Why we need to work with, and for, young people for the SDGs to succeed

On Friday 30 November 2018, thousands of school children in 30 cities and towns in Australia skipped school to protest about the Australian Government’s inadequate climate policies. In this blog Tara Walsh, Senior Learning Designer at MakeMatic, explains why young people hold the key to SDG success

Inspired by 15 year old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg who has undertaken similar protests every Friday demanding leaders do more about climate change, young people across Australia took to the streets to try and get their government to do more.

Parents and environmental groups supported the young people in their quest to make the government do something meaningful. Though no one would encourage missing school, the actions of this group of young people is a reason for hope for all of us.

Youth today

There are 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 – 24 today, making this age group approximately 25% of the global population. They are the largest generation of youth in history. And by 2030 they will number about 1.9 billion.

Given the number of young people in the world today, by engaging and supporting them, we have an opportunity to create action on the SDGs that is currently untapped. More, we have a duty to do so, as they are the most likely to experience the consequences of our inaction. 

Engagement and education around the SDGs now will equip young people to help drive success toward the SDGs today, and or the world post-2030, embedding skills that will benefit them in the world they inherit.

Developing 21st century skills

The Goals can be a powerful tool that young people can use to fight for the future they want. And, education needs to help them develop the right skills to do so.

Young people today are more socially aware and connected than any of the previous generations. They are natural creative thinkers who, if given the right tools and support, can come up with ways to make the world a better place.

Harnessing and developing their critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills is essential if they are going to be the agents of change.

How education is a tool for action

The education sector needs to promote a “whole school” approach to integrating the SDGs into the curriculum. The actions schools and communities are already doing can harness the SDG framework to promote and encourage further engagement.

The Goals can be integrated into all areas of school life, from pastoral care to school events. Engaging youth in personalised project-based learning activities that explore them is where we should start.

We don’t even need to look that far to see examples in action. The Republic of Ireland are paving the way by introducing SDGs into the curriculum, and are seen as a leader in involving young people in national SDG processes and decision-making opportunities.

Schools, with the support of parents, can help young people to act and to be agents of change. We need to show young people what’s possible, as well as what action looks like so this can be meaningful.

Everyone should have the chance for the future envisaged by the SDGs. It is by working together to the deliver the goals in schools, in our communities and in our homes that we can address some of the biggest challenges of our time. And we should start with young people.

Tara Walsh is Senior Learning Designer at Makematic.