Written by Abigail Chifusa, Global Schools Project Officer
In the fast-paced, interconnected world of today, the importance of global education cannot be overstated.
In 2018, the Global Schools Program’s remarkable journey began when the initiative was launched at the IB World Conference in Vienna, Austria. It marked the birth of the Global Schools Program (GSP) - with a mission to support schools and educators in creating a more sustainable world. Founded under the umbrella of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), GSP has been on a mission to revolutionize education, equipping students with the knowledge, values, and skills needed to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.
As we celebrate its 5th anniversary, let's take a journey through GSP’s milestones in shaping a brighter future for all.
The vision of GSP
The Global Schools Program was founded in response to Target 4.7 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which calls for equipping all learners with the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development.
At its core, GSP strives to create a world where every primary and secondary school student becomes a champion for sustainability. It seeks to empower teachers, students, and schools to integrate sustainable development into their curricula, operations, and activities.
Milestones Across the Years
One of GSP’s flagship initiatives is the Global Schools Advocates Program. The Advocates Program provides teachers with the training, resources, and network of like-minded peers to help them transform their classrooms into hubs of sustainable development. The program focuses on creating a community of teachers and nurturing the leaders of tomorrow. In its inaugural year, GSP recruited and trained over 450 youth advocates from 80+ countries who tirelessly worked to promote ESD in their communities. Afterward, the Advocates program was launched for educators in 2021. Since the launch of the teacher Advocates Program, GSP has reached 21,900+ teachers via the trainer-of-trainers model, engaged 176,000+ students in 15,700+ ESD lessons and activities, and involved 71,900+ community members and parents in various ESD initiatives.
Other notable achievements within the Global Schools Program relate to its research endeavors. In the last years, the Program has excelled in developing unique resources to support educators worldwide. One of the most successful projects has been the launch of Lesson Plans. Available in more than 12 languages, the Lesson Plans provide educators with valuable resources to integrate ESD into their classrooms effectively. In addition, in 2022, to showcase the best practices of educators worldwide who have successfully incorporated Education for Sustainable Development in their lessons and activities, the Program introduced the first Case Study Guide. With the second edition of the Guide coming soon, this content project fosters a real-world understanding of sustainability challenges and solutions.
Finally, with the purpose of localizing ESD curriculum, Global Schools launched Pilot Programs that have paved the way for the full-scale implementation of ESD in various countries, refining the program's strategies and frameworks. Most recently, the launch of the toolkit, “From Commitment to Action: Integrating Sustainable Development into National Education Priorities” was developed in collaboration with experts like Dr. Felisa Tibbitts. This toolkit is a comprehensive guide for practitioners, policymakers, and researchers. It navigates the complex process of adapting or creating curriculum on sustainable development, tailored to each country's unique educational context.
The toolkit draws from real-world experiences in Ghana, Turkey, and Morocco. More than 60 researchers collaborated across four languages to carry out assessments of their national curriculum framework and textbooks, bringing together 80 in-country partners and stakeholders. The result is a powerful movement for sustainable development education across these pilot countries.
Teachers and school leaders worldwide have shared their experiences with the Global Schools Team over the years:
"It has been my life-long dream to help my community through education." - Advocate in Ghana.
"This is a beautiful opportunity, a chance for networks of youths globally to contribute their selfless effort in bettering the lot of humanity..." - Advocate in the Philippines.
“Students became more conscious and deliberate about not harming nature and it was beautiful to watch.” - Advocate in Nigeria
“The main impact I can see on students were… new skills and developing self-confidence.” - Advocates in Latvia
“School attendance increased due to new school-wide activities, motivation” and an “increase of parents’ involvement in educational matters.” - Advocate in Tanzania
“[We saw] an increase in individual student performance...the understanding of the importance of sustainability has been built in my school community, including parents.” - Turkey
In just five years, the Global Schools Program has made incredible strides in promoting education for sustainable development.
Looking Into The Future
As we reflect on the past five years of GSP’s incredible journey, we look to the future with optimism. With over 1,500+ schools, 1,400,000+ students, and 100,000+ teachers in its network, GSP strives to make a tangible impact. It recognizes that teachers are a crucial part of the educational ecosystem and is committed to supporting them with the resources, and training to become agents of change. We hope that GSP continues to inspire, educate, and empower the leaders of tomorrow, fostering a more sustainable and equitable world for all.
As we go forward, here is a message from GSP leadership:
Amanda Abrom, the Director of GSP says, “As the new Director of the Global Schools Program, I’m excited about the next five years and our journey of expanding horizons, nurturing potential, and illuminating a brighter future for students worldwide. Together, we’ll inspire a generation to thrive, learn, and lead as agents of change, creating a more sustainable future for all."
Kindong Eric Kinchi, Operations Lead for the Global Schools Program, says, “As we commemorate the 5th anniversary of the GSP, it’s inspiring to witness the profound impact it has had on education worldwide. Its unwavering commitment to fostering a brighter future through education continues to resonate, reminding us of the boundless potential within each student and the importance of our collective mission. A mission I am proud to be part of!”
Kendra Lee Heney, Education Lead for the Global Schools Program, says, “Working with the Global Schools Program, I have seen that education truly is the most powerful tool to change the world. I feel immensely proud of the global change that the Global Schools Team, our Advocates, and Alumni have been able to generate, reaching over 150,000 students! Together, hand in hand, we can make the world a better place."
Raquel Armendariz, Communications Lead for the Global Schools Program, says: “Being part of the Global Schools Program has been an incredible honor, from witnessing and being inspired by the stories of advocates to the outstanding accomplishments of every individual team member involved. As we gather to celebrate the 5th anniversary, let’s remind ourselves of the importance of our mission to transform the world. Here's to many more years!"
Happy 5th anniversary, GSP! Here's to many more years of transformative impact.