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Empowering Future Teachers: Harnessing Cultural Heritage and Education for Sustainable Development

By Edwin A. Quiñosa, Jr., Global Schools Advocate from the Philippines

“Cultural heritage acts as a bridge between our past and our future by connecting us to our roots, preserving our collective memory, and providing a foundation for the development and evolution of our society.”

I recently had the privilege of speaking at the Philippine Normal University (PNU), Philippines’ National Center for Teacher Education, as a Global Schools Program (GSP) Advocate. The event focused on the role of cultural heritage in sustainable development and aimed to engage pre-service teachers - undergraduate students who are in the process of preparing to become licensed educators- in this important topic. During my talk, I highlighted the significance of heritage and culture in achieving sustainable development and shared my experiences as a Global Schools Advocate while providing guidance on how these aspiring teachers can contribute to the attainment of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while discussing strategies to overcome challenges in integrating Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in the classroom.

For me, it’s important to emphasize the crucial role of ESD in education, explaining how it promotes a holistic approach encompassing knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes necessary for a sustainable future. What’s more, as a passionate defender of the value of heritage and culture as catalysts for sustainable development, I was honored to draw attention to the importance of integrating them into our educational frameworks. After participating in this incredible experience, I’m thrilled to be sharing more with you all in this blog.

The Importance of Promoting Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development

Cultural heritage and sustainable development are closely linked with each other, as protecting this heritage is crucial for taking care of the environment and ensuring long-term sustainability. This connection arises from how cultural heritage and the environment are intertwined through the use and management of natural resources.

Additionally, the benefits of this relation also contribute to nurturing a sense of belonging and identity, strengthening the bond between individuals, communities, and their surroundings. When people are connected to their cultural heritage, they're more likely to adopt sustainable actions and work together to safeguard their environment.

As an example, in my home country, the Philippines, which has rich and diverse customs, many cultural practices and traditions have deep roots in the understanding of the environment and its resources. Many of our Indigenous communities, for instance, have developed sustainable methods that emphasize living in harmony with nature. These methods have played a role in safeguarding ecosystems, and biodiversity for centuries.

Unfortunately, many Filipinos are not fully aware of the importance of our history and heritage because they're more focused on meeting their daily needs and obligations. Hence, if we want to address poverty (Goal 1) ,ensuring food security (Goal 2), and resolve many other problems, it’s mandatory that we take into consideration safeguarding and promoting cultural heritage and, definitely, promoting sustainable development and the Goals of the 2030 Agenda.

Taking Action: Guiding Pre-Service Teachers on Integrating ESD in the Classroom

To provide practical guidance on promoting cultural heritage and sustainability, I want to use an example of how I advised pre-service teachers on effectively integrating the SDGs into their future classrooms.

Firstly, based on my experience, it’s important to create inclusive and participatory learning environments using interactive teaching methods to make the learning experience more meaningful and relevant for students. Thus, as educators advocating for sustainable development, I encouraged them to carefully consider how they teach their lessons and find ways to include ideas about sustainability in what they teach, including concepts, skills, and values, among others.

sample integration activity I shared with the pre-service teachers during my presentation

I also addressed the challenges faced in integrating ESD within the Philippine education system, discussing resource constraints, inadequate teacher training, and the need for comprehensive policy support. In fact, one of the biggest challenges is that the country’s curriculum is already densely packed with essential subjects, leaving little room for the inclusion of new concepts such as sustainable development. The struggle to balance the integration of ESD without compromising foundational knowledge and skills can be arduous, and without a clear roadmap for curriculum adaptation, educators often find it challenging to seamlessly weave sustainability principles into subjects like science, history, and even mathematics.

To overcome these challenges, I proposed a multi-faceted approach, including continuous professional development for teachers, integrating ESD into the curriculum, fostering partnerships with local communities, and leveraging technology for enhanced learning experiences.

Lastly, I stressed the importance of creating a supportive network of educators and organizations like the Global Schools Program to share best practices and collaborate on initiatives promoting sustainable development. Furthermore, it is especially important to create supportive communities within the local and national context, as this way, we can all unite to protect and defend our cultural heritage through our sustainable values.

Concluding Thoughts

Speaking at the Philippine Normal University was a great honor, and I believe that the knowledge shared with these future teachers will empower them to create classrooms that drive meaningful social change.

Likewise, I acknowledge that the initiative of promoting cultural heritage to foster sustainability may vary from country to country, but I hope that my words and my actions can inspire educators worldwide.

As a Global Schools Advocate, I hope that we never get tired of working together and inspiring others towards creating a brighter and more sustainable future for generations to come.

Padayon para sa Napapanatiling Kaunlaran!