Five questions on transformative education

Ahead of the 5th UNESCO Forum on Transformative Education for Sustainable Development, Global Citizenship and health and well-being, find out more transformative education, why we need it, and how you can be involved in transforming society through learning.

For 75 years, UNESCO has been working to build a more just, inclusive, sustainable, healthy world through education.

But it’s clear – what we have learn has not prepared us for the challenges we face today.

That’s why we need education that is transformative, that transforms people who can transform societies and build a better future.

Why do we need to transform education?

Our world is facing unprecedented challenges – climate change, violent and hateful ideologies, mass loss of biodiversity, new conflicts and the risks of global pandemics to name only a few.

Education systems need to be reoriented to equip learners with the knowledge, values, and abilities to act for the betterment of all people and the planet, as responsible citizens of a global community.

What is “transformative education”?

Transformative education involves teaching and learning geared to motivate and empower happy and healthy learners to take informed decisions and actions at the individual, community and global levels.​

Learners must engage with the world and find coherence between the world they experience in school and the world we all wish to build outside school.

To build this world, we need to learn to read and write, but we also need to learn collaboration, empathy, complex problem solving, connection to other human beings and nature.

Education can only be “transformative” when students feel valued, acknowledged, safe and are included in the learning community as full and active members. This starts by preventing and addressing school violence and bullying, gender-based violence, as well as health and gender related discrimination towards learners and educators.

Teachers are expected to transform their teaching, for example, ensuring that the curriculum, pedagogy, learning materials, schools or learning environments are meaningful in the natural, political, economic, and cultural contexts.

For education to be of high quality, it must be transformative.

This is why Sustainable Development Goal target 4.7, which aims to help us transform the world, is integral to Sustainable Development Goal 4 and all other Sustainable Development Goals.

Read some examples of how education can be transformative in Angel and Fatma’s stories from Tanzania, Maritza’s from Guatemala’s story or through the 2021 ESD Prize Winners or the education initiatives on the UNESCO Green Citizen platform.

What does UNESCO do on transformative education?

UNESCO have called for a new social contract on education as part of a landmark report on the Futures of Education.

The new social contract for education must unite us around collective endeavours and provide the knowledge and innovation needed to shape sustainable and peaceful futures for all anchored in social, economic, and environmental justice. It must, as this report does, champion the role played by teachers.

UNESCO’s programmes on education for sustainable development (ESD), global citizenship education (GCED) and education for health and well-being are all central to achieving this vision, and ensuring education is transformative for every student in every country.

Together, they aim to achieve the transformation of education systems so that learners of all ages are supported to care for one another and the planet, to create more peaceful, just and sustainable societies.

What is the 5th UNESCO Forum on Transformative Education?

The 5th UNESCO Forum on Transformative Education for Sustainable Development, Global Citizenship, Health and Well-being is a virtual event that will be held from 29 November to 1 December 2021 in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

UNESCO and APCEIU will bring  together experts in education for sustainable developmentglobal citizenship education and education for health and well-being to discuss good practices, progress, monitoring and mainstreaming transformative education towards Sustainable Development Goal target 4.7.

How can I get involved?

The opening, closing and plenary sessions of the Forum will be livestreamed via UNESCO’s YouTube. Check the Forum webpage on the 29 November for the links, or sign up to be sent the information closer to the day.

You can join the global conversation about the Forum, share your thoughts on the transformation of education and great examples with #TransformativeEducation during the Forum and beyond.