University of Pretoria: UP hosts webinar on teacher education and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

Teach4Reach, a collaborative project between the University of Pretoria (UP) and the Universities of Innsbruck and Vienna in Austria, recently hosted a virtual event in which researchers, policymakers and practitioners discussed innovative ways in which teacher education programmes can be leveraged to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as proposed in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Broadcast online from UP’s Future Africa Research Institute, the webinar included UP’s Dr Kgadi Mathabathe, Deputy Director of Academic Development; Professor Irma Eloff, Professor of Educational Psychology; Prof Michael Schratz, researcher and Professor of Education at the University of Innsbruck; and Assistant Professor Evi Agostini of the University of Vienna, who all participated in the discussion.

“The 2030 Agenda is an ambitious agenda, but it is also a concrete plan of action for people, the planet and for prosperity,” said UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe, who opened the session. “Teacher education programmes provide a powerful vehicle to create global awareness of the criticality of the global goals for intergenerational equity, and for economic, environmental and social sustainability. Current crises like the COVID-19 pandemic also point towards the necessity of the implementation of future skills. The future of work is changing fast, and teachers are vital in the education of the next generation.”

Professor Salomé Human-Vogel, Deputy Dean of Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Education at UP, was the keynote speaker. She spoke about how we can move towards a more sustainable society. “For education to be transformative, it needs to consider two important factors: connectedness and empathy. If we want a different, more sustainable society, we need to change the way we see society,” she said.

Josephine Wagner, post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Teacher Education and School Research at the University of Innsbruck, added: “Teachers can be political actors and should see themselves as public intellectuals. Prof Human-Vogel described the role teachers play in climate change education and the incredibly dramatic consequences that we are facing. Teachers needs to ask themselves how they can politicise their teaching. Sustainability has become an ideological battlefield in our time because big countries all over the world don’t see climate change as an imminent threat.”

The conversation also touched on how quality education is measured. In a research presentation, Sunet Grobler, a PhD student at the University of Innsbruck, said, “My research suggests that quality education relies upon more than just good grades and competencies – regarding SDGs, it relies on whether there is education for sustainable development, sustainable lifestyles, gender equality, human rights, the promotion of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, as well as gratitude towards cultural diversity.”

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