Education for sustainable development: A study in adolescent perception changes towards sustainability following a strategic planning-based intervention-the young persons' plan for the planet program
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© 2019 by the authors. In 2016, the United Nations (UN) launched the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for sustainable development and a sustainable future. However, the global challenge has been to engage, connect, and empower communities, particularly young people, to both understand and deliver the 17 SDGs. In this study, we show the benefit of a strategic planning-based experiential learning tool, the Young Persons' Plan for the Planet (YPPP) Program, to improve the underlying competencies of Australian and Mauritian adolescents in increasing understanding and delivering the SDGs. The study was conducted with 300 middle to senior high school students, in 25 schools throughout Australia and Mauritius, over an 18-month period. The intervention included the development of research, strategic planning, management, STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, Maths) and global competency skills in the students, to enable them to build and deliver regional and national SDG plans. Research methods included pre- and post-intervention testing of the attitudes of these students to sustainable development outcomes and compared these attitudes to subsets of scientists and the Australian national population. Our results, from both qualitative and quantitative evidence, demonstrate significant improvements in these adolescents' appreciation of, and attitudes towards, the SDGs and sustainable outcomes, across a range of key parameters. The results from the 76 students who attended the International Conference in Mauritius in December 2018 demonstrate significant improvements in mean levels of understanding, and attitudes of the students towards the SDGs awareness (+85%), understanding/engagement (+75%), motivation (+57%), and action orientation/empowerment (+66%). These changes were tested across a range of socio-demographic, geographic, and cultural parameters, with consistent results. These findings have significant implications for the challenge of sustainable education and achieving community engagement and action towards the SDGs in Australia and Mauritius, particularly for young people. As the intervention can be replicated and scaled, the findings also highlight the opportunity to extend both the research and this type of experiential learning intervention across both broader geographies and other generation and community segments.
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