Education and Research

In order to realise the Sustainable Development Goals, education and research must be key priorities. It is they which increasingly are tasked with creating the foundation of knowledge and skills we will need. Projects of the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) introduce new approaches and solutions and help embed them in society.

Education and research on sustainability

Education for all

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the United Nations in 2015 call for inclusive, equal-opportunity, high-quality and lifelong education to be available to all. In addition, UNESCO has since 2015 been supporting corresponding projects through its Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD): every human being is to be able to gain the knowledge, skills, values and mindset needed for helping to making the world a fairer, more peaceful and more sustainable place. Education is also to be bolstered in all programmes for sustainable development. With the follow-on programme for 2020 to 2030 – Education for Sustainable Development: Towards Achieving the SDGs – UNESCO aims to continue promoting implementation of ESD.

Supporting German sustainable development policy through strategic placement of knowledge

Germany, too, aims to provide education that leaves no one behind. With the German Sustainable Development Strategy, the federal government intends to give all the nation’s children and youth the opportunity of education and participation and invigorate continuing education programmes. Moreover, education on sustainable development is to be embedded at a structural level throughout all areas of education. The federal government has been working to do so for many years: in 2015 it formed the initiative Education for Sustainable Development in Germany, which agreed a National Action Plan for ESD in 2017. This Action Plan lays out how ESD can be bindingly incorporated into teaching and education plans, study courses and learning environments. Local educational landscapes are named as on-site frameworks within which networking and cooperation of ESD actors is possible. The Action Plan views the participation of children, young people and civil society as central to implementing ESD. It additionally advocates indicators and quality criteria for ESD. Since 2019, four joint projects commissioned by the federal government have been working to develop an ESD indicator framework.

The Science Platform Sustainability 2030, formed in summer of 2017, also constitutes a component of the German Sustainable Development Strategy. The Platform’s Steering Committee analyses Germany’s implementation of the 2030 Agenda from a scientific perspective and assesses whether sufficient and effective support is provided at global level. It develops dialogue formats through which the scientific community, policymakers, the business sector and organised civil entities can exchange information.

The federal government is furthermore advised on innovation policy by the High-Tech Forum, which comprises consultants from the sciences, business and civil society. The results will serve the federal government in the implementation of its High-Tech Strategy. As part of the most recent High-Tech Forum (2015–2017), the topic of sustainability was taken up as a fixed component of the advisory body’s remit.

Contribution by the Council for Sustainable Development

The German Council for Sustainable Development supports scientific insight into sustainability in a number of ways. In addition to being a member in such initiatives as the National ESD Platform, the Science Platform Sustainability 2030 and the HOCH-N joint project among higher education institutions as well as past committee activities; for example in the High-Tech Forum from 2015 to 2018 the Council worked together with higher education institutions throughout Germany to develop the Sustainability Code for Higher Education Institutions.

The Council also facilitated in 2017/2018 the “Zukunft, fertig, los!” (“Ready, set, future!”) competition, an educational competition addressing children, youth and young adults with the aim of raising awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals in early childhood education, schooling and vocational and applied education, in adult and professional education and in non-formal and informal educational segments.

Furthermore, the Council for Sustainable Development initiated in 2018 a debate on the subject of the precautionary principle and innovation. On the basis of a dialogue of experts with policymakers, scientists and the business community, this resulted in the drafting of a first discussion paper, which was published in early 2019.

Moreover, the RNE takes up the topic of education and research again and again in its publications, including