Student Sustainability Knowledge Highest on SDGs 2, 8, 11, 14, 15, 16
Photo by IISD | Lynn Wagner
story highlights

The Sustainable Literacy Test maps university student’s current awareness on the challenges addressed by the SDGs, using 30 questions with each question associated with one to three SDGs.

The 2017 report finds that students have a relatively homogenous awareness across the 17 SDGs, with average scores of expected answers ranging from 34 to 67 percent.

Students had the highest awareness on SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), SDG 14 (life below water), SDG 15 (life on land) and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), with scores of 60 percent or greater on questions related to these six SDGs.

17 October 2017: The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative’s (HESI) Sustainable Literacy Test (Sulitest) finds students’ knowledge about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is relatively homogenous across all 17 SDGs, with variations noted from highest to lowest. The Sustainability Literacy Test is an online training and assessment tool that aims to raise awareness on sustainability and assessing sustainability literacy to help decision-makers make informed decisions to build a sustainable future.

In the academic year 2016-2017, 16, 575 students from 170 universities in 31 countries participated in the Sulitest. The report titled, ‘Mapping Awareness of the Global Goals,’ finds that there are no SDGs on which students had complete awareness and no SDGs that had a very low level of awareness. The report suggests that this relatively even level of awareness highlights a need to raise awareness on specific SDGs, particularly those SDGs on which students had the lowest levels of awareness.

Student awareness was lowest for SDG 3 (good health and well-being).

Although the report finds a homogenous awareness across the 17 SDGs, it classifies levels of awareness into four main groups. The first group, with a higher level of awareness, had 60 percent or greater awareness on SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), SDG 14 (life below water), SDG 15 (life on land) and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). The second group had average scores between 57 and 58 percent on two SDGs: SDG 4 (quality education) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals). A third group has a medium level of awareness, with scores between 46 and 53 percent, on SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) and SDG 13 (climate action). The fourth category represents a lower level of awareness, with an average score of 34 percent, on SDG 3 (good health and well-being). The report argues that these results show a “steady increase of awareness” on topics identified for the 2017 to 2019 sessions of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), which reviews SDG implementation.

The Sulitest also includes a module to train citizens on the SDGs framework. HESI partnered with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) to develop the module, with the aim of improving citizens’ ability to contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by improving their knowledge on how the SDGs work, their scope and implementation responsibilities.

HESI is a partnership between UN DESA, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UN Environment (or UNEP), UN Global Compact’s Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative, UN University (UNU), the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The HESI released the report at the 2017 session of the HLPF. The Sulitest team is currently working to increase the number of questions for the Core Module for future reports. [UNESCO Press Release] [Publication: Mapping Awareness of the Global Goals] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on HESI Launch]

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