Education for the social, the emotional and the sustainable

Earlier this year, the UN Secretary-General reported that “the shift in development pathways to generate the transformation required to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030 is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required.” He noted with regret that “…the most vulnerable countries are bearing the brunt of the current obstacles to SDG implementation…. The bleak situation of countries in situations of conflict or fragility is all the more troubling given that, by 2030, more than half the world’s poor are projected to live in countries affected by conflict.” This blog looks at a new publication by NISSEM on the challenges facing poorly resourced or conflict-affected countries in addressing SDG Target 4.7. It argues that addressing this target can help change long-term behaviour to help achieve the SDGs.

Why Target 4.7?


Among the SDG 4 targets, 4.7 is unique for driving social, economic, political and environmental change since it highlights transformative values and principles. It reflects country commitments to education for sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

The global indicator for Target 4.7 calls for its themes to be mainstreamed in educational policies, curricula, teacher training, learning assessments, and ultimately in classroom teaching and learning. Social and emotional learning (SEL), sometimes called “soft skills” or “non-cognitive skills” is vital. When instructional materials include these skills in contextually meaningful ways, students are more likely to learn how to empathize, collaborate and negotiate – and build humane, just and environmentally-sound societies, as envisioned by the SDGs.

Despite the formidable monitoring challenges related to the target, countries need to find ways to embed these themes in policies and curricula – including textbooks – and prepare teachers.

Embedding Target 4.7 themes and socio-emotional learning in textbooks

Achieving these changes is particularly hard in poorer and conflict-affected countries. A new initiative, Networking to Integrate SDG 4.7 and SEL into Education Materials (NISSEM), aims to identify and support practical ways of achieving SDG Target 4.7 in these contexts. Its new open access publication, NISSEM Global Briefs: Educating for the social, the emotional and the sustainable, with over 60 contributors,shows how certain high-impact, relatively low-cost interventions targeting writers of textbooks and reading materials can help.

The publication clarifies the terminology around Target 4.7 and socio-emotional learning, showing that they can mean different things in different cultures and therefore cannot be taught in the same way in every context. Social and emotional priorities are very different in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia or North America.

Lessons for textbook writers

Target 4.7 raises questions for curriculum specialists and textbook writers, which often leave out minority identities, be they indigenous, ethnic, linguistic or global. It demands that textbooks support teachers to develop students’ empathy and sense of shared humanity, by including elements of social and emotional learning. Textbook writers should identify examples of Target 4.7 content that apply to their own context and link this with the syllabus. They should look at the gaps in current textbooks relevant to the target, as the GEM Report did in 2016.

Textbooks can either hamper or aid learning. Often, in low- and middle-income countries, textbooks are too difficult for disadvantaged students to understand. This is especially the case in primary school textbooks and for pupils who are not studying in their mother tongue. Text is often too dense and there is no lesson time for a balanced cognitive, social and emotional response to the lesson topic. Indeed, textbook writers face a difficult task in matching content to both curriculum requirements and classroom realities. Strong institutional support for writers is needed to prioritise readability and embed simple pedagogical support for the average teacher. An important step is to include more classroom teachers in teams that prepare textbooks or their specifications.

The publication presents a basic model to guide writers on how to embed Target 4.7-related content in core school subjects. This approach is illustrated in a recent updating of primary school social studies textbooks in Bangladesh where the treatment of the topic of tolerance was condensed and supplemented by embedding a pedagogy that helps students read with comprehension and gives them more time to engage with the theme and with each other.

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Figure 1: Sample pages from Bangladesh and Global Studies, class 4

NISSEM Global Briefs also describes innovative approaches to early grade reading, which include Target 4.7 and SEL content. In Afghanistan and Lebanon, for example, early grade literacy interventions cover SEL in children’s literacy books in grades 1 to 3.

Revamping textbooks and educational materials: a selective and low-cost strategy

The contributors to the volume conclude by recommending a low-cost strategy for change.

