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Sustainability-based learning

The importance of education for sustainability: sustainability is about reducing our ecological footprint while simultaneously improving the quality of life that we value—the ‘liveability’ of our society.

Education for sustainability is both present- and future-oriented. It’s about learning to design and implement actions for the present, in the knowledge that the impact of these actions will be experienced in the future. In this way, it leads students to develop an overall capacity to contribute to “a more sustainable future in terms of environmental integrity, economic viability, and a just society for present and future generations”.

In an era marked by concerns about the future of the planet, education for sustainability can be empowering, and an antidote to a sense of helplessness. It equips students to act, individually and collectively, in ways that can contribute to sustainability. It provides the opportunity for students to explore and evaluate contested and emerging issues, gather evidence, and create solutions for a sustainable future. Education for sustainability can enable students to become effective citizens and active change agents by helping them to deal with complexity and uncertainty. It can also help them to understand that there is rarely a single solution because new knowledge is continuously generated, and diverse viewpoints exist in society.

In summary, education for sustainability means that students will be able to assess competing viewpoints, values and interests; manage uncertainty and risk; make connections between seemingly unrelated concepts, ideas and outcomes; and test evidence and propose creative solutions that lead to improved sustainability.

From: Australian Government - Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts "Sustainability Curriculum Framework"

The WEF report on Schools of the Future: Defining New Models of Education for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, includes a focus on sustainability-based learning. The Report recommends shifting learning content learning experiences. The Report advocates for a focus on "building awareness about the wider world, sustainability and playing an active role in the global community" as part of a wider development of global citizenship skills (World Economic Forum: "Schools of the Future Report 2019" pg. 15).

More detail:

From: Macquarie University: "Education for Sustainability"

Why is sustainability a guiding principle?

Sustainability in the context of learning and teaching seeks to provide our students with an opportunity to learn the appropriate skillset, alongside the appropriate mindset, to deal with an ever-changing world. With continued and growing environmental, social and economic challenges such as environmental degradation, poverty, inequality, climate change and global financial crises, we feel it is important for our students to be able to engage with and understand how these challenges will impact their personal and professional lives, whilst also having the capacity to make more informed decisions and choices.

Examples:

Green School:

The Green School, opened in Bali in 2008, is committed to education that promotes sustainability and shapes future green leaders ... Students at the Green School apply learning to the real world through a global citizenship and sustainability lens, and truly take advantage of the natural world to tap into their curiosity, empathy, and creative thinking skills. (WEF Report)

Greening Australia: "Sustainability Learning Centre"

Green Hub: "Sustainability Learning Centre"

UTS: "Learning for sustainability and environmental education"

Skilling for Sustainable Tourism (SFST): Accelerating Lifelong Learning to Shape a Sustainable Travel and Tourism industry

SFST pays specific attention to sustainable and community-based tourism

VVOB: "Ecuador: Skilling for Sustainable Tourism"

VVOB: "Skilling for Sustainable Tourism Project"

The curriculum has a unique focus on enabling sustainability in the country’s tourism industry to foster future innovation in the sector. The programme improves the quality of tourism learning through three main levers: training teachers in the latest tourism trends and practices; developing learning content aligned with industry standards; and providing students with workplace learning opportunities. Through this experiential learning approach, the programme exposes students to future employment opportunities, and trains them in an industry-vetted way to increase their employability in the future. 

Web resources:

Learning for Sustainability

Learning & Teaching Sustainability: "UNESCO Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future" 

Application:

Using sustainability as a focus for learning has the potential to add a deep layer of understanding to a learner’s challenge to find solutions that have the ability to improve the human condition and protect the natural resources of the planet.

There are multiple areas of enquiry that would benefit from a ‘sustainability’ dimension – whether that be in areas such as architecture, town planning or the standards we adopt for ourselves and our communities. If we do not place sustainability as a focus and basis for learning, then we will not provide our learners with an opportunity to learn the appropriate skillset, alongside the appropriate mindset, to deal with an ever-changing world.