• Radhika Iyengar

Reimagining Education for SDG 4.7 and Sustainable Future

Anant Bhaskar Garg and Manisha Agarwal

Director, HaritaDhara Research Development and Education Foundation(HRDEF)


As per data from various studies, quality, climate education, and 21stcentury skills are ignored in mainstream education. To bridge this gap, HRDEF provide quality skillful education, problem solving, creativity, communication, design and computing. Building capacity for citizenship, Climate Action, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) among school students and youth so that they are able to tackle future challenges.

HRDEF is using games, project, and hands-on approach for interactive learning. HRDEF conduct teachers, student’s development programs for capacity building on ICT, SDGs, climate change, disasters, STEAM, andwork towards Sustainability, Green Swachh, (Hindi word for Clean) and Sustainable Campus/Living in government schools.

Students, youth of our after-school GOAL program become motivated, equipped with self-confidence to excel in life and creating sustainable future. As systemic changes required continuous working and time for visible performance. Change, transformation will come through working gradually taking a step-by-step approach.


Climate Action, Education for Sustainable Development, Quality Education, Hands-on, Game, Project Based Learning

1 Introduction

Beginning with 21stcentury the United Nations (UN) started Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) (2005-2014) that highlighted vibrant role of education towards sustainable development for saving our planet as world witnessed extreme events due to climate change. Further, the UN adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015 to advocates for SDG 4 that provide inclusive, equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all to build sustainable, inclusive and resilient societies. SDG 4.7 targets that by 2030 all learners acquire the knowledge, skills needed to promote sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, peace, non-violence, global citizenship, and cultural diversity (UN, SDSN Reports).

Through education we transfer knowledge, values, and skills across generation to facilitate societies to build the foundation for sustainable future. But many barriers to education access, outcomes, and monitoring of progress are main challenges that need to be addressed for achieving SDG 4.7. The global climate educationand the concept of ESD are unable to provide radical transformation of education systems needed to guard against climate change. Five roadblocks identified in a Brookings report needed to resolve in a time of climate change (Kwauk, 2020). India’s Philosophy of ‘One World’, Global Partnership, and culture of support is known for centuries. Uniting all stakeholders for their role in shaping the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs on three pillars of economy, social, environment with culture based on the principles of equality and humanity was very important for the global society.

2 Why need Transformative Learning for ESD, Climate Change Education

As per UNICEF study, 50 % of Indian Students don't have 21st Century Skills required for Jobs and around 15 Crore school students lack job skills by 2030 published in 2019. ​21st century skills such as critical thinking, inquiry based learning, collaboration, communication, and SDGs, sustainability, and hands-on learning are missing in school educational institutions. School education system require maker spaces, DIY (Do it yourself), smartphone, tablets, relevant software, and computers for successfully implementing STEAM education.Yale University research on climate change communications pointed out that 65% of the Indian population is not aware of climate change published in 2016. Thus, everyone urgently needs to include climate change and ESD in a radical way to address future challenges.

3 Experiential, Embodied Learning for Sustainable Development

How do we learn? As a child we learn by exploring, by touching things, moving things and taking things apart. This is really an experiential way of learning i.e. learning by doing. But in school’s classroom, we sit down quietly, without moving, talking or playing. Making as a construction, DIY process provides various insights, knowledge about our surroundings, and actively participate in enjoying transformative learning. Playing games, making provide an entertaining, fulfilling experience of doing, creating new things, have many advantages for students, as it makes the player, a decision-maker, facts investigator, evaluating strategy, prioritizing their actions and abilities.

Integrated, hands-on, project, game-based learning that incorporates technology is crucial for the 21stCentury Skills. MAKER (Manufacturer, Author, Knowledge analyst, Exhibitor, Recycler), Project, Game-based learning provides a new emerging ways to understand difficult concepts and further it provides opportunities for students, learners to experience the phenomena. Therefore, it promotes interactive, experiential learning that helps the learner to develop curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving that are essential for the 21stCentury skills. Thus, learning a concept, its understanding, and practice involve different steps such as exploration, curiosity, asking the question, discussion, create, design thinking, making model, games, role play, drama, story, and present (Scott, 2015). Students of our GyanDhara Opportunities for All with Learning (GOAL) worked, developed a miniature, presentations, played board games, card games for embodied, immersive learning related to climate change, and sustainability concepts as given below in the case study. Figure 1 describes experiential learning for biodiversity concepts in the field.

4 Quality Skillful Education: Games for SDGs, Sustainability

Games require players to think systemically and consider relationships instead of isolated events or facts for sustainability and sustainable development (Stommen et. al., 2016). Some games are externally designed while we designed games keeping in mind Human Work Interaction Design approach through studying work settings and embedding screenplays, rules for better understanding (Clemmensen et.al., 2005), (Campos et. al., 2009). Games need not be restricted to educating schools or colleges, but on learning new things, maybe cooking virtually, learning yoga, explaining and teaching complex problems such as climate change, and sustainable development (Katsaliaki et. al., 2012). In figure 2 students playing an energy board game to understand concepts such as electricity conservation, renewable energy.

The educational game is a form of social interaction, as learners tries to map out situations that will encourage solving compelling problems. For example, to learn about climate change and sustainability problems, learners team-up for gathering and discussing information in a project way (Garg et. al, 2017). Such games foster effective learning habits to change our lifestyle for sustainable living as described in fireworks example later on.

