Based on the 4th Event Innovation and Education, held on the 17th of June, 2021. 

The work of V4SDG, since the beginning, has been hallmarked by the strive to lead the Visegrad region on a sustainable path with stakeholders from various sectors. Our new endeavour – V4@30 – encompasses this mission and will kick-off on 24 June with a grand event titled: Cooperation for Sustainability – The new purpose of the V4. 

We wrapped up our event series, the #V4@30 Expert Roundtables, with visiting a highly relevant topic: education and innovation. Preparing the current and future generations for the upcoming challenges we as humanity face, such as loss of biodiversity, climate change, or overpopulation, is absolutely vital and the best tool at hand is education. It was our pleasure the welcome the experts who discussed how to convey knowledge and what kind of knowledge that should be: 

Ms Zsófia Rácz, who is a long-time friend of V4SDG, opened the floor with a statement resonating with everyone at the event, that sustainability has to be part of the lives of young people. As former Youth Delegate to the UN, she set out to have a clear picture on how young people in Hungary relate to sustainability, identifying key problems with the education system; such as obsolete methods, lack of sustainability-related knowledge and an insufficient digital literacy framework. To reinvigorate the system we need new subjects and new methods; Ms Rácz emphasized the importance of introducing subjects dealing with the future and valuable tools to master, like conducting research and analysing data. Ms Rácz also shared promising news about widening the scale of the Hungarian national curriculum, namely that from the next school year students can choose sustainability as an alternative subject in middle schools. A whole new textbook has been created by the Blue Planet Foundation called ‘Green Earth’, and to our luck, Mr Miklós Matolcsy, co-creator of the book, was in the audience who explained that during the developing process of the book their team reached around 30 thousand students whose input helped guiding the content which is a step towards the right direction.

Our next speaker, Mr Barna Baráth, shared  the story of how REAL School Budapest came into reality after experiencing the methods and vision of the Green School in Bali, which is centred around dreaming and building a world by empowering the next generations. The main idea behind the teaching at REAL School is to design real-world activities for children to find their passions, develop their skills and to learn about our world and themselves, while a sustainable world stands for the ultimate ambition. REAL School, which is the acronym for ‘relevant’, ‘entrepreneurial’, ‘art-filled’, and ‘learning’, believes in project-based learning forms which are cross-curricular and helps developing knowledge, skills, wellbeing, and mindset. Mr Baráth posed an interesting question, whether we should be learning about or learning for sustainability. In his view,  there is a great deal of knowledge to acquire about sustainability but learning by doing makes all the difference. Hence, their ‘dream to reality’ approach grants children the opportunity to plan and build the future.

Afterwards, Ms Veronika Klindová shared her thoughts on a highly relevant issue, namely that in order to ensure quality education for our children in the V4 region, the first step is to equip our teachers with the right tools in order to improve the ways we currently convey knowledge. Her project involves academic training provided to teachers in Slovakia in order to achieve excellence in schools on all level. She highlighted the importance of a cro-creative curriculum developing process through which all relevant actors can voice their thoughts; not only the Ministry but also teachers, parents and children. Another issue she raised was our relationship with the internet which is now the primary realm for communication and work. There is an endeavour in Slovakia to enhance digital literacy which includes the fostering of critical thinking, navigating in a complex digital environment, and the practices and ethics of the online world, all of which remain indispensable tools for citizens of the future.

Finally, we listened to Mr Tomáš Cvrček who examines education from a historical context allowing him to oversee a large time-frame, which helps managing one’s expectations about the future of education. He asserted that education is the most powerful tool of humankind. However, his research showed that schools can be impotent for many reasons, one of which is upholding long-standing traditions and practices when it comes to government agencies putting together the national curriculums, even when they are outdated. Coming to the debate around brain drain versus brain gain, Mr Cvrček pointed to the interconnectedness of migration flows and labour markets. In order to host a centre for intellectual excellence in the Visegrad Region, countries must attract top talent by having a cluster of researchers, creating a centre for this critical mass of people, and opportunities to be employed. He argued that getting the ball rolling is the hardest part of ambitious plans, in our case rethinking education along the lines of sustainability and future literacy, hence wide-ranging support is needed from investors and governments to make these plans happen.

The fourth session marked the end of the lead-up period of our #V4@30 Campaign which has been extremely insightful. With the help and contribution of prominent actors from various sustainability-related fields, V4SDG Members and all the participants could develop a more holistic understanding of the issues covered by the expert discussions: sustainable economy; cooperation infrastructure; ecosystem protection, agriculture & rural development; and finally education & innovation. However, the great challenge to create a shared vision for sustainability cooperation is right in front of us, and it will be the focus of V4SDG’s work in the upcoming period.

On the 24th of June, we will be holding our kick-off event for our #V4@30 Campaign: Cooperation for Sustainability – The new purpose of the V4. During the event, we will be discussing our mission and strategy to achieve greater cooperation in the field of sustainability in the V4 region.

Please do join us for what promises to be the beginning of an exciting journey! You can register via: https://forms.gle/rjsWFZbLTvxHGoKz8

Written by: Barnabas Palffy