Sustainable Development Goals in our education

Ten years ago, The Hague University of Applied Sciences became a UNESCO school. Last year we signed the declaration of intent to pay special attention to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in our education. During the opening of the new academic year, Christine de Lille, Innovation Networks professor, showed why the SDGs are so closely aligned to our university of applied sciences and what degree programmes are already doing to help achieve these goals.

It only takes a few seconds to sign a declaration of intention. If it stops there, that declaration becomes nothing more than a paper tiger. That is not the case at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. During the past year, various degree programmes have demonstrated that they take the Sustainable Development Goals within education very seriously. In her speech during the opening programme, Professor Christine De Lille sketched the big picture. After that, three lecturers illustrated how they get their students to work on these goals in a tangible way. Three cherries on top of a cake. A cake that we want more of.

Brightly coloured palette

The fact that there is already so much to say about the SDGs in education at The Hague University of Applied Sciences only one year after signing the declaration of intent, has everything to do with the fact that we have been a UNESCO school for ten years now, and with the WIN Themes THUAS has formulated as focal areas: world citizenship, internationalisation and networking university of applied sciences.

Christine de Lille demonstrated that these three WIN Themes are in line with the goals of a UNESCO school – international connectedness, tolerance and solidarity – and the key competencies the United Nations has linked to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In her presentation, she presented the goals as a brightly coloured palette with 17 fields. She then coloured in a number of fields with great projects from various degree programmes.

Prototypes

Quality education across the globe is one of the SDGs. In that context, the New Finance research group of the Faculty of Business, Finance & Marketing (BFM) is running an experimental project under the name of KOIOS. This offers an infrastructure for an open, accessible learning environment which can be used by students, teacher training programmes, businesses and governments worldwide. They can use this infrastructure to rapidly develop high-quality education.

Another example from the list. The young entrepreneur Boyan Slat gained global fame when he launched the Ocean Cleanup – an enormous ‘sweeping arm’ intended to remove plastic from the ocean. The enterprise is perfectly aligned to the goal of ‘clean water and sanitation’. In the test phase of the Ocean Cleanup, the Betafactory, the development centre within the Faculty Technology, Innovation & Society (TIS), built a number of its prototypes.

Connect

Christine de Lille: “We are already doing a lot at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, but we don’t talk to each other very much about what we are doing exactly. It’s good to share those stories with each other. And to select the SDGs that fit with our education. To seek the balance between the environment, economy and society with every choice. You find sustainability at the point where these three things intersect.”

As silent witnesses to our SDG involvement, the SDGs are displayed as blocks on the floor in the main hall of the university of applied sciences. That’s wonderful. Christine de Lille: “This doesn’t mean that we should see the various goals in our education as individual boxes. Globally, the problems are so big that we need to connect the blocks.”

Key words

She presented the key words that are required to reach a good approach to the SDGs one by one to a completely quiet auditorium. Transdisciplinary. “If we want to realise the SDGs in our education, we have to dare to look over boundaries.” Umbrella. “We have to bring together the things that fit together.” Perception. “When realising a goal, we have to be aware of how we see the world around us and how students do.” Activism. “As degree programmes we have to want to stand for something.” Context. “A large network makes it easier to find good partners.”

Challenge

Show all the things we are doing. Share those positive stories. In her story, Christine de Lille sketched the big picture. These were then illustrated by three colleagues who spoke passionately about their best practices. Katinka Bos, Civil Engineering lecturer, showed how first-year students have considered the question of how Scheveningen can become climate neutral. Paul de Regt, HRM lecturer, showed how this degree programme shares common ground with the SDGs.

The HBO-ICT degree programme can’t boast of great SDG achievements yet. But Peter Becker did announce the amazing things he and his colleagues have in store for the 550 first-year students next semester. He did that with a spectacular trailer calling on students to take up the challenge. To use personal creativity, knowledge and competencies to work towards a liveable world in 2030. The video is aimed mainly at IT students. At the end of the opening programme, they set the tone for a great new 2019-2020 academic year for all degree programmes.