5 Transformation of Education to create "Sustainable Consciousness"

We need more focus on skill development, innovation, decision-making, and problem-solving through establishing Centre of Excellence with focus on 21stcentury skills. With the advent of sustainable consciousness, our GOAL program youth decided to reduce pollution during Diwali celebration, thus some children haven’t burn any crackers to save the environment and others burned 60 to 70% less firework as per previous years based on student and parents stories. Further, they saved Rs. 200 to Rs. 600 that made them very happy. Some senior students decided to devote time for providing quality education to poor students. Now, same students dream is to become a doctor, IAS, IPS, Judge, dancer, cricketer, banker, lawyer, army officer, and teacher (maximum girls dream) rather than focusing on their social background as most of them come from low income group.

Thus, we are doing capacity development programs for 21stcentury skills, STEAM, and Sustainability through:

– Teacher development programs designed to develop and teach students for SDGs, climate change, and 21stcentury skills

– Focusing on employability, skill development and entrepreneurship with industry orientation and linkages

– Learning science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics (STEAM) linking with SDGs with hands-on, game and problem-based approach

– Establishing learning centers with the community to imbibe responsibility, accountability, global citizenship, gender equality, values

Therefore, ESD is crucial for the SDGs awareness and success for all. Education in school and higher education institution (HEI) play key role as prevalent in our golden time, e.g., Nalanda, Takshila Universities in India. Schools (Ashrams), universities happen to be not only seat of learning but also providers of solutions to humanity’s problems; however, modern schools, universities are not very well connected with their local communities and the environment.

6 Conclusion

Using games to teach a specific curriculum topic related to sustainability such as climate change, water cycle, energy, biodiversity, associated concepts such as light, plant identification, disaster management, and renewable energy increased players' motivation towards science and sustainability. Besides this, learners showed interest in English, personality development, and improved their leadership skills.

Games and makerspaces can motivate students to turn to textbooks with the intention of understanding rather than memorizing. Learning occurs not just in the gameplay but other kinds of making activities, encourage collaboration among participants, thus provide a context for peer-to-peer teaching and for the emergence of communities of Learners. It will go a long way in nurturing a spirit of inquiry, fostering creativity, and developing a culture of innovation among students; equipping them with skills and competence to create an equitable and sustainable future.


Campos P., Campos A. (2009), An Educational Game Created through a Human-Work Interaction Design Approach. In: Gross T. et al. (eds) Human-Computer Interaction, INTERACT 2009. Vol 5726. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

Clemmensen, T., Orngreen, R. & Pejtersen, A. M. (2005). Describing Users in Contexts: Perspectives on Human-Work Interaction Design. Workshop Proceedings of Interact’05

Garg, A. B. & Agarwal, M. (2017). Educational Games for Learning Sustainability Concepts, INTERACT Workshop Human Work Interaction Design meets International Development, pg. 290-297

Katsaliaki, K. & Mustafee, N. (2012). A survey of serious games on sustainable development, Proceedings of IEEE Winter Simulation Conference

Kwauk, C. (2020). Roadblocks to quality education in a time of climate change, Centre for Universal Education, Brookings Institution

Scott, C. L. (2015). The Futures of Learning 2: What kind of learning for the 21st century? UNESCO Education Research and Foresight, Paris. [ERF Working Papers Series, No. 14]

Singer, N., Farahaty, E., Mahmoud, E. S. (2020). Motives of the Egyptian Education Future for Sustainable Development: A Comparative Analysis Between 2020 and 2030, Humanities & Social Sciences Reviews, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3585908

Stommen, S.M. & Farley, K. (2016). Games for Grownups: The Role of Gamification in Climate Change and Sustainability, Indicia Consulting LLC





About Authors

Anant Bhaskar Garg, Director, HRDEF, Engineer and Educator with 23 years of exp. in various capacities in academia, industries. Published two books, 53 papers in Intl. Journals, Seminars, 2 chapters in Springer’s book, Invited Speaker at 98th ISC, member of Prof. Societies IEI, ACM, CSI, ISCA, IETE, ISTE. Senior Member 2011 of ACM, USA. Climate Reality Leader, #MentorofChange, AIM, NITI Aayog, MIEE. Organized various seminars, faculty, and student development prog. Learned best practices on education, environment through visiting Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, USA, involved in community services for computer, and sustainability.

Manisha Agarwal, Director, HRDEF, Educator having done M. Sc. (Botany), PhD (Forest Botany) Forest Research Institute University. MBA in Education Management. Sixteen years of research experience in the field of Botany, Wood Anatomy, medicinal plants, papers in international, national journals, member of Indian Botanical Society, ISCA, Climate Reality Leader, Society of Wood Science and Technology, USA – 2013-14, Involved in environment education, climate action, STEAM teaching, raising awareness and skills development

HRDEF established as non-profit social enterprise and in Special Consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 2018. HRDEF established afterschool program, conducting workshops, and training on climate change, Sustainable Development Goals, and STEAM. HRDEF worked with school students, youth to develop their learning capacities for 21st Century Skills through game, project based interactive learning. Provide makerspace, hands-on experiments for school children to understand concepts, Climate Change, SDGs and Sustainability.


Sustainability now or never

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