Education has a fundamental, indispensable role to play in achieving the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, several speakers said during a session at the recent Wharton-QS Reimagine Education Conference 2022.
Embedding sustainability principles into curricula and preparing students to put those principles into practice will be a key part of achieving the U.N. goals for both sustainable development and climate action, educational leaders stressed.
The conference was organised by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the British higher-education analytics company QS Quacquarelli Symonds. Held in a hybrid format December 5 through 8, the conference included sessions that took place online, at the Knowledge Hub in Egypt’s New Administrative Capital, and at the Wharton School’s campus in Philadelphia.
Changing the Old Mental Image
During a panel on “The Impact of Education on Implementing Sustainable Development”, Ahmad Dallal, president of the American University in Cairo, spoke about the need for revising educational curricula and raising awareness of the sustainable development goals.
“Just as crises continue to increase globally, the search for solutions continues as well,” Dallal said. He called for universities to adapt their curricula and provide more practical training for students on how to address critical global challenges that threaten the well-being of humanity now and in the future.
In a conversation with Al-Fanar Media, he added: “We need to break up old mental images and focus on new solutions towards sustainable development. There is no single solution to confront the crises that impede the achievement of sustainable development.”
Dallal cited what the American University in Cairo is doing in this regard by involving students in confronting the crises facing sustainable development in an applied, rather than theoretical, manner.
“We need to break up old mental images and focus on new solutions towards sustainable development. There is no single solution to confront the crises that impede the achievement of sustainable development.”Ahmad Dallal, president of the American University in Cairo
“We are dispatching our students to a number of Egyptian villages in the countryside to work on water purification plants,” he said. “This enables students to realise the importance of preserving the environment, achieving sustainable development goals, and confronting crises affecting the globe.”
Links with the Private Sector
Waqar Ahmad, chancellor of Abu Dhabi University, called for a “marriage between universities and the private sector” to improve students’ readiness for a rapidly changing labour market and their ability to use new technologies that are changing the nature of work.
“The labour market does not find the human resources that meet such skills,” he said. “In recent years, certain job opportunities have been announced. However, after conducting the tests prescribed for them, managers found that applicants do not meet the specific criteria and the required expertise.”
In the session, he said: “We believe that education is greatly capable of influencing people to achieve sustainable development, especially youth, who are societies’ real wealth, to implement any plans that are agreed upon.”
He also called for integrating sustainable development principles into curricula and teaching students to apply these principles practically, by observing ways to achieve sustainable development themselves.
Ahmad also talked about the importance of investing in people to achieve sustainable development by improving creative skills and launching initiatives in cooperation with the private sector.
Mohammed El-Hawary, editor-in-chief of Al-Fanar Media, said he “believes in achieving sustainable development through education, especially university education,” in order to create “positive citizens.”
This can be achieved, El-Hawary said in his remarks at the session, through cooperation between universities, the private sector, governments, and civil society to study labour market needs and equip students and graduates with the required skills, which include “soft skills” like communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, and the ability to adapt to changing needs.
He added: “With this, we can finally create a positive, good citizen, who will turn into a source of income for his country by increasing productivity, using the necessary skills to meet the labour market requirements, instead of annually graduating batches of graduates without having the skills needed for the jobs in the market.”
El-Hawary called for changing new generations’ mind-sets to find truly sustainable solutions, through cooperation between startups and universities and by setting new mechanisms and standards that promote a globally oriented approach to global issues like sustainable development, pandemics, and climate change.
El-Hawary pointed out that universities, both private and public, play a major role in achieving sustainable development, by educating students about the goals and allowing them to work on them throughout their university years.
He also talked about Al-Fanar Media’s focus on improving and developing education through cooperation with Arab universities and spreading awareness of initiatives that aim to improve students’ skills to serve their interest and increase their experience. This can help them find appropriate job opportunities that ultimately lead to improving productivity in their communities, he said.
- Education Leaders Say More Versatile Skills Will Be Needed for Future Job Markets
- Egypt Boosts Efforts to Make Sure Students Are Ready for the Labour Market
- ‘Work Ready Now’ Helps Lebanese Students Move from School to a Job
- Job Skills in Demand: Insights from the World Economic Forum