‘Sustainable Development’ was introduced as one of the 2 transversal themes (besides ‘Digitalisation’) within the ASEM Education process and its 4 priority Areas during the ASEMME7 in Bucharest, Romania, to link the ASEM Education Process more explicitly to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In Bucharest, the Ministers underlined the importance of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals with a focus on SDG4 and agreed that the ASEM Education Process can contribute to realising the SDGs. Therefore, the Ministers confirmed their commitment to contribute to the implementation of the SDG4 in order to achieve inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Sustainable Development Goals in ISOM Jakarta, SOM1 Austria, ARC7 and ASEMME7
The ASEM Education Process (AEP) made increasingly reference to the Sustainable Development Agenda since 2018. During the Intermediate Senior Officials’ Meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia (2018) there was a wide agreement amongst the participants to link the initiatives of ASEM Education to the SDG4 and to contribute to the Global Sustainable Development Agenda. This view was confirmed, shortly before the ASEM12 Summit, by the ASEM Education Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM1, Krems, Austria, 2018) preparing the ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting in Bucharest during 2019. Participants highlighted the link to the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) under the theme “Pathways to recognition – A contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) from a Lifelong Learning Perspective”.
The Romanian host of ASEM ME7 emphasised the importance of this Agenda for the AEP by choosing the title “Connecting education: inclusion, mobility and excellence in support of the Sustainable Development Goals” for the Ministerial Meeting in Bucharest on 15 and 16 May 2019. In conjunction with the ASEM ME7 in Bucharest, the 7th ASEF Rectors’ Conference and Students’ Forum (ARC7) also focused on the link to the UN Sustainable Development Agenda during their sessions in ARC7 under the theme “Higher Education Taking Action towards Sustainable Development Goals: Perspectives from Asia and Europe” which resulted in concrete recommendations from students and rectors related to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Linking the thematic priorities and initiatives of the AEP to UN Sustainable Development Goals SDG’s doesn’t question the meaningfulness of the four priorities in the future, but rather brings the AEP closer to this global policy reference framework (2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development) signed by all UN member states (including all ASEM partner countries). By doing this, ASEM partners would contribute to implement the commitments agreed on by signing the UN 2030 Agenda.
Education in the Agenda 2030
Education is central to the realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Within the comprehensive 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, education is articulated as a stand-alone goal in SDG4 ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. SDG4 continues the ‘Education for All’ focus on quality basic education for all but broadens the agenda further to include the concern for equitable access to post-basic education (including tertiary education) and training for youth and adults through equitable access to appropriate learning opportunities. What is also new to SDG4 is the focus on the relevance of learning outcomes both for the world of work, as well as for citizenship in a global and interconnected world. There are however other goals in which there is a prominent role for education such as in SDG8 (‘Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all’), with a specific focus on disadvantaged people who are far from the labour market and far from opportunities for lifelong learning.
Education 2030 also provides a set of indicative strategies to support member states. Some of them are directly referring to qualifications and recognition of skills, qualifications and learning pathways and have therefore a direct link with the priority areas of the ASEM Education Process.