Linking education to development

Linking education to development

Linking education to development
Education for sustainable development is defined as a transformative learning process that equips students, teachers, and school systems with the new knowledge and ways of thinking.

we need to achieve economic prosperity and responsible citizenship while restoring the health of the living systems upon which our lives sustain., and endure. 

The concept of ‘sustainable education’ is not just a simple ‘add-on’ of sustainability concepts to some parts of the curriculum, but a cultural shift in the way we see education and learning. Rather than a piecemeal, bolt-on, fragmentary response which leaves the mainstream otherwise untouched, it implies systemic change in thinking and practice, informed by what can be called more ecological thinking and values — essentially a new paradigm emerging around the poles of holism, systemic thinking, sustainability and complexity.

This offers the possibility of education that is appropriate and responsive to the new systemic conditions of uncertainty and complexity that are reflected in the headlines everyday; one that nurtures the increasingly important qualities of adaptability, creativity, self-reliance, hope and resilience in learners.

What is sustainable education?

Let us try to indicate why we need to critique the narrow instrumentalism and managerialism that has affected so much educational thinking and practice. Sustainable education implies four descriptors: educational policy and practice which is sustaining, tenable, healthy and durable.

Sustaining: it helps sustain people, communities and ecosystems;

Tenable: it is ethically defensible, working with integrity, justice, respect and inclusiveness;

Healthy: it is itself a viable system, embodying and nurturing healthy relationships and emergence at different system levels;

Durable: it works well enough in practice to be able to keep doing it.

There is nothing particularly mysterious about this. In the ’90s, imposition of managerial and economist values on education, evidenced in the whole panoply of endless testing, inspection, precise learning outcomes, performance indicators, marketisation and so on, and in the disillusion and mounting stress levels that accompanied this drive, we were in danger of losing our sense of authentic education, of caring, of community, of engagement, of empowerment and meaningful purpose.

Consequently, an ecological view implies putting relationship back into education and learning - seeking synergy and coherence between all aspects of education: ethos, curriculum, pedagogy, management, procurement and resource use, architecture and community links.

The emphasis is on such values as respect, trust, participation, community, ownership, justice, participative democracy, openness, sufficiency, conservation, critical reflection, emergence and a sense of meaning: an education which is sustaining of people, livelihoods and ecologies.

Unfortunately, the term ‘sustainable education’, with a few welcome exceptions, has often been bundled in by writers as synonymous with ‘sustainability education’, ‘education for sustainability’ and ‘ESD’. These terms represent worthy developments but do not necessarily connote the need for deep change in educational values, assumptions and practices.

In response to the crisis of unsustainability, most educators — and increasingly, politicians — will ask ‘what learning needs to take place amongst students?’ This is a perfectly valid and important question, but it begs a prior and deeper question: what changes, and what learning needs to take place amongst policymakers, amongst senior management, amongst teachers, lecturers, support staff, amongst parents, amongst employers, etc., so that education itself can be more transformative and appropriate to our times?

Envisioning this change and taking realisable, practicable steps in our own working contexts is key. In essence, what we all are engaged in here is a critically important second order ‘learning about learning’ process; one which will directly affect the chances of a more sustainable future for all. As a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) 2002 report points out, just as we have learnt to live unsustainably, we now need to learn how to live sustainably.

Such learning for responsibility requires educational systems, institutions and educators to develop responseability – that is, the competence and will to address the considerable challenge and opportunity that sustainability presents. This is the context for any meaningful discussion about the role of education in the 21st century.

Education for Sustainable Development allows every human being to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future. Education for Sustainable Development means including key sustainable development issues into teaching and learning; for example, climate change, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity, poverty reduction, and sustainable consumption.

It also requires participatory teaching and learning methods that motivate and empower learners to change their behavior and take action for sustainable development. Education for Sustainable Development consequently promotes competencies like critical thinking, imagining future scenarios and making decisions in a collaborative way.

Far-reaching changes required

Education for Sustainable Development requires far-reaching changes in the way education is often practiced today. What will students do in education for sustainability? Many contexts, topics, or issues that students could explore have a connection to education for sustainability. There are opportunities in most learning areas for students to examine how the resources we use and what gets left over affects the Earth. Recent situation in Chennai floods can be an example for this.

Teachers can introduce students to attitudes and values towards the environment and create opportunities to explore their own. Students will also have opportunities to take action on issues that are meaningful to them, explore why an issue is important, and develop the skills they need to create change.

While teaching education for sustainability, it includes learning about:

The environment – water, land, ecosystems, energy, waste, urban living, transportation

The interactions between the natural environment and human activities, and the consequences of these

The choices and actions we can take to prevent, reduce, or change harmful activities to the environment.

Central to this learning is the exploration of attitudes, values, and behaviors with respect to the environment - both our own and those of others.

In-depth learning

Central concepts that students can develop understanding of through EFS include:

Sustainability: the ability of individuals, groups, and communities to meet their needs and aspirations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs

Equity: respect for all life, social justice, intergenerational equity, finite resources

Inter-dependence: biodiversity, community, cultural diversity, democracy, globalization

Responsibility for action: taking action, informed decision-making, citizenship, consumerism, enterprise, resilience, and regeneration.

Curriculum Connections: Sustainability should be a significant theme throughout the national curriculum to equip the students to be:confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners.

Enable them to effectively participate in the, advocating a view and understanding their role within  the community, and wider society.