Archive for July, 2012

armenia

The Armenia Tree Project

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Mission and history Armenia Tree Project (ATP), a non-profit program based in Watertown and Yerevan, conducts vitally important environmental projects in Armenia’s cities and villages and seeks support in advancing its reforestation mission. ATP was founded in 1994 by philanthropist Carolyn Mugar and its efforts were officially launched with the start of the first tree-planting project at the Nork Senior Center in the spring of the same year. In 2001, ATP’s goals began to be redirected towards more aggressive, all-encompassing reforestation efforts, aimed at rehabilitating devastated rural and urban areas and providing Armenian citizens with the resources as well as incentive for redeveloping their immediate environments. Specifically, visionary programs have been launched in Aygut in the vicinity of Lake Sevan and in Vanadzor, the third largest city in Armenia, located in the Lori region. Since 1994, ATP has made enormous strides in combating desertification in the biologically diverse but threatened Caucasus region. More than 4,000,000 trees have been planted and restored, and hundreds of jobs have been created for Armenians in seasonal tree-related programs. Today ATP continues to work to further Armenia’s economic and social development by mobilizing resources to fund reforestation. These vital new trees provide food, wood, environmental benefits, and opportunities for economic growth. Current activities Currently ATP works on three major program initiatives: 1) Planting trees at urban and rural sites 2) Environmental education 3) Sustainable development and poverty reduction ATP’s targets include:
  • Creating and publishing a sustainable forestry training manual in collaboration with Yale University School of Forestry, and introducing it to the Ministry of Agriculture and Armenia State Forestry Service for consideration as a guidebook for forestry officials. The manual