UNESCO Education for Sustainability framework

Nov 2020 | News & Notes

Report’s eight key competencies can be applied as a SOD framework

In 2017 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) published their report on how education needs to change and develop to prepare us for the big changes we face to reach a more sustainable global society.

On page 10 they describe eight key competencies that are valid across all fields. They write:

Key competencies represent cross-cutting competencies that are necessary for all learners of all ages worldwide (developed at different age-appropriate levels). Key competencies can be understood as transversal, multifunctional and context-independent.

The key competencies fit very well to the systemic design perspectives in general and especially to SOD. At the same time, some of the competencies also challenge us to become better. Therefore, we can integrate them as a framework for SOD.

Eight key competencies

Systems thinking competency:  the abilities to recognize and understand relationships; to analyse complex systems; to think of how systems are embedded within different domains and different scales, and to deal with uncertainty.

Anticipatory competency: the abilities to understand and evaluate multiple futures – possible, probable and desirable; to create one’s own visions for the future; to apply the precautionary principle; to assess the consequences of actions, and to deal with risks and changes.

Normative competency: the abilities to understand and reflect on the norms and values that underlie one’s actions; and to negotiate sustainability values, principles, goals, and targets, in a context of conflicts of interests and trade-offs, uncertain knowledge and contradictions.

Strategic competency: the ability to collectively develop and implement innovative actions that further sustainability at the local level and further afield.

Collaboration competency: the abilities to learn from others; to understand and respect the needs, perspectives and actions of others (empathy); to understand, relate to and be sensitive to others (empathic leadership); to deal with conflicts in a group, and to facilitate collaborative and participatory problem-solving.

Critical thinking competency: the ability to question norms, practices and opinions; to reflect on own one’s values, perceptions and actions; and to take a position in the sustainability discourse.

Self-awareness competency: the ability to reflect on one’s own role in the local community and (global) society; to continually evaluate and further motivate one’s actions, and to deal with one’s feelings and desires.

Integrated problem-solving competency: the overarching ability to apply different problem-solving frameworks to complex sustainability problems and develop viable, inclusive and equitable solution options that promote sustainable development, integrating the above-mentioned competencies.

Download the Report

Unesco Education for Sustainable development goals