  1. Textbook writers should be provided with transformative training and support to embed the spirit of Target 4.7 in simplified form in the early years of education, in order to support teachers through structured pedagogy and to support social and emotional learning.
  2. Cognitively-rich, motivational and nationally relevant topics should be developed to enrich the schooling of adolescents with ideas for responsible citizenship and sustainable development.
  3. The role of champions, whether individual or institutional, is crucial, as illustrated by successful innovations led by Pratham, including the production of reading materials in different national languages and network-building through ‘impact teachers’.

Under ideal circumstances, SDG Target 4.7 requires preparing teachers to gain mastery over its themes, with ample resources for students to engage in individual and collaborative work, both inside and outside the classroom, and based on evidence-informed social and emotional learning approaches. Where basic education is under-resourced, however, alternative strategies are needed. Revamping current textbooks and education materials with appropriate social and emotional learning elements can hasten the transformations required for Agenda 2030. We hope education ministries and donors will take steps along this path. You are invited to turn to the contents of NISSEM Global Briefs to find more examples of field programmes and to engage with the authors or editors to further address this challenge.

Education: A powerful response to climate change

By Colin Bangay, the senior education adviser for the UK government’s Department for International Development in India; the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK government’s official policies.


With a new World Bank report warning climate change could push more than 100 million additional people back into poverty by 2030 it is timely that the new ‘global goals’ (aka; sustainable development goals – SDG’s) put education in the front line for both protecting the livelihoods of future generations while addressing the poverty challenge of today. While climate change presents significant challenges to education – education also provides a powerful means through which to respond.

With the international scientific community 95% certain that human activity is driving global warming (IPCC 2014), SDG 4.7 which states “by 2030 ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development…”  is of critical significance. Education is tasked with equipping upcoming generations for the inevitable changes of a +2 ºC world (adaptation) while inculcating a greater understanding of and responsibility for the environmental consequences of human actions (mitigation). To this end DFID has recently released a topic guide on educations role in environmental resilience.climate_blog

Pastoralist schooling in Uganda. Credit: Marc Hofer/EFA Report UNESCO

Environmental change will effect both the supply and the demand for education. Increasing frequency of extreme weather events will damage infrastructure, disrupt systems and present the planning challenges of climate induced migration. On the demand side, environmental degradation could reduce household incomes – forcing parents to send their children to work rather than school while also increasing malnutrition. There is also evidence that climate change may cause greater exposure to disease leading to more days off school and reduced ability to learn. International evidence suggests all these impacts disproportionately affect girls.

The seminal Stern Report highlights the importance of education in addressing climate change. Its conclusions focus around three broad themes: carbon pricing, technological innovation and behaviour change. Of these, education is central to two: higher education plays a key role in developing and sharing technological advances, and school and community education in behavioural change.

The good news is there is encouraging evidence on education being a cost effective climate intervention from across disciplines. A 2010 World Bank study states: “Educating young women may be one of the best climate change disaster prevention investments in addition to high social rates of return in overall sustainable development…”. Economists, Wheeler and Hammer agree“Female education (combined with family planning) is cheaper and provides larger impacts on carbon emissions abatement than direct low-carbon energy options”. While Muttarak and Lutz conclude “…public investment … through education can have a positive externality in reducing vulnerability and strengthening adaptive capacity amidst the challenges of a changing climate”.  While Lord Stern makes an important point about education and the future: “Educating those currently at school about climate change will help shape and sustain future policy making, and a broad public and international debate will support today’s policy-makers in taking strong action now.”

There does seem to be a logical sequence to possible educational responses to climate change:

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DFID has good examples of short term responses e.g., in micro solar and infrastructure notably from Bangladesh and Nigeria.

However, to move beyond infrastructure to education for behavioural change means a shift from transmissive to transformative education.  In our drive to raise learning levels we must caution against a fixation on ‘how much’ and not neglect questions of ‘how relevant’ and how does the way learning is imparted impact upon the agency of the learner.

This presents new challenges “… the current evidence suggests that DFID and others will need to engage in dialogue around much more difficult issues. Not whether to fund a curriculum reform effort, but what the content of the curriculum is; not capitation grants to schools but how to build local level accountability; not funding for teacher training, but how to improve the way that training systems work. These are all fundamentally more political discussions and are likely to enter into contested areas with inevitable trade-offs for how evidence is taken up in programming and policy.”

