Unsustainable Development: The Missing Discussion about Education at Rio+20

The past 20 years have seen an accelerated process of globalization that has impacted countries around the world. However, not all have benefited equally and many have benefited little or not at all from this process. A global economy based on current patterns of consumption and production is placing heavy stresses on many ecosystems and climate change threatens to undo and even reverse progress made toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

Therefore the challenge is to sustain the process of poverty reduction and development while also avoiding greater damage to the environment and adapting to the damage that has already been done. As the international community prepares to tackle these challenges at Rio+20 and looks beyond it to agreement on a set of Sustainable Development Goals, education is an untapped sector. This policy brief outlines the ways education is critical to realizing the goals of sustainable development through five priorities that should be incorporated into the Rio+20 discussions if the conference is to set an achievable strategy for sustainable development:

  1. Support quality early childhood development and learning opportunities for girls and boys;
  2. Ensure that basic literacy and numeracy are learned in school;
  3. Enable young people to make the transition to and complete relevant post-primary education;
  4. Equip young people with relevant skills for 21st century lives and livelihoods;
  5. Make learning spaces safe, climate compatible and sustainable.