Educate. Connect. Inspire

Educate. Connect. Inspire

Aug 17, 2012

Education for Sustainability

By Yula Pannadopoulos

It's been a long way coming, but our new project is finally online! After nine months of research, information gathering, field planning, consulting and organizing, we are now deep into the field work, working together with communities, schools, ministries and governments. Our goal? Putting Sustainable development on the curriculum of every school.

Here is more information:

Education for Sustainability  is an initiative to put sustainability on the curriculum of every school. It brings together communities and individuals, governments, organizations, businesses and the educational community itself to ensure children have the skills to become citizens of a sustainable world.

Project Summary

People and the planet Earth have been interconnected throughout all stages of human development, from the first irrigation systems in Mesopotamia, across the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th century, right to this ultra modern era.

People and the planet were (and are) interconnected, but more often than not people were focused only on their own development, advancement and well being, treating the nature as a resource, when they should have been treating it as a natural partner.

At any stage of human development and progress, education played the major role. Without education change is seldom possible.

Today we find ourselves at a point where our planet has been severely damaged, from its ecosystems, to the ozone layer. Today it is clear that the increasing climate change we are witnessing is caused by people. Today it is clear that if we are to have any chance of preserving this planet for the future generations, we need to focus our time, effort and resources on educating people - children and youth in particular - on sustainable development, sustainable living and sustainable future.

The project Education for Sustainability aims to help introduce Sustainable Development (and/or any similar subject that may have a different name, but focuses on sustainable living, practices and futures) in schools’ curricula in countries and regions where that is not yet the case.

Education for Sustainability project targets Ministries and Departments of Education, Schools’ Councils and Boards – the decision makers when it comes to “official” education.

However, at the end of the day, education and its imprint on each individual impacts greatly the society as a whole. That is why we are also addressing local communities, parents’ groups and general population – we need their help (and yours) to reach our goal.

Implementing the Project
We are working with local experts, agencies of environment, civil society organizations, schools and volunteers on understanding the local circumstances of any given country, and on compiling, presenting and sharing data, research and facts that will help us explain and advocate the purpose of the project – introducing Sustainable Development in schools’ curricula.

The preparatory phase for the project started in September 2011 and was completed in May 2012. During the preparatory phase an extensive research was done on environmental issues in each country, on its educational system, legislative framework and decision making process.

We also used that period to develop a network of partners, local experts, communities and civil society organizations that will work with us on the implementation of the project.

When we started working on the project, we envisaged the implementation phase to last from 3 to 5 years.
(Please refer to FAQ tab for answers on specific questions about the project)

Project Background

The notion of ‘sustainability’ emerged in the 1980s and has now become one of the key concepts for exploring the impact of human activity on the planet. Put at its most simple any human activity is sustainable if it can continue fairly indefinitely without causing harm to either people or planet. Alternatively, any human activity that results in on-going harm to either people or planet is the opposite – unsustainable. It has now become clear that many of our practices today come in the latter category.

It was at the Earth Summit in 1992 that this vital (and contested) concept became enshrined in national and international policy and debate. This occurred because it was then recognized that human activity was increasingly threatening the biosphere – that narrow zone of earth, air and water on which all life (plants, creatures, humans) depends. It also occurred because it was recognized that issues of development, i.e. global wealth and poverty, were increasingly threatening people’s life chances in both poor and rich countries.

It is important to highlight that sustainability is about managing finite resources and striving to replace them with renewable ones.

Education for sustainability
At the Earth Summit it was also recognized that education, at all levels, had a crucial role to play in helping citizens understand and act on issues relating to the welfare of people and planet. The term ‘education for sustainable development’ (ESD) and ‘education for sustainability’ (EFS) then began to become part of educational vocabulary. There were, of course, a good number of educators who were already showing an interest in issues of sustainability/unsustainability, particularly amongst those working in environmental education, global education and futures education.

Sustainable schools
Whilst the education for sustainability can be seen as a cross-curricular theme to which all subjects could contribute, it received a significant boost when the focus was widened to the notion of ‘sustainable schools’. At one step this moved issues of sustainability from an optional element in the curriculum to a matter of whole-school policy affecting every aspect of school life.

The educational strategy on Sustainable Schools should encompass the following focus areas: food and drink; energy and water; travel and traffic; purchasing and waste; buildings and grounds; inclusion and participation; local well-being; global citizenship.

Having in mind that today’s pupils and students will be tomorrow’s decision makers, helping them engage with sustainability issues in a critical and creative manner results in greater ‘ownership’ of the issues and a willingness to engage in active citizenship now and for the future.

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