As David Hicks presciently said in 1994: “If all education is about the future then the future needs to be a more explicit concern at all levels of education”. Education’s contribution to sustainable development will not materialise if we remain preoccupied with ‘why’ and ‘what for’ and neglect the ‘how’ and with ‘what resources’.  We need to start from where we are now – as much as where we want to be.

See a previous blog about education and climate change, The tangled web of conflict, climate change and education by the EFA GMR

Education increase awareness and concern for the environment

Our around the COP21 taking place here in Paris where the GMR is based showed how education can help poorer communities respond and react to the impact of climate change. This blog shows that, by improving knowledge, instilling values, fostering beliefs and shifting attitudes, education has considerable power to help individuals reconsider environmentally harmful lifestyles and behavior. Therefore, education should form part of the solutions proposed from the COP.


The completion of higher levels of education does not automatically translate into more responsible behaviour towards the environment. But as the influential Stern Review on climate change noted: ‘Educating those currently at school about climate change will help to shape and sustain future policy-making, and a broad public and international debate will support today’s policy-makers in taking strong action now’.


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In 47 countries covered by the 2005–2008 World Values Survey, the higher a person’s level of education, the more likely she was to express concern for the environment. Furthermore in the 2010-2012 World Values Survey, when forced to choose between protecting the environment versus boosting the economy, those respondents with secondary education favoured the environment more than those with less than secondary education.

Data from the International Social Survey Programme on 29 mostly high income countries similarly showed that the share of those disagreeing that people worry too much about the environment rose from 25% of those with less than secondary education to 46% of people with tertiary education.

Education encourages individuals to protect the environment.

People with more education tend not only to be more concerned about the environment, but also to engage in actions that promote and support political decisions that protect the environment. Such pressure is a vital way of pushing governments towards the type of binding agreement that is needed to reduce greenhouse gases and control emission levels.climate_blog4.png

A school trip in Colombia to learn about the variety of wildlife, conservation and ecological care. Credit: UNESCO/Juana Gil Baquero.

In almost all countries participating in the 2010 International Social Survey Programme, respondents with more education were more likely to have signed a petition, given money or taken part in a protest or demonstration, in relation to the environment, over the past five years. In Germany, while 12% of respondents with less than secondary education had taken such political action, the share rose to 26% of those with secondary education and 46% of those with tertiary education.

An analysis of the Global Warming Citizen Survey in the United States also showed that the higher a respondent’s education level, the greater his/her activism in terms of policy support, environmental political participation and environment-friendly behaviour.

Education encourages people to use energy and water more efficiently and recycle household waste.

By increasing awareness and concern, education can encourage people to reduce their impact on the environment through more efficient use of energy and water supplies, especially in areas of resource scarcity. In semi-arid areas of China, for example, educated farmers were more likely to use rainwater harvesting and supplementary irrigation technology to alleviate water shortages.

Educated households are also more likely to use different methods of water purification through filtering or boiling. In urban India, the probability of purification increased by 9% when the most educated adult had completed primary education and by 22% when the most educated adult had completed secondary education, even once household wealth is accounted for.

Such behaviour becomes increasingly important as people in high income countries are called upon to modify their consumption and take other measures that limit environmental harm. In the Netherlands, the more educated tend to use less energy in the home, even taking account of household income. A study in 10 OECD countries found that more educated households tended to save water; similar findings were reported in Spain.

Education, however, is not a silver bullet. It must be supported with global political leadership.climate_blog5

Global Citizenship Education: Scout cleaning the desert in Egypt. Credit: UNESCO/Ahmed Hamed Ahmed

As it becomes increasingly clear how much human action has impacted environmental degradation and climate change, especially through the release of greenhouse gases, attention must turn to education and the need to tap its potential. We are all learners when it comes to the environment and better ways to protect it and the planet we inhabit. In this sense, the notion of lifelong learning is especially apt. This trend will be further supported by the new Sustainable Development Agenda, in which education for global citizenship and sustainable futures is explicitly prioritised in one of the new education targets.

