Transformative education, key to addressing current challenges of sustainable development

PhD Marta Pedrajas during the opening conference of the course


During the opening conference of the Specialist Course “Transformative Education for Global Citizenship and Sustainable Development” on Wednesday, 28th June 2023, PhD. Marta Pedrajas, researcher at the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development in the Vatican, spoke about transformative education and its key role in addressing the current challenges of sustainable development from society.

The speaker situates the starting point in “a turbulent and wounded world”, a landscape shaped by “forces shaping the world – globalization, demography, urbanism, technology… – amidst increasing isolation and loneliness,” combined with “major structural changes and volatility, new forms of poverty and prolonged crises, as well as growing global inequality and an inability to work together (competition vs cooperation), affecting institutions, governance, and social cohesion… and lacking clear global leadership.”

The researcher emphasized poverty and inequality using the term “the last mile,” which means nearly a billion people still live in poverty (two billion lack access to clean water and basic sanitation), while inequality within countries has been increasing over the past decades, producing effects on politics, society, and the economy.

In contrast, Marta Pedrajas states, “society expresses a desire to manage global public goods and shares a set of universal values…values such as human rights, peace, freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for the environment, common responsibility… and all this leads to the construction of a Global Citizenship based on shared ethical values.”

And this is where education emerges as a global priority objective. Human Development represents both the quality of life (well-being) and the dimension of individuals to make decisions (agency), something that can only be achieved through the expansion of capabilities… and “Education is the main driver of expanding capabilities.” PhD. Pedrajas advocates for a humanistic education, focused on the individual, as it “allows the generation of critical thinking and provides those universal values and transformative power… which is what we seek: transformative education.

This inaugural session was attended by 38 participants, students, and teachers of the course. Additionally, Ana Arancibia, Director of InteRed, and José Manuel Martín, Director of Fundación ETEA, took the opportunity to highlight the importance of strategic partnerships to promote agents of social transformation and to connect knowledge and research with development issues.

Professional background of Marta Pedrajas

Marta Pedrajas holds a PhD in Philosophy with honors and a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Economics from the University of Valencia. Her doctoral thesis delved into the philosophical and economic foundations of Amartya Sen’s Human Development theory. She conducted research at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences under Professor Sen. Currently, she works at the Vatican as a researcher in the Dicastery for Integral Human Development. She has extensive experience from her work period in New York from 2015 to 2020, where she served as a Policy Specialist in the Strategic Policy Unit, in the Office of the Director of the Policy Bureau, and in the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean as an SDG Specialist. Previously, she served as an Advisory Board Member in the General Secretariat for International Development Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she coordinated the planning of Spanish Cooperation, the Spanish position for the post-2015 development agenda and development financing. She was also responsible for the Master Plan of Spanish Cooperation 2013-2016 and worked as a philosophy professor, collaborating as a guest lecturer in various development courses and Masters programs at different universities.

Specialist course “Transformative education for Global Citizenship and Sustainable Development”

This training program is organized by InteRed and Fundación ETEA – Development Institute of Universidad Loyola, with the support of the Government of Andalusia through the Andalusian Agency for International Development Cooperation (AACID).

The course aims to strengthen the capacities, competencies, and attitudes of cooperation agents, especially individuals with an interest in deepening their knowledge of cooperation and transformative education, for the purpose of updating their skills or preparing for future employment.