A record number of participants shared and deepened their knowledge about Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) at the 9th Annual National Conference of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) held in Omuta city, Fukuoka, Japan on 2 December 2017.
More than 900 participants from schools, boards of education, non-profit organizations, and private companies engaged in lively discussions and used the opportunity to share and learn good ESD practices as well as networking at the event organized by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO (JNCU).
Japan is the country that proposed the UN Decade of ESD (2005-2014) and MEXT and JNCU have been very actively promoting ESD, including through ASPnet schools. ESD is one of the UNESCO ASPnet’s strategic priorities, alongside Global Citizenship Education (GCED).Since 2005 the number of ASPnet schools in Japan has increased from 19 to over 1,000. The annual national conference is part of a range of activities to support ASPnet schools.
Participants hailed the event as a meaningful opportunity to deepen their understanding on ESD and the good practices shared through lectures, panel discussion, and workshops would be useful for future ESD activities.
A highlight was the presentation by Sabine Detzel, International ASPnet Coordinator of UNESCO where she spoke of the importance of teaching and learning to live together in the context of Education 2030 and of collaboration and school partnerships within the global network. Moreover, in the presentation from MEXT, it was explained how ESD will contribute to the achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The conference offered an opportunity for local participants to fully understand the global context and their role as part of the ASP network. ESD not only helps tackle local issues, but in doing so, it also contributes to achieve all the SDGs and create a sustainable society.
Another important feature of this year’s conference was the elementary and junior high school open classes’ exercise, organized by Omuta City Board of Education. This gave conference participants a vital chance to observe actual classroom ESD activities.
Omuta city is a leading ESD promoter in Japan using a whole-city approach, and all of its public elementary schools and junior high schools in Omuta city are ASPnet members. Their activities vary from learning about their cities and world heritage, to collaborating with local community to raise funds to improve the city environment or learning how pupils/students can improve the lives of elderly people in an aging society.
One of the schools participating in the open class exercise, Yoshino elementary school in Omuta city, was awarded a Japan ESD Award 2017 for their “Sakura (Cherry blossom) Project”, which aims to improve the town with cherry blossom trees. Pupils collaborated with local people to raise funds to create a better environment in the city with cherry blossom trees, the most popular flower of Japan. This project strengthens pupils’ motivation as active citizens, feeling that their ideas are appreciated and realized.