address the UNESCO World Conference ESD 2021 at a special Ministerial Roundtable on Implementing ESD for 2030. The conference was hosted in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany, and with the German Commission for UNESCO as an advisory partner, and attended by UNESCO Member State Ministers, officials, and experts from UNESCO, the OECD, and UN family of Organisations.
Minister Powell stated that the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis continues to “robustly subscribe to the UNESCO Member States’ shared vision and responsibility associated with ESD, relating to respect and care of the community of life, ecological integrity, social and economic justice, and democracy, non-violence and peace”.
“As we struggle with the effects of the Covid pandemic, glaring inequality, divergent economic development, ecological deterioration, social instability, never have these fundamental principles been of such pivotal importance. These concerns have particular resonance for small island developing states, as we, in turn, seek to strengthen our resolve towards achieving environmental, social and economic sustainable development.”
Central to the Federation’s education strategy since 2017, said Minister Powell, is the provision of “holistic and lifelong education for all, contributing to sustainable development, building civic responsibility, and fostering in individuals the ability to succeed locally and globally”.
Although the national educational curriculum was being continually re-orientated to reflect this ESD focus, “Our challenge now is further review how to best integrate ESD as part of the horizontal and vertical curricular components in our national education programme”.
He noted that two areas stood out for special attention in incorporating ESD as part of cross-curriculum learning and architecture:
Sustainability, through exploring the long-term impact of social, cultural, scientific, technological, economic practices on society and the environment. Small islands susceptibility to natural disasters, economic innovativeness in the face of remoteness, insularity, and size, and preserving national cultural heritage, all fall in this category.
Citizenship – exploring what it means to be a citizen and to contribute to the development and well-being of society. The emergence of gang culture, with young men feeling a sense of marginalisation and prematurely leaving formal education, is a critical factor that can be addressed through the teaching of citizenship.
But, concluded Minister Powell, “But we can’t do this by ourselves. The institutional capacity in our islands is limited and the pool of ESD-talented mentors is small”.
He urged the international community to engage with the Caribbean small islands, and, critically, with UNESCO, to assist in restructuring the national educational curriculum to attain the optimal balance between horizontal ESD and vertical primary curricular components.
Minister Powell’s address to the UNESCO ESD ministerial event was facilitated by the Federation’s permanent delegate to UNESCO in Paris, Ambassador David Doyle, who noted: “I think the message resonated that a dedicated SIDS ESD framework is needed to address the specificities of small islands. Further, empirical research relating to sustainable development in SIDS tends to be limited in scope and tangentially addresses the educational implications of sustainable development in significant depth as it relates to small island communities”.