Integrating SDGs into International School Curriculum and Daily Operations

by Grace Hu

Make a Step Towards a Sustainable Future by Integrating SDGs into Your International School’s Curriculum and Daily Operations.

In an increasingly interconnected world, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) serve as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure peace and prosperity for all. For international schools, integrating these goals into both curriculum and daily operations presents a unique opportunity to cultivate global citizens who are equipped to tackle the challenges of the future.

Why SDGs are a Great Tool for International Schools:

The SDGs provide a comprehensive framework that enhances global citizenship, promotes interdisciplinary learning, aligns with international education standards, and prepares students for future challenges. Here are some reasons why SDGs are particularly beneficial for international schools:

  1. Enhancing Global Citizenship: International schools are uniquely positioned to foster a sense of global citizenship among their students. The SDGs cover critical global issues, such as climate change, poverty, and inequality, which can help students understand and appreciate their roles as global citizens. By integrating SDGs, students gain awareness of the world beyond their immediate surroundings and learn the importance of contributing to global solutions.
  2. Promoting Interdisciplinary Learning: The SDGs encourage a holistic approach to education. They require the application of knowledge and skills from various disciplines, promoting interdisciplinary learning. This approach not only broadens students’ understanding but also enhances critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  3. Aligning with International Education Standards: The SDGs align well with many international education standards and frameworks, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the Cambridge curriculum. Integrating SDGs can enhance curriculum relevance and ensure that schools meet international benchmarks for quality education.
  4. Preparing Students for Future Challenges: Today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders, facing complex global challenges. The SDGs provide a roadmap for sustainable development, preparing students to think critically about issues like environmental sustainability, social justice, and economic development. This preparation is crucial for equipping students with the knowledge and skills needed for the future workforce.

Pathways to Integrate SDGs into the Curriculum

  1. Curriculum Mapping: Begin by identifying where SDGs naturally fit into existing subjects. For instance, SDG 13 (Climate Action) can be integrated into science classes, while SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) can be discussed in social studies.
  2. Project-Based Learning: Encourage students to engage in projects that address specific SDGs. For example, a project on clean water (SDG 6) could involve testing local water sources and proposing solutions.
  3. Interdisciplinary Approach: Foster connections between different subjects through the lens of SDGs. A unit on sustainable cities (SDG 11) could combine geography, economics, and art.
  4. Service Learning: Promote community service projects that align with SDGs. Students could participate in local initiatives, such as tree planting or recycling programs, to support SDG 15 (Life on Land).
  5. Extracurricular Activities: Develop clubs and organisations focused on SDGs. For instance, a sustainability club could focus on reducing the school’s carbon footprint (SDG 13).

Incorporating SDGs into Daily Operations

  1. Sustainable School Practices: Implement eco-friendly practices within the school, such as reducing energy consumption, minimising waste, and promoting recycling (SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production).
  2. Inclusive Policies: Ensure school policies promote equity and inclusion, supporting SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities).
  3. Professional Development: Offer training for teachers on how to integrate SDGs into their teaching. This empowers educators to confidently incorporate sustainability into their lessons.
  4. Student Leadership: Empower students to lead sustainability initiatives. Establish student committees or councils to oversee sustainability projects and engage peers in meaningful activities.
  5. Partnerships: Collaborate with local and global organisations to support SDG initiatives. Partnerships with NGOs, businesses, and community groups can enhance the impact of school projects.

Resources and Tools

  1. Online Platforms and Databases: Utilise websites and databases such as the United Nations’ SDG resources, the Global Goals Educator Taskforce, and TeachSDGs for comprehensive educational materials.
  2. Lesson Plans and Teaching Materials: Access ready-to-use lesson plans and activities from organisations like UNESCO, WWF, and the World’s Largest Lesson.
  3. Professional Networks and Communities: Join organiszations and forums such as the International Baccalaureate Organiszation, Eco-Schools, and the Global Schools Program to exchange ideas and best practices.

Examples of Successful Integration

  1. Case 1: A prominent international school successfully integrates SDGs by aligning their entire curriculum with the goals, resulting in enhanced student engagement and improved learning outcomes.
  2. Case 2: An innovative project-based learning example where students address SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) by designing and implementing a solar power solution for the school.
  3. Case 3: A school’s operational changes to support sustainability, such as installing rainwater harvesting systems and implementing a zero-waste policy, aligning with SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation).

Here comes some good practices I want to share:

1: The International School of Brussels (ISB)

Integration of SDGs in Curriculum: ISB has embedded the SDGs into its curriculum across various subjects. For instance, in their humanities courses, students explore topics such as social justice and environmental sustainability. In science classes, they study climate change and renewable energy solutions. These interdisciplinary approaches help students understand the interconnectedness of global issues.

Project-Based Learning: ISB promotes project-based learning where students work on real-world problems related to the SDGs. One notable project involved students collaborating with local NGOs to develop sustainable solutions for urban farming, addressing SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and SDG 2 (Zero Hunger).

2: United World Colleges (UWC)

Holistic Education: UWC schools globally integrate SDGs into their holistic education model. They focus on experiential learning, where students engage in community service and environmental stewardship. For example, at UWC Atlantic College in Wales, students participate in environmental conservation projects, such as reforesting local areas and maintaining biodiversity, aligning with SDG 15 (Life on Land).

Student-Led Initiatives: UWC encourages student leadership in sustainability initiatives. Students have initiated waste reduction campaigns, installed solar panels on campus buildings, and organiszed awareness events on climate change, supporting SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG 13 (Climate Action).

3: Green School Bali

Sustainability-Focused Curriculum: Green School Bali has developed a unique curriculum centered around sustainability. Students learn through hands-on experiences in their bamboo-structured campus, which serves as a living laboratory for sustainable practices. The curriculum includes organic farming, renewable energy, and water conservation projects.

Community Engagement: The school actively involves the local community in its sustainability efforts. Students collaborate with local farmers, participate in reforestation projects, and engage in cultural exchanges to promote sustainable living practices, addressing SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).

4: The American School of Lima (Colegio Roosevelt)

Sustainable Campus Initiatives: Colegio Roosevelt has made significant strides in integrating sustainability into its daily operations. They have implemented a comprehensive recycling program, reduced plastic usage, and installed energy-efficient lighting throughout the campus. These efforts align with SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production).

Curricular Integration: The school has integrated sustainability themes into various subjects. For instance, their science curriculum includes units on renewable energy and ecosystems, while their social studies curriculum covers global citizenship and social justice issues. This multidisciplinary approach helps students connect classroom learning with real-world applications.

Integrating SDGs into the curriculum and daily operations of international schools is not just a visionary goal but an actionable pathway to nurturing responsible global citizens. By addressing the time constraints through effective governance and seeking professional support, schools can bridge the gap between aspiration and implementation.

While I am not an expert in education, my aim with this article is to raise awareness, share best practices, and spark a conversation around the integration of SDGs in international schools. I believe there are many educators with wonderful ideas who need the right support to take action. Together, we can create a sustainable future for the next generation.

Reach out to us at LYIS for support in integrating SDGs into your school’s curriculum and operations. Let’s take the first step towards a more sustainable and equitable world.

In unity for a sustainable future!

Grace Hu is the Global Head of International School Sustainability at Leading Your International School.

Book a free 30-minute consultancy call with Grace and get your International School’s sustainability strategy started.

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