What does education for sustainability mean to the Otago Polytechnic?

This was the vision back in about 2006?…

In 2004 the Otago Polytechnic Leadership Team made a commitment to become a sustainable organisation and a leader in the field of education for sustainability. However, rather than deliver specialist courses in environmental studies, OP has elected to weave education for sustainability into each and every programme of study.

A clear process has been established by the academic board to meet the goal of EFS content within each programme by mid 2009. This process requires both the programme content and the process of educating to be considered, with experiential education and inquiry based learning being desired ahead of the lecturer talking at students, which has low long term learning value.

No courses are being prescribed in “how to” best integrate EFS into programmes across the board, rather ‘early adopter’ schools have been supported to find different approaches that best meet the needs of their staff and students. For example, the design school has elected to integrate all EFS initiatives into existing courses, where as the health and community school has decided to offer a stand alone EFS “101” type programme to all first year students, then integrate this into year two and three courses.

All new programmes under development are required to contain EFS content and process. An OP ‘graduate profile’ across all disciplines will now include being action competent as a sustainable practitioner in their field.

It is now April 2012 has this vision been realised? Did we make the right decision not to deliver specialist courses in environmental studies?

The words “sustainability” appear in a number of places in OP documentation. Our statement of priorities include these two:

Priority 3:  Strengthen our relationships with all of our stakeholders, building partnerships which will benefit our learners and communities, and build our sustainability.

Priority 8: Develop a sustainable platform to achieve our goals, encompassing financial and organisational sustainability and world class organisation and management.

Do either of these priorities actually have anything to do with educating our students about sustainability? I am starting to see why there is so much confusion in this institution about what all this “sustainability” stuff is all about.

Is this the reason why New Zealand has fallen short in it’s commitment to Education for Sustainability – Institutions like ours have not taken a firm enough grasp of the topic. In most departments we are skirting around the edges and not taking the job of “EDUCATING for sustainability” seriously?

I think we need our own Earth Summit to reprioritise!


One response to “What does education for sustainability mean to the Otago Polytechnic?

  1. I don’t wonder that we skirt around the notion of education for sustainability. It is a huge task and look at us, fairly motivated people, still at various places on the sustainability continuum. If our qualifications are of the Applied nature, rather than the purely theoretical, then the application of notions of being a sustaianable prctitioner (nurse, OT,civil engineer, designer, etc) is what it is about. Is that the same as the environmental and collective capitalist and identity issues we have been exposed to in this course?
    I still am having huge difficulty reading material online, so I actually think I’m not able to extract true value from a lot of thiese publications.

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