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The intersection of culture and education for sustainable development

The ACP-EU Culture Programme has just released the study “Shaping Futures, Arts, culture, and education as drivers of sustainable development” on Wednesday 14 February, to coincide with the UNESCO World Conference on Culture and Arts Education which took place in Abu Dhabi from 13-15 February 2024.

Commissioned by the Organization of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific States and the European Union, the study delves into the transformative potential of synergizing culture and education sectors to enhance sustainable development in ACP Countries and beyond. This analysis highlights untapped opportunities lying at the intersection of these vital areas.

Historically, education and culture were closely intertwined, often falling under the responsibility of the same ministry in many ACP countries in the post-independence era. Over time, they have drifted apart, with artistic education emerging as a necessary bridge between the two. Recognizing this historical legacy, contemporary political discourse now emphasizes the integration of both tangible and non-tangible heritage, alongside traditional knowledge, into education frameworks.

The shift towards educational approaches centered around Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Global Citizenship Education (GCED) underscores a move towards holistic instruction. These approaches prioritise shared values, critical thinking, and collaboration, aiming to equip learners with the necessary skills to tackle complex global challenges.

The study identifies five key global challenges – environmental sustainability, social cohesion, youth prosperity, knowledge, identity, and heritage, and future skills development – as focal points for integrated approaches.

Environmental Sustainability: Traditional educational models, often siloed, hinder progress in terms of environmental sustainability. Artistic education proposes a promising alternative while favoring emotional intelligence, empathy, and systemic thinking which are necessary to address environmental issues. By amplifying narratives from ACP personalities who had championed environmental causes, arts-based approaches can spur local actions.

Social Cohesion: Education infused with arts and culture nurtures intercultural dialogue, vital for fostering peaceful and cohesive societies. The empathy and critical thinking inherent in artistic practice are invaluable for navigating societal complexities. In addition, artistic education serves as a powerful tool to bridge inequalities and foster civic engagement, particularly among marginalized youth.

Youth Prosperity: Cultural and creative industries provide susbtantial employment and well-being prospects for youth. Through the integration of artistic practices into education, youth gain valuable skills for work and personal growth. Moreover, artistic education facilitates healing in post-conflict societies and addresses mental health challenges.

Knowledge, Identity, and Heritage: Cultural relevance in education is crucial for cultivating positive self-esteem and decreasing school dropouts. By emphasizing cultural heritage and traditional knowledge, educational initiatives foster identity development and historical understanding. Strengthening partnerships between education and heritage sectors is key to fully harnessing this potential.

Future Skills Development: In an ever-changing world, artistic education offers distinctive opportunities to cultivate adaptative skills and foster imaginative thinking. By incorporating digital skills into the cultural sphere, artistic education equips learners to navigate the challenges of a digital era while enhancing their appreciation of human creativity and expression.

Harnessing the synergies between culture and education, as well as other sectors, is of paramount importance in our time. As we approach the halfway mark in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda, it has become evident that progress thus far has been insufficient and fragile. This calls for breaking down barriers between different sectors to enable closer collaboration and produce more sustainable outcomes.


Download the study report


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