60 Million Teachers and their Students Can Change the World for the Better

Mareike Hachemer

In 2015 the United Nations published the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. They defined aims like fighting poverty and hunger, providing good health care and quality education for all and achieving gender equality worldwide. Other goals included clean water and affordable, clean energy, decent work and economic growth, progressive innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable communities as well as responsible consumption and production. Deep inside we probably all know that if we do not actively work on these goals, the environment will be even more polluted, many animals will become extinct, living conditions will spiral downward, and the number of conflicts around the world will increase.

It goes without saying that to reach these goals we need to pay more attention to human rights, empathy, creativity, intercultural understanding, problem-solving skills, critical thinking and media-literacy as well as active participation in building and maintaining democratic societies and a sustainable environment. We are 60 million teachers in the world and we have 1.2 billion students – more than one sixth of the world population and student numbers are growing. Considering that on average, our learners spend a total of about 7,000 hours at school and we spend this time mostly with tasks that have no real-life purpose, we teach our children not to care, not to be active and not to attempt to have an impact. But this can be changed: teachers and students can certainly take on a key role in achieving the Global Goals.

Hours in School

Is it naïve to think we can change the world? No. What is naïve is not to initiate change but to think it is possible to achieve improvement without doing anything.

The aim of Global Goal Education is to show our students that their actions matter. The teacher task force @TeachSDGs supports teachers in incorporating the Global Goals in their classroom work and connects teachers and policy makers to initiate systemic change. The World’s Largest Lesson for example, is an initiative that tries to introduce the Global Goals to classrooms with lots of useful materials for teachers on their website. By using such materials, our students will get to see that they have plenty of possibilities to experience that social activities are appreciated. They will want to help shape a world in which the actions of social activists and social entrepreneurs are valued. Using education to strengthen social participation as well as academic skills, creativity, critical thinking and democratic competence will help prepare our students for a quickly changing future with unpredictable expectations in the professional and private world.

In a world which is likely going to be dominated by Artificial Intelligence replacing many of the jobs we currently prepare our students for, we need human beings to be particularly humane: creative, socially-minded, active, cooperative, and dedicated to good actions concerning the environment, too. While the 20th century was mostly about preparing to be accepted for a job, the 21st century is likely to require the skills to create a job and combine entrepreneurship with active citizenship. Luckily, many teachers already connect their work in the classroom to the world outside. For example, Moroccan students work on projects that help raise awareness of over-fishing in their community. In other places, students help provide educational videos for students living in less privileged countries. Yet elsewhere teachers and students cultivate urban gardens in their poor communities and bring home fresh fruits and vegetables for their families.

Establishing the Global Goals at your School

Do you suspect that you will not be able to accomplish this at your school?

Here is a six-step plan of what we can do even in the most restrictive learning environments.
Click on each tab to read more… 

Education is innovation. And although over the last years we have seen numerous educational reforms and movements, what most of them have in common is the intent to fix a system that is itself causing most of the flaws that it tries to eliminate. If we constantly make our students compete against each other for better grades, assess their competence by standardized tests, value all competences higher than social competence and if we do not show interest in their needs and purpose in life, then we make life difficult for our students. And then we are shocked to see the statistics on bullying and school violence? It is ironic that we invest an enormous effort into the prevention and treatment of bullying in order to fix what we (and the media) have taught the students.

If we teach towards the Global Goals instead, it will be obvious that we need every student to contribute the best they can and support their individual strengths and their progress rather than measure their “talent” or shortcomings. We will automatically focus on a growth mind-set. It will also be obvious that we can’t afford to leave any child behind, because our goal, the common good, is far too precious to exclude anyone. We will naturally work with our students’ interests. We will have a chance to praise them for relevant achievements. We will make them proud of supporting others and their world.

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About the Author

Mareike Hachemer
Mareike Hachemer
High School Teacher and UNESCO Delegate

Mareike Hachemer is a high school teacher for German, English and Drama at a secondary school in Wiesbaden, Germany and a delegate of the International Department at the Ministry of Education in Hesse, Germany. It is her mission to empower teachers and encourage them to connect learning to activities that help achieve the Global Goals. She is a UNESCO delegate for the role of teachers in Peace and Sustainable Development, a member of TeachSDGs and the Pestalozzi Programme, the Council of Europe’s programme for the professional development of teachers and education actors. Her ideas are published in articles and public speeches such as “Teaching – The Most Important Profession in the World”, given at TEDxHeidelberg. In 2015 she was chosen as a finalist for the Global Teacher Prize and has since been working on Education for Global Citizenship with distinguished international educators and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.



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