Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education

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SDG4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

"Looking at SDG 4 'quality education', more children are participating in early childhood education and care, fewer pupils are leaving school early and more people are attaining tertiary education. In contrast to these positive developments, however, underachievement in reading, maths and science has increased, and the benchmarks for the employment rate of recent graduates and adult participation in learning." [1]

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General look into education??

All CLI do promote the acquisition and development of knowledge, skills and/or competences considered necessary to envision, plan, implement and/or monitor a local regenerative pathway in communities in everyday life [2]. This capacity building can happen through formal education but mainly embedded in ongoing events as well as through processes for informal and shared learning allowing the initiatives and networks to share experience and reflections between them.[3] This, together with shared concerns, passions, visions and/or values makes these networks innovative Communities of Practice (Refs)[4] attracting citizens with social solutions nurturing Head (cognitive), Heart (affective) and Hands (behavior) activities to engage them meaningfully in sustainable living [5], [6], [7]. However, CLI go further and tend to consciously promote simultaneously what Arjen Wals calls of social learning (“when diversity can become a driver of joint learning and creativity and a source of positive energy”), transformative learning (when “opens up new lenses of perception and strengthens our capacities for understanding and navigating complex challenges”) and transgressive learning (that “is about exposing marginalization, exploitation, dehumanization and other forms of systemic unsustainability, and disrupting the powers and structures that work towards maintaining it”) [8]. CLI networks within ECOLISE (such as Ecovillages, Permaculture and Transition) are grounded on reskilling and lifelong learning promoting awareness raising of the world situation and also of pathways walked for several decades by a global movement of pioneer communities and people. Their success on moving into more sustainable pathways led to a societal request for formal courses (such as Permaculture Design Education (Ref), Ecovillage Design Education (Ref) and Transition Launch (Ref), as an example) and short to long term internships (mainly at Ecovillages and Permaculture projects). In a way to support multipliers, all networks also deliver Train of Trainers (Refs) supporting practitioners to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and competences to hold inspiring learning environments with a diversity of learners, at the moment being requested at the university level [9]. Also, CLI networks, as well as some individual initiatives, have been also promoting research within their network (mainly through surveys) (Refs), accepting to be case study for master and PhD thesis (Refs) or even national to European research projects (Refs), and more recently is partnering with academic institutions and running for national to European research funds (Refs). CLI tend to resonate with transformative or participatory action-research methodology once they support sustainability actions through community reflective action (Ref). A major element is the recognition of past and contemporary traditional knowledge (archive and oral) and its importance for new narratives for change while nurturing and empowering local activism [10] and local to global community building (ref). Some of CLI do promote various forms of innovation in school-age education by creating, importing or adapting pioneer educational programs around the world that do promote experienced-based learning, stronger connection with Nature elements and cycles, individual focus within a diverse community (Refs). While the Global Ecovillage Network assessments demonstrate work that largely precedes and hence anticipated the SDGs, some CLIs and associated organisations have begun to adopt the SDGs as a strategic framework for their work. Gaia Education, a specialized member of ECOLISE, already offers bespoke training on implementation and horizontal integration of the SDGs and has incorporated the SDGs into the training of facilitators for its flagship Ecovillage Design Education course [11][12]. A report produced on behalf of UNESCO identified Gaia Education's online training as a key resource for education on the SDGs.[13]


  1. EUROSTAT. Sustainable development in the European Union. Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context. (2017), pp 14
  2. Franklin, A., Newton, J., Middleton, J. & Marsden, T. Reconnecting skills for sustainable communities with everyday life. Environ. Plan. A 43, 347–362 (2011)
  3. Henfrey, T., 2017. Grassroots Education for Sustainability as Ecology of Mind: the Head, Hands and Heart of Societal Transformation. In Winn, J. & R. Hall (eds.), Mass Intellectuality and Democratic Leadership in Higher Education. London: Bloomsbury.
  4. Ingram, J., Maye, D., Kirwan, J., Curry, N. & Kubinakova, K. Learning in the Permaculture Community of Practice in England: An Analysis of the Relationship between Core Practices and Boundary Processes. J. Agric. Educ. Ext. 20, 275–290 (2014)
  5. Axon, S. ” The Good Life”: Engaging the public with community-based carbon reduction strategies. Environ. Sci. Policy 66, 82–92 (2016).
  6. Axon, S. Sustaining public engagement with addressing climate change and the role of social solutions. Int. J. Sustain. Soc. 8, 185–205 (2016)
  7. Lisa Mychajluk. Learning to live and work together in an ecovillage community of practice. Eur. J. Res. Educ. Learn. Adults Vol 8 Iss 2 Pp 179-194 2017 179 (2017)
  8. Peters, M. A. & Wals, A. E. J. Transgressive learning in times of global systemic dysfunction: interview with Arjen Wals. Open Rev. Educ. Res. 3, 179–189 (2016)
  9. Molderez, I. & Fonseca, E. The efficacy of real-world experiences and service learning for fostering competences for sustainable development in higher education. J. Clean. Prod. 172, 4397–4410 (2018)
  10. Buchanan, A. & Bastian, M. Activating the archive: rethinking the role of traditional archives for local activist projects. Arch. Sci. (2015)
  11. Accessed May 11th 2018
  12. Accessed May 11th 2018
  13. Rieckmann, M., 2017. Education for Sustainable Development Goals: learning objectives. Paris: UNESCO