And yet we all know that it’s difficult to change attitudes and practices overnight. Completing education courses, both formal and non-formal, takes time to complete. Therefore, we must also see it as our responsibility to communicate what we think about these global issues to leaders gathered at the COP21. The multiple threats of environmental degradation and climate change have assumed an unprecedented urgency to which we are all obligated to respond.

It’s time to join hands for change.

Multiple goals in the new sustainable development agenda link back to energy, the environment, consumption, lifestyles and ecosystems.  We here at the GMR know that education joins dots between all these targeted priorities. Our next Report – the 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report) will be looking into the synergies unleashed by and through education and making the case for better integrated development planning. Let’s hope the leaders gathered in Paris today do the same.

Covid-19: where’s the discussion on distance learning training for teachers

A lot of the discussion, and rightly so, has been about the effect of school closures on students. Education, as they know it, stopped from one day to the next. But what about teachers? Just as students are new to distance learning, most teachers are also novices in being distance coaches. We look at the pressure placed on teachers, the absence of teacher training on distance learning in the past, the sorts of skills needed, the new tools teachers are now being plied with – but, first of all, the need to support the teaching workforce during these times of uncertainty.

Teachers need support during this crisis

Teachers have gone from fearing for their health, as schools continued during the pandemic, to fearing for their jobs in some contexts. Many in the United States fear that their pay rises are in jeopardy, for instance. It was also recently reported that Kenya teachers on the payroll of Bridge Academies, which currently works in around 2000 schools in five countries, will only be paid 10% of their salaries for two months of compulsory leave as a result of the pandemic – a period that risks being extended. Given that they don’t receive much more than USD$100 per month, this leaves them with little to survive on.

Teachers need training on distance learning

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With schools now closed in 185 countries, teachers are having to suddenly take a crash course in how to keep lessons going online, adapting what and how they were teaching before to an entirely different teaching situation.

But many teachers are not up to scratch on ICT skills. The figure from the 2019 GEM Report, while not teacher specific, which gives some idea of how education systems may be overestimating the chances of distance learning working successfully. Only 40% of adults in upper middle-income countries are able to send an email with an attachment – a seemingly vital skill for any teacher hoping to send around classwork. A recent survey in the United States by ClassTag showed that 57% of teachers said they don’t feel prepared to facilitate remote learning and just one in five said school leaders were providing guidance on how to proceed.

The infrastructure for distance learning is also not always available in schools. The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) shows that only 53% of teachers let their students frequently or always use ICT for projects or classwork. But the share of teachers using ICT in countries such as Finland, Israel and Romania had more than doubled over the five years preceding the survey.

In the United Arab Emirates, 42,000 teachers took part last week in a ‘Be an online tutor in 24 hours’ course provided by the Ministry of Education. A ‘Design an online course in 24 hours’ is being rolled out next week. This training was fast-forwarded in the face of the virus but comes supported by an Arabic and English e-learning platform, Madrasa, launched in 2018.وزارة التربية@MOEducationUAE

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But such preparation is an exception. Just as parents are complaining that sending them a link and assuming their child will learn is not fair, countries handing out laptops or other devices assuming teachers will get with the times might be in for a surprise. In Singapore, which plans to give a digital device to all secondary school students by 2024, the devices were initially given to 8 schools as a test. We learned many things from this pilot project” said Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung in March this year.  “Number one, teachers cannot teach the traditional way using e-learning. They need new pedagogies – e-pedagogies.”

In Kenya, the evaluation of a programme introducing ICT into schools in four schools and funded by VVOB also found that teachers faced challenges once the pilot had finished: not only lack of electricity, infrastructure and connectivity, but also a continuous need for training. It concluded that teachers need constant reiterations of learning about emerging technologies and how to use them. A fancy solution, like those many are getting now in the face of the pandemic, will therefore not suffice.

Some interesting initiatives are emerging to assess just how big the ed-tech gap is in schools and among teachers. In South Africa, for instance, an app, the e-ready ICT maturity assessment tool, supported by the Department for Education, asks schools to answer questions that can be completed in offline mode. The app then accords one of five e-readiness levels to that school, including teacher ICT readiness and teacher development and support. An external evaluation is also conducted and the overall results are then used by the Department to see where to focus its effort.

What skills do teachers need for distance learning?

Many skills have been touted as necessary to make the shift. It might seem that all that is required is ICT skills, including assisting students who face access issues. But the real difference that can be made from a shift to distance learning is how a teacher then uses e-pedagogies to keep students engaged.

One education consulting firm, Education Elements, believes that flexibility is the key skill required. The controlled structure of a school is lost outside of school walls. Teachers are not going to know exactly who is learning what and how quickly. They need to stick to simple lesson plans and maintain frequent and clear communications with students. Newsletters, video messages, virtual classrooms, emails, phone calls, text messages, and posts on social media could all be useful to remain in touch.

What solutions are out there to help?

Aside from countries taking up the task themselves, a host of organizations have also stepped into the fray to help teachers with this crash-course. Google, for instance, has just announced a new resource for teachers called ‘Teach from home’, a hub of information , tips and training and a $10 million Distance Learning Fund. The first $1-million grant from this Fund is going to the Khan Academy to provide remote learning opportunities including resources in more than 15 languages, aiming to reach over 18 million learners a month from communities around the globe.

The culture for distance learning is not yet here (and we are witnessing the growing pains of being late to that party) but it may well be by the time this pandemic has past. As we look to design solutions for the long-term on this issue, teachers must be consulted to learn from their experiences. They will be vital partners in policy development for distance learning in the future.

First Master Student Coarses Agreed for Spain

The University will kick off its fall semester lecture series this Wednesday, with the Yes Men.
Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum, a.k.a. the Yes Men, will appear on campus Wednesday, Aug. 26. Their event will kick off the University Lecture Committee’s fall slate. The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Second Floor Ballroom at the Iowa Memorial Union. Doors open at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The Yes Men

As the Yes Men, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno’s brand of “laughtivism” has kept them in the headlines for nearly two decades. They have made three feature films—the most recent, The Yes Men Are Revolting, was released in the summer of 2015. Their online Action Switchboard website was also recently launched as a platform for participatory direct action. By injecting humor into serious subjects, they provoke laughter and debate from audiences.


In conjunction with the evening lecture, a free screening of The Yes Men Are Revolting, followed by a question-and-answer session, will take place at 3 p.m. at FilmScene downtown. Other upcoming lectures for the fall semester include:

  • Nina Totenberg, National Public Radio legal affairs correspondent, will present “The Supreme Court and Its Impact on You” at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9, in the Main Lounge of the IMU. This lecture is presented by the UI College of Law as part of their Lecture Series and with support from the Public Radio and the UI Public Policy Center.
  • Retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern and former FBI agent and whistle blower Coleen Rowley will present “Intelligence not Mistaken but Fixed for War” at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28, at the Englert Theatre in downtown City. This lecture is presented in partnership with Veterans for Peace and with support from the Center for Human Rights.
  • Terry Gilliam, screenwriter, film director, animator, actor, comedian, and member of the Monty Python comedy troupe, will appear at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, in the Main Lounge of the IMU. This lecture is presented with support from FilmScene, the Obermann Center for Advance Studies, and the Bijou.


Public universities are large-scale incubators of the human capital that is essential to drive progress, presidents and board chairs said. They met with House Speaker, Senate President, House Republican Leader, Senate Republican Leader and the governor’s chief education adviser. Combined, public universities enroll nearly 200,000 students and send about 50,000 graduates into the workforce every year, “each and every one an economic engine for the state and beyond,” presidents and board chairs wrote in a letter shared with members of the General Assembly.

Deparment of Labor

The letter cites a recent Economic Policy Institute study that found high-wage states are overwhelmingly those with a highly educated workforce. According to a 2014 U.S. Department of Labor report, workers with a bachelor’s degree earn 65 percent more than workers with a high school diploma.

The earnings gap is nearly double for workers with a master’s degree and almost 140 percent more for workers with doctoral or professional degrees. Public universities provide the broad-based education in liberal arts and humanities that produces well-rounded, civic-minded citizens.

Presidents and Board of Trustee chairs representing nine public universities met face-to-face with top legislative leaders Tuesday to urge support for higher education funding in the state’s fiscal 2016 budget. University President arranged the afternoon of meetings to make the case that proposed funding reductions for public universities would damage a key engine for the state’s economic growth and competitiveness.


Presidents and board chairs added in their letter to legislators: “We believe that maintaining a robust, sustained, and predictable level of state support for our universities is absolutely essential for the future wellbeing and economic prosperity of our state.” Universities leverage state support by attracting more than $1.2 billion in external funding that supports the state’s economy today and fosters groundbreaking research-based innovation that creates the new businesses and jobs of tomorrow, the letter says.

Office of Career Services

More than 60 employers looking to hire students and alumni will be at the 25th annual All Majors Career Fair at the University. The fair, hosted by the UIC Office of Career Services, is from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at UIC Student Center East.

The free event is open to UIC students and alumni only. Students should bring their i-card for admission. Prospective applicants from any major will have the opportunity to gather information about companies and learn about full-time, part-time and internship positions from hiring officials. Representatives of firms from industries such as technology, engineering, financial services and education will be at the fair, as well as those hiring for jobs in criminal justice, management training, food service, retail and health care.

Applicants at the University Aula

For more than 30 years, the University Lecture Committee has brought some of the world’s greatest thinkers to the UI campus. Speakers have included an impressive roster of national and international figures in science, politics, business, human rights, law, journalism, and the arts. The series is funded through student fees with additional private support, as well as campus and community partnerships.

The relief is only applicable to federal student loans—not the private ones into which thousands of Corinthian students were reportedly “lured,” allegations that are the subject of a pending federal lawsuit. That means American taxpayers are liable for millions of dollars to cover the cost of the relief—or more. As The New York Times reported on Monday, the government has never before opened debt relief to such a potentially large pool of students.

If every one of the approximately 350,000 students who took out federal loans to attend a Corinthian campus in the last five years applied for and received the relief, according to the Times and other news outlets, the cost could be as high as $3.5 billion. A recent in-depth Senate investigation found that taxpayers in a single year had invested $32 billion in for-profit colleges.

Heung-Min Son to the rescue

The victory temporarily lifts Mauricio Pochettino’s side up to second position in the Premier League and the relief was palpable when Son’s shot hit the back of the net in the 83rd minute to end a shut-out that threatened to deny the home side all three points.

Spurs dominated from start to finish, with Lucas Moura spurning a golden opportunity to open the scoring after 17 minutes, heading wide when he should have found the net. Moments later, Erik Lamela struck the woodwork with a header.

Newcastle ended a strong spell at the start of the second half and hit the woodwork themselves, with Salomon Rondon beating Hugo Lloris with a header across goal. But it was Son who broke the deadlock, squeezing a shot through Martin Dubravka, who should have made the save.

Sam Bennett clinches victory

Bennett had to fight back from a late move from Deceuninck-QuickStep, who bumped him off his teammate’s wheel, but that seemed to inspire him even more and he charged past Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-QuickStep) to win on the San Juan ring road.

Bennett had finished third on the opening stage, and then the break of local riders stayed away on stage 6, raising the expectations on the final sprint.

“It’s great to win, it’s a relief, the pressure has gone,” Bennett said, savouring his first win of 2019.

“It’s always nice to get a win in the very first stage race. I needed it because I’d put pressure on myself. It’s really nice that the team had so much confidence in me and gave me three chances in the three sprint stages.

United caretaker Solskjaer told not to come back to Molde

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been told not to return to Molde by the club’s owners after his fine start as caretaker manager of Manchester United.

Solskjaer has won eight of his first nine matches in charge, with United travelling to face Leicester at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.

Molde owners Kjell Inge Rokke and Bjorn Rune Gjelsten gave the green light to their manager being drafted in by the Red Devils in December following the departure of Jose Mourinho.

Solskjaer is now the favourite for the Old Trafford post on a full-time basis ahead of Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino – and the Norwegian has revealed that he has been told not to return to his homeland.