In 2015, the United Nations created 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, ensure prosperity and protect the planet.
They are intended to be achieved by the year 2030. But, to accomplish them, special emphasis needs to be given to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.
Against this backdrop, School of Education, in association with NSS & Rotaract club, Apeejay Stya University, Gurgaon, organised an International Webinar on ‘Sustainable Development Goals & STEM Education: The Roadmap ahead.
Its chief guest was Rania Lampou, a global STEM educator par excellence from Greece. She works for Greek Astronomy and Space Company and the Directorate of Educational Technology and Innovation, Ministry of Education & Religious Affairs, Greece.
Ms. Lampou said education holds the key to accomplish important environmental goals and universities are a key participant in the implementation of the SDGs through their wide variety of educational and learning activities.
Environmental Education helps combat nature deficit disorder
Ms. Lampou explained how Environmental Education (EE) helps allay biophobia (the fear of nature) and combat nature deficit disorder as it fosters sensitivity, appreciation, and respect for the environment.
Talking about the history of STEM education, Ms. Lampou said it was first introduced in the late 1990s in the United States by the National Science Foundation.
Scientists argue that STEM is the only way in order to secure a strong economy and capable workers.
STEM education focuses on inquiry and student-led investigations through open-ended real-life problems and hands-on activities empowering students to become “out-of-the-box” thinkers and creators. Ms. Lampou said that the E in STEM should be re-worded as “Environmental considerations”.
Education for sustainable development (ESD) should promote critical thinking and problem solving
According to Ms. Lampou, the aim of Education for sustainable development (ESD) is to empower people to participate in shaping a sustainable future. This requires a re-orientation of current education systems.
ESD should develop individuals’ values, knowledge, skills and competencies for sustainable living and participation in society.
Although no universal model of ESD exists, there is broad agreement on the characteristics of such education: ESD should be interdisciplinary, holistic and value-driven.
It should promote critical thinking and problem solving, include a variety of learning and teaching methods, and encourage participation and collaboration.
Guest of Honour and Key Speaker Mr. Vikas Dixit, Ex-Principal in CommIT, (GGSIPU) and Sr. Scientist at National Informatics Centre under Ministry of Electronics & IT, Govt of India, said one of the biggest challenges involved in the implementation of STEM education is to design infrastructure, curriculum and to equip children with the best guidance and support.
Funding is another major challenge as schools require money for construction of makerspaces, DIY (Do it Yourself Tools) and best computers, which are some of the basic aspects of the STEM education.
‘’Sustainable development must be the guiding principle both in the daily life of education institutions and in long-term planning.
“This requires everyone at schools and at universities – teachers, researchers, adult educators, pupils, students, school managers, parents and community representatives – to discuss how to best direct activities in order to support the development of a sustainable society.’’ Said Rania Lampou, who also works at Directorate of Educational Technology and Innovation, Ministry of Education & Religious Affairs, Greece
‘’Being the second most populated country with unmatched talent and culture, India needs a combined support from government and other education societies to avail the opportunity and benefits of STEM education.
Now, with the Government of India also focusing on campaigns such as ‘ Make in India’ Innovation Mission, there is focus on developing innovation and manufacturing right from schools.’’ Said Mr. Vikas Dixit, Ex-Principal, CommIT, (GGSIPU) and Sr. Scientist, National Informatics Centre, Ministry of Electronics & IT, Govt of India.
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He mentioned that 500 years ago, Goswami Tulsidas, had through his versa dreamed of a society in which, what we call today SDGs, would exist. So Indian Culture and Nature are very close.