Reorientation of Education for Sustainability

It is argued that “Education is an essential tool for achieving sustainability. People around the world recognize that current economic development trends are not sustainable and that public awareness, education and training are key to moving society toward sustainability” (Hopkins & McKeown 2000).

Reference: Hopkins, Charles and McKeown, Rosalyn. (2000). Chapter 2, Education for sustainable development: an international perspective in Tilbury, D., Fien, J., Stevenson, R.B., and Schreuder, D. (2000). Education and Sustainability: Responding to the Global Challenge

The following are the main points I have pulled from this reading and my reflections regarding our apprroach to EFS.

There are two differing approaches to sustainability in the world: “sustainable economic growth” and “sustainable human development”. The former does not support the transformation of current social or economic systems and the latter demands radical departures from the current system.

I don’t think Otago Polytechnic’s current  aims, visions and policies will lead to a reorientation of education which would equip our students with the knowledge to distinguish between these two approaches to sustainability. A more radical change is needed to develop a  “new world ethic of sustainability”. This new ethic is based upon two interdependent sets of principles
– one related to our responsibility to care for nature (or ecological sustainability) and another related to our responsibility to care for each other (social justice).

The long-term task of environmental education is to foster or reinforce attitudes and behaviours compatible with this new ethic. It should
focus  sharply on developing understanding of and links between environmental quality, human equality, human rights and peace and their underlying political threads.

Issues such as food security, poverty, sustainable tourism, urban quality, women, fair trade, green consumerism, ecological public health and waste management as well as those of climatic change, deforestation, land degradation, desertification, depletion of natural resources and loss of biodiversity are primary concerns for both environmental and development education.

This entails involving people in questions about the ownership of common property resources, issues of international and intergenerational equity, investigations into regional and national ecological footprints and, most importantly, engagement in debates about qualitative versus quantitative growth.

My conclusion is that as a country and as an institution we need to decide where we stand politically, and radically and rapidly respond to the challenge of  educating for sustainability.

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