In 2015, the international community signed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to reach a better and equal society, as well as care for their ecosystems by 2030. Among the 17 goals, the fourth was established to be Quality Education, aiming to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (United Nations, 2017).
How universities have been addressing the SDGs
At the halfway point, and aware of the remaining challenges to achieve the SDGs, higher education institutions (HEIs) around the globe have a critical role to engage with the SDGs in their everyday pedagogical and administrative practices, across subjects and work fields, in three main fronts:
- Education planning (teaching, learning, research)
- Organizational governance
- External leadership and impact
To assist HEIs in concretizing their education planning concerning the SDGs, Eduix and HeadAi have developed an unique artificial intelligence (AI)-based Scorecard capable of analyzing HEI’s education programs and curricula in regards to the SDGs.
The AI-based SDG Scorecard
The AI-based SDG Scorecard focuses on the education planning front and evaluates to what extent education institutions cover the SDGs at three different levels: at the level of the entire educational offer, at the unit level and at the curriculum level.
The goal of the tool is to aid university decision makers in analysing their education programs’ current situation and developing their curricula towards their stated goal to support sustainable development.
The tool provides a quantitative and qualitative analysis, together with a visual understanding, of the extent to which the education program in the institution addresses sustainability issues. To use the tool, the education institution uploads their curricula description, as indicated in the picture below.
The AI machine reads the curricula data, recognizes its most meaningful words and sentences, creates conceptual maps based on the words’ pairs and compares it to the SDGs official descriptions created by the United Nations. This results in a score that represents how much the conceptual maps from the education program and the SDGs overlap with each other. In addition, a solar graphic represents the scores of each goal, as represented below.
The strength of artificial intelligence is finding meaning in large masses of text data quickly and cost-effectively. Although artificial intelligence can’t handle intuitive reasoning for humans, and humans would certainly find more comprehensive UN themes in curricula, such an analysis job would take hours of work time, when a machine can get a good overview in seconds.
The outcomes can be used to promote pedagogical and administrative discussions around the university’s performance goals related to the SDGs. They provide concrete evidence to evaluate the universities’ documents towards how to strengthen the SDGs that are already addressed in the institution’s curriculum and how to improve those SDGs that are lacking emphasis in the institution’s education program. The main purpose is that educational development and curriculum reforms are guided towards promoting the SDGs.
Consultancy to support achieving the SDGs
Eduix also provides consultancy on using the AI-based SDG Scorecard. Some of the questions that promote discussions with the university faculty are:
- Education planning: How does your institution design your curricula (in teaching, learning, and research) to support the staff and students in achieving skills and methods for sustainable development in their working life? How can the staff and students learn skills needed not only now, but in the future with regards to global issues needing to be addressed? Do teachers have skills sets that correspond to the learning goals around the SDGs?
- Governance evaluation: How well does your university administration support the achievement of the sustainable development goals? Has sustainability been taken into account in the university governance plan and funding decisions?
- External leadership and impact: How extensively has your university facilitated cross-sectoral dialogue and action with community agents outside the academia? Are the SDGs present in the academia contributions to designing SDG-based policies and other national/regional-level development programs?
Kestin, T., van den Belt, M., Denby, L., Ross, K., Thwaites, J., & Hawkes, M. (2017). Getting started with the SDGs in universities: A guide for universities, higher education institutions, and the academic sector.
Rieckmann, M. (2017). Education for sustainable development goals: Learning objectives. UNESCO publishing.