3.2 Improve your teaching practice: Human rights, social justice and climate action

As an educator one must find an approach that opens the way to education as learning actions that are better situated and more inclusive. This means that teaching and learning of real matters of concern can enable learners and their educators to engage local and indigenous knowledge and the sustainability and social justice challenges of the modern era in positive ways.  UNESCO has published their new social contract for re-imagining our futures together (UNESCO,2021). In this publication UNESCO outlines education in terms of a social contract – an implicit agreement among members of a society to cooperate for shared benefit. It continues to emphasise that a social contract is more than a transaction as it reflects norms, commitments and principles that are formally legislated as well as culturally embedded. The starting point is a shared vision of the public purposes of education to engage in sustainable matters of concerns (UNESCO, 2021).

In the past century, public education was essentially aimed at supporting national citizenship and development efforts through the form of compulsory schooling for children and youth. However, as grave risks to the future of humanity and our planet arise, UNESCO urges educators to reinvent education to help address these real-life challenges. The objective of the new social contract for education is to unite us around collective endeavours and provide the knowledge and innovation needed to shape sustainable and peaceful futures for all anchored in social, economic, and environmental justice. The new UNESCO social contract builds on the broad principles that underpin human rights – inclusion and equity, cooperation, and solidarity, as well as collective responsibility and interconnectedness (UNESCO, 2021).

”Two vital processes underpin education:

  • the acquisition of knowledge as part of the common heritage of humanity,
  • the collective creation of new knowledge and new possible futures.”

                                                                                                              (UNESCO 2021)

In order for us to address Human Rights, Social Justice and Climate Action in our teaching practices we need to consider how we taught in the past, how we are teaching now and what changes are needed for us to reimagine our futures. Here are some points to consider when reimagining teaching human rights, social justice and climate action.

  • Pedagogy needs to be expanded around an ethic of cooperation and solidarity.
  • Pedagogy must foster empathy and compassion in work together to transform ourselves and our world.
  • Learning develops through co-engaged relationships between teachers, students, and available knowledge.
  • Learning extends student relationships and an ethic of care and shared responsibility within a common world.
  • Pedagogy activates transformative learning encounters around realities that exist and can be built together.

Click here to access the activity. The activity aims to recognise the climate emergency as a human rights issue and to to begin to understand and explain that the climate emergency doesn’t affect all people equally.

Click here to access the activity. Activity 2 aims

  • To understand two key elements of climate justice: inequality and interconnectedness.
  • To think in greater detail about how the lifestyles of people in the world’s high-income countries, which emit the greatest amounts of carbon dioxide per capita, impact on people in the world’s low-income countries, which have lower carbon dioxide emissions.

Click here to access Activity 3. Critically thinking about evidence

1. To examine case studies of the climate emergency to identify how the rights of people are being affected
2. To review possible solutions to the climate emergency in each case and decide whether these are examples of adaptation or mitigation.

Click here to access A Climate Consequences wheel

The aims of the activity include:
1. To question how the climate emergency impacts different members of the same community.
2. To make inferences about how these differences are amplified and how they may be overcome.

Click here to access Activity 5 The Climate Game

The Climate Game aims
1. To appreciate the wide range of unequal impacts that people experience because of the climate emergency.
2. To draw conclusions about the complex inequalities inherent in the climate emergency and strengthen understanding of climate justice.