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A whole-community approach to education for sustainable development: the 13th Global RCE Conference

Fri 1st December 2023 - Blog Posts, Communities, News, RCE Network, Schools and early learning & childcare settings, Sustainable Development Goals, Young people

In November, Betsy King, Development Manager with LfS Scotland, travelled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to participate in the 17th meeting of the strategic Ubuntu Committee of Peers and the 13th Global RCE Conference. Betsy  is currently Regional Advisor to the RCE Community for the European network of RCEs.

Learning for Sustainability Scotland (LfS Scotland) is proud to be part of the global movement of more than 190 UN University recognised Regional Centres of Expertise (RCE) in Education for Sustainable Development ESD. Ten years ago, we were acknowledged by the UN University as an RCE working in partnership to harness the transformative potential of Learning for Sustainability in Scotland.

The previous 12th Global RCE Conference, hosted by LfS Scotland in November 2021, was the first to be held online and was based on the theme of Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Action through learning in a time of global crises’. One result of our experience of successfully connecting across the world during the global pandemic was the 2023 conference being offered in hybrid format, with participants joining some of the sessions from all across the world. It was, however, a privilege to join in person; both to share perspectives from Scotland and to learn from RCEs across the world.

The 13th Global RCE Conference was jointly hosted by RCE Greater Gombak and RCE Greater Kuala Lumpur under the theme ‘Whole Community Approach for ESD’ , and was held at the International Islamic University and the UCSI University in Kuala Lumpur.

Attending in person, it was inspiring to see first-hand their whole-community ‘Communiversity’ approach to embedding the UN Sustainable Development Goals in action.  Students are engaged in working with marginalised women and children and local communities to develop practical projects that ‘bring the heart back into education’. This approach, outlined by Prof. Emeritus Tan Sri Dato’ Dzulkifli Abdul Razak (Rector, International Islamic University Malaysia and Co-Chair, RCE Greater Gombak), embraces co-learning, collaborating, co-creating and co-existing where ‘the community and university come together to initiate transformation’. 

This approach also resonates with many of the ambitions of Scotland’s refreshed Learning for Sustainability Action Plan 2023-30, which was shared as part of the ‘Capacity Building for the Whole Community Approach’ panel discussion as well as in many conversations with delegates. There was also the chance to share thinking and learning on the Monitoring and Evaluating ESD in Higher Education partnership project that was led by LfS Scotland Chair, Rehema White, and to gather insights from others trying to address the challenges involved. This was one of the two LfS Scotland partnership projects that we were delighted to receive an ‘Outstanding Flagship ESD project’ award for in the closing ceremony, ‘honouring RCEs who have made outstanding contributions to address local sustainable development challenges in their regions’.

There is no doubt that Learning for Sustainability Scotland benefits greatly from  being part of this global community, connecting with others across the world that are working towards mainstreaming learning for sustainability and contributing to the UN SDGs through partnership working.