Springer Nature's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Programme aims to connect the researchers who are tackling the world’s toughest challenges with the practitioners in policy and business who desperately need those insights to achieve their goals in improving the world, by making our publishing activities more visible to our key communities through a variety of channels. Our newly launched SDG4 hub focuses on Quality Education.
In honor of International Day of Education (January 24) we reached out to some of our authors, editors, and researchers, asking them to reflect on how we can work towards equality and quality in education and how they are helping in the ongoing mission to achieve SDG 4, and how we, as a scholarly publisher, are helping to contribute to these goals by publishing and distributing their research. In this interview we hear from Leona M. English.
I am professor of adult learning and education in a Master of Adult Education program in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. In that capacity, I oversee the research of graduate students who are asking questions of how to teach and how to learn in a variety of formal, nonformal and informal settings. I see myself as a facilitator of learners, one who helps adult students frame questions, develop research designs, and engage themselves in studies that promote learning and deepen understanding of the political, social and economic factors that surround learning. My major research interests are in gender and learning, critical pedagogy, and health-infused learning. I myself pursue these lines of inquiry in archival and qualitative research.
All of my work is oriented to justice, in particular gender justice for the global community. I am concerned with questions of power and influence and how these affect women and the most vulnerable in our communities. I don’t suppose that I am much different from most people in my field in that I am concerned ultimately with a sustainable universe, one in which there is justice for all –that includes learners, citizens, leaders and the planet itself. While my focal point is gender, I see gender as interconnected to all the SDGs and to the larger goals of the global community. In teaching students, I am advancing the Goals and raising awareness and promoting active citizenship. In a recent book, Lifelong learning, Global Social Justice and Sustainability, Peter Mayo and I analyzed the quest for lifelong learning and how it intersects with justice, arguing that without learning there can be no justice and vice versa.
My work attempts to raise issues of justice and learning, and to encourage us all collectively to be engaged in the larger debates, to see how our own local concerns and conversations can be connected to the larger sphere. In focusing on women in particular, I hope to shed light on their struggle for learning and how that has an impact on all those we work with. My work provides a point of intersection with the other goals and shows how the goals must be worked on collectively and simultaneously. Agenda 2030 provides a roadmap, but each one needs to be involved in creating space and making the goals possible.
My short term goals are to raise issues with students and to have them probe the areas of their communities that are troubled. My long term goals are a) to develop a more sustained and informed citizenry through higher education, and b) to develop a corpus of research that furthers understanding of women’s engagement and aspirations in education and learning. This corpus intends to highlights their contributions and keeps the light shining on what women need, how their gender affects learning and how their achievement is important for the collective.
My own experience with policy is very limited in this regard. I think that governments have to start asking for the expertise of faculty and academics in areas that they make decisions on such as literacy and social policy. In this Canadian province, literacy is rarely mentioned in policy discourse and is left to the Department of Labour and its staff who focus on putting people to work, or on “learning for earning”. To the best of my knowledge, there is little consultation with academics who actually research and study topics such as literacy, skills training or citizenship. In some ways, the four-year election cycle in Canada works counter to full and engaged participation of researchers in policy discourse. Governments and ministers come and go, and there is little time to build capacity in a meaningful way.
It is very important for us researchers to make a meaningful impact in our work. Yet, there is no known access point to enter into provincial conversations. When conversations and consultations happen at a federal level, through labour-market discourse, they typically do not involve adult educators. It is very important for researchers to make an impact but how that can be done is a big question. While we are affecting education at the local level, it often seems that our research is left unheeded.
I am most interested and supportive of a full and engaged democracy. This cannot happen in a meaningful way until there is justice for all, that is, until the SDGS are realized. We need all the goals—work, poverty reduction, clean water, gender, education and others-- to be achieved. Working collectively with academics, politicians, community workers, INGOs and transnational organizations, we can hope to achieve the goals by their sunset date.
About Leona M. English
Leona M. English is Professor and Chair of the Department of Adult Education at St. Francis Xavier University, Canada. Most recently the co- author of Lifelong Learning, Global Social Justice, and Sustainability (Palgrave, 2021)