03 May 2018
Bristol, UK

Sustainability, peace and education – exploring promise and practice

World Population Program researcher Stephanie Bengtsson will discuss peaceful, just and inclusive societies in and through education at an international symposium in Bristol.

Elementary school kids playing football © Monkey Business Images/shutterstock

Elementary school kids playing football © Monkey Business Images/shutterstock

Sustainable development and education’s role within it is an important contemporary priority for Comparative and International Education. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now command widespread global attention. At the same time actors across educational institutions and community settings, have responded creatively to the social and environmental challenges of sustainability with innovative programmes, practices and pedagogies.

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE), the one-day symposium will bring together diverse perspectives on education and sustainability, including those drawn from the study of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), sustainability within development studies, and sustainable peace. The Symposium aims to critically interrogate the SDG agenda, but also to explore the creative possibilities through which educational policies, practices, pedagogies and processes might embody or enable improved sustainability.

World Population Program (POP) researcher Stephanie Bengtsson will present a chapter from the a new book entitled "The role of education in enabling the sustainable development agenda" that she authored together with Bilal Barakat and Raya Muttarak. The presentation is entitled "The fifth ‘P’ of the Sustainable Development Agenda: Towards a 'revitalised Global Partnership for Sustainable Development' in and through education". Bengtsson is a Research Scholar with the World Population (POP) program, where she is working on education issues, socio-economic progress and human wellbeing.

For more information please visit the event website.


The fifth ‘P’ of the Sustainable Development Agenda: Towards a 'revitalised Global Partnership for Sustainable Development' in and through education

A chapter from our recent book explores the relationship between education and other key sectors of development in the context of the new global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda, organised around the ‘5 Ps’ of sustainable development, as set out in the SDG framing document, Transforming our World – people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. In many ways, the SDGs represent a significant shift in the development discourse as a whole, particularly in terms of the notion of ‘Partnership’ as articulated in the framing document: “We are determined to mobilize the means required to implement this Agenda through a revitalised Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focussed in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people” (UN 2015).

Indeed, the process by which the SDGs and accompanying targets were developed was substantially more inclusive and collaborative than the process that led to the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), at least in terms of involvement of representatives from Member States from around the world (Dodds et al. 2017). Further, the SDGs are described as “global in nature and universally applicable, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities” (UN 2015), thus, superficially at least, expanding the geographic scope of where development takes place to include all countries, and not just countries of the so-called Global South. Finally, there was a significant increase in the number of goals between the MDGs and the SDGs (from eight to 17), and the language changed (in some cases, dramatically) to represent a more holistic, ‘human-centred’ approach than the narrow focus on economic growth and quantitative, results-based management that had dominated the development discourse in the 1980s and 1990s (Hulme 2007).

In this paper, we will explore this notion of a “revitalised Global Partnership for Sustainable Development” both in and through education through a critical analysis of both grey and scholarly literature from a range of disciplines – including education and development studies, economics, geography, sociology and environmental studies – as well as the SDGs themselves and their accompanying texts, including press releases and reports, available on the online Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. The purpose of the paper is twofold: (1) to provide an account of global partnership in the realm of the international educational development agenda, and (2) to interrogate the concept of ‘education for sustainable development’ as articulated in Target 4.7 of the SDGs, and what this might mean for the sustainable development agenda as a whole.

For our conceptual and analytical framework, we draw from three significant theoretical interventions. First, we build on Raworth’s (2012) conceptualisation of a “safe and just space” for humanity, which identifies both a ceiling (in terms of environmental risk) and a floor (in terms of threats to social justice) for sustainable development. Second, we build on Tikly’s (2016) recent work on understanding the international (educational) development agenda as a global governance regime, characterised by a complex matrix of power relations, competing and converging interests, and tensions and agreements, a regime which to date has primarily been led by countries of the so-called Global North, and in their own interests. Third, we build on the burgeoning research evidence demonstrating how ‘good’ education functions as an enabling right by acting as the means through which certain other rights can be realised, and, conversely, how restricted access to education, unequal educational opportunity, or education of low quality, can act as barriers to sustainable development. Our analysis will reveal a number of themes emerging from the nexus between education and partnership in the sustainable development agenda, including the latent tensions arising along the all-to-familiar North-South binary fault lines, problems around representation, participation, and tokenism, and how the value of education is determined by different partners, and the consequences of that valuation for sustainable development. This paper aims to contribute to the broader discussion of the relationship between education and the SDGs and to encourage critical reflection on a more holistic role for education in, through, and for sustainable development.


Dodds, F., Donoghue, D. & Roesch, J.L. (2017). Negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals: A transformational agenda for an insecure world. London; New York: Earthscan from Routledge.

Hulme, D. (2007). The making of the Millennium Development Goals: Human development meets results-based management in an imperfect world. Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper 16. Manchester: The University of Manchester.

Raworth, K. (2012). A safe and just space for humanity: Can we live within the doughnut? Oxfam Discussion Paper. Oxford: Oxfam

Tikly, L. (2016). Education For All as a global regime of educational governance: Issues and tensions. In S. Yamada (ed.), Post-Education-For-All and sustainable development paradigm: Structural changes with diversifying actors and norms. (International Perspectives on Education and Society, 29. Chanai: Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.

UN. (2015). Sustainable development goals and targets. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UN.

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Last edited: 02 May 2018

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