Goal 4: Promote knowledge and skills for sustainable development
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Why this goal is important
Education is a primary driver of progress across all 17 SDGs. This Goal's focus on training and skills development as well as research and development related to sustainable development supports SDG Global Indicator Framework targets:
- 4.4: By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship
- 4.7: By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles
Education supports social and economic mobility and enables paths out of poverty. It helps to reduce inequalities and is crucial to fostering tolerance and more peaceful societies. Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for Canadians of all ages are essential for Canada's economic and social prosperity, and for the well-being of all Canadians. This includes striving for high education attainment rates, quality early childhood development, and high levels of literacy to support developing the relevant skills for employment including well-paying jobs in the clean technology sector and participating in the clean economy.
Knowledge and education are also critical to increasing climate literacy and supporting climate action. Accordingly, climate change education is recognized as a priority in the Paris Agreement and the SDGs. Preliminary research by Environment and Climate Change Canada indicates Canadians' knowledge and awareness of climate change, environmental and nature conservation topics is increasing; as is the perception that individual actions have a positive impact on environmental change; and actions to help fight climate change, conserve nature and achieve a cleaner and safer environment are possible.
At the same time, a study on climate change curricula in Canadian secondary schools found that learning objectives tend to focus on climate change mechanisms, increases in temperature, and human impacts on climate change, with less focus on scientific consensus, the negative impacts of climate change, and potential solutions to its related problems. Meanwhile, the Canada Climate Change and Education report, released in 2019 by Learning for a Sustainable Future, showed that while the majority of Canadians are concerned about climate change, 86% indicated that they need more information.
Achieving sustainable development requires action across Canadian society. Schools, universities and other educational institutions are contributing to these efforts by taking action for sustainable development. A Canada-wide census by the Sustainability and Education Policy Network in 2019 showed that 43% of school divisions had participated in a sustainability certification program, and 25% had sustainability staff. Further, in a 2018 survey undertaken for Canada's 6th National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity, 10 out of 10 participating provinces and territories reported that biodiversity had been incorporated into elementary and secondary school curricula. The report also underscores the importance of Indigenous Knowledge in contributing to the effectiveness of Canada's various biodiversity initiatives, providing information regarding the sustainable use of plants and animals, as well as the relationships and current stresses in ecosystems.
How the Government of Canada contributes
While provinces and territories are responsible for organizing, delivering and assessing all levels of education, the Government of Canada supports quality education and lifelong learning and recognizes the external benefits of a well-educated population to the prosperity and well-being of all Canadians. In addition, the Government of Canada supports elementary and secondary education for First Nation students ordinarily resident on reserves. The Federal Government is continuing to work with First Nations partners to address the needs of First Nations students being educated on reserves.
The Government of Canada is working with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners to build a Canada-wide, community-based Early Learning and Child Care system so that all families have access to high-quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive early learning and child care. This includes an investment of more than $27 billion over five years as part of Budget 2021. Combined with other investments, including in Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care, up to $30 billion over five years will be provided to assist early learning and child care.
Taking into account previous investments announced since 2015, this means that as of 2025-2026, the Government of Canada will provide a minimum of $9.2 billion every year—permanently—for Early Learning and Child Care and Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care. This investment allows governments to work together towards achieving an average parent fee of $10-a-day by March 2026 for all licensed child care spaces, starting with a 50% reduction in average fees for regulated early learning and child care spaces by the end of 2022. These targets apply everywhere outside of Quebec, which already has an affordable, well-established system.
The Government of Canada contributes to sustainable development knowledge and education by funding research, including through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The government is also implementing the Roadmap for Open Science, which will make federal science publications and data more accessible and understandable to Canadians. It also aims to accelerate discovery by enabling others to build on previously validated research.
The Government of Canada will continue to provide access to data and scientific publications through initiatives such as the Open Science and Data Platform. The platform will support cumulative effects assessments for federal regulatory processes by providing access to authoritative data and information on topics related to development activities, the environment, and communities.
Actions related to sharing information and making sustainable development available to Canadians can also be found throughout the FSDS. For example, Goal 7: Increase Canadians' Access to Clean Energy, describes how the Government of Canada is sharing information related to energy. Goal 13: Take Action on Climate Change, describes how the government is sharing information related to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. The Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators program plays a role in providing a suite of reliable and publicly available indicators that are also used to support targets throughout this strategy.
The Government of Canada is committed to promoting civic engagement among youth while providing opportunities to build knowledge and skills. The Canada Service Corps program funds approximately 100 organizations to deliver volunteer service opportunities for youth aged 15 to 30, and micro-grants for youth-led projects. These opportunities engage youth in building a culture of service and provide opportunities to gain essential life skills and experience while contributing to local action to improve the social, economic and environmental well-being of their communities.
The government is committed to helping young people, particularly those facing barriers to employment, get the information and gain the skills, work experience and abilities they need to make a successful transition into the labour market, including in environmental and clean technology sectors. The Youth Employment and Skills Strategy supports this objective through funding programs that help young Canadians gain meaningful work experience while providing access to, among others, mentorship, mental health supports, equipment such as computers, child care services, and transportation. The Outbound Student Mobility Pilot, also branded as Global Skills Opportunity, provides students, particularly underrepresented students (Indigenous students, students with disabilities, and students from low-income families) with opportunities to study and work abroad to develop global skills, competencies, and international networks to successfully transition to the labour market.
Finally, the Government of Canada works with provinces and territories through the Council of Ministers of Education in Canada (CMEC). This council provides leadership in education at the pan-Canadian and international levels. CMEC has included education for sustainable development as one of the key activity areas in Learn Canada 2020, its framework to enhance Canada's education systems, learning opportunities, and education outcomes.
Understanding and Addressing Indigenous Knowledge
Indigenous knowledge forms a body of knowledge representative of a vision of the world. It is strongly connected to the identity of knowledge holders and Indigenous communities. Indigenous knowledge is multi-dimensional, dynamic, and constantly adapting, which makes it difficult to collect. Indeed, Indigenous knowledge can sometimes take the form of traditional land use data or biophysical data, but it is not exhaustive. It is therefore unrealistic to collect all the Indigenous knowledge related to a subject since it consists, for example, of practices, oral histories, observations, and perceptions that are associated with attending a particular place, for one.
In addition, beyond constituting an accumulation of atomized data, the body of knowledge of an individual, or a First Nation can constitute an arrangement of interrelated principles. These can be used within the framework of the governance of the First Nation to make decisions related to the management of the territory, for example via codes of practice which define, among other things, the methods of harvesting a species (period, method, quantity, etc.).
Indigenous knowledge is also part of a system of representation of the world that is different from the Western system, and that also carries its own coherence. Indigenous knowledge is inseparable from the context in which it is constructed or transmitted. This context is like a web of values, norms and symbols that underlie Indigenous knowledge and enable it to be interpreted and given meaning. This context does not take place in a specific, limited period of time, as Indigenous knowledge can be recent, yet very valid. Note that the impacts of climate change also accelerate the evolution process of Indigenous knowledge. The interpretation and inclusion of knowledge must therefore take the entirety of the system into account.
Lastly, Indigenous knowledge is often transmitted orally, which in academic or official reports, is not referenced nor considered as equal to Western scientific knowledge. Templates have been created to cite Indigenous Elders and knowledge holders, the former of which highlight the individual's nation and/or community.
Here are some recommendations for the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge:
- Preserve the context surrounding Indigenous knowledge
- Do not fragment the knowledge
- Remember that Indigenous knowledge is varied and cannot be standardized
- Take into account the intangible dimension of Indigenous knowledge, that is to say the system of values in which it is built
- Recognize knowledge holders as experts
- Recognize Indigenous knowledge as an equal to scientific knowledge
- Use more respectful and inclusive templates to cite Indigenous knowledge
Read the report “More Than Personal Communication: Templates for Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers” to learn more about templates for citing Indigenous knowledge.
Source: Excerpted from First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Sustainable Development Institute (FNQLSDI) and First Nations members. (2022). Guide to Best Practices for the Inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge - For Federal Departments.
Stakeholder perspective: The BC Council for International Cooperation
In recent years (2017-2021), the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) organized a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Bootcamp for groups of motivated youth who were interested in becoming active SDG change makers in their own communities. The Bootcamp was a dynamic and practice-based training program that educated, mentored, and inspired its participants to promote social change and sustainable practices. With its focus on public engagement, the course helped participants foster the skills needed to effectively communicate and create dialogue to promote social change related to the SDGs. Building on this foundational work, BCCIC is committed to centering the lived experiences and expertise of grassroots, Indigenous and Global South activists and practitioners in a new intergenerational global partnership program. The program will connect youth activists (particularly belonging to marginalized and under-represented groups) from British Columbia and the Global South for collaborative learning, insights, and public engagement on sustainable global development issues.