Placing environmental education and ecological literacy at the heart of a more sustainable future is the latest enhancement of Italian school curricula, as directed by the European Commission.

Environmental and sustainability education is now fully integrated into Italian school curricula and is recognised as a core part of the new civic education curriculum. This eco-literacy shift was the main focus of the seminar Basics of Environmental and Sustainability Education, which took place in Palermo on 21 May 2024 and was attended by educators from across the region. The event, organised by Cisl Scuola Cosenza, Arpacal, and Irsef Irfed, was part of the wider 2024 Sustainable Development Festival coordinated by ASVIS, with a special focus on regional disparities and educational equity.

The seminar highlighted the need to integrate sustainability education into the new civic education curriculum, which is now a compulsory subject in Italian schools. This approach aims to equip young people to face global challenges with a vision that embraces sustainability in all its forms. The Palermo event also highlighted the social relevance of the 2030 Agenda, underlining the central role of education in addressing global challenges. During the event, special emphasis was placed on reducing regional disparities in learning and improving the quality of school environments. ISINNOVA, represented by Andrea Ricci, provided insights into the future of education as envisioned by the European Commission.

Francesca Borgonovi, director of the OECD Institute, discussed how regional disparities, although less pronounced than in other countries, remain a significant challenge, particularly in rural areas. Giorgio Cavadi, technical manager of the regional educational office for Sicily, spotlighted the challenges in southern regions where school dropout rates and low skill levels pose a serious equity issue. Livia Celardo, a researcher at ISTAT, also offered an overview of minors’ condition in Italy, stressing how the risk of poverty is predominantly concentrated in the South, with 49% of families in Calabria at risk of poverty.

Margherita Di Stasio from INDIRE presented a study on educational poverty, highlighting how a lack of access to resources impacts learning and student well-being. Maurizio Cellura, UNIPA delegate to Rus, discussed the importance of a multidisciplinary and holistic approach to teaching sustainability, suggesting the creation of scientific committees in schools to foster truly sustainable education.

Future visions for education: ISINNOVA’s foresight study for 2040

Andrea Ricci (ISINNOVA) presented the results of a foresight study commissioned by the European Commission, Scenarios for the Future of School Education in the EU, which explores future scenarios for education in Europe up to 2040. The study advocates a flexible and collaborative approach to education as a solution to adapt to different cultural and social contexts, emphasising the need for a shift in teaching methods and educational policies.

Ricci’s report explores different scenarios for 2040 and highlights the importance of an flexible and cooperative approach to education. This model promotes adaptation to different cultural and social realities and fosters a learning environment based on cooperation and mutual respect.

ISINNOVA’s contribution to the seminar also highlighted the need for a new approach to teacher training and curriculum- design aimed at effectively integrating the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The establishment of a multidisciplinary science committee in schools, as proposed during the event, could be a significant step forward in this direction.

ISINNOVA firmly believes that education must go beyond the mere transmission of knowledge and become a catalyst for personal and social development. This means striving for a school system that not only informs, but also shapes aware citizens, capable of tackling the complexities of our times with innovative and sustainable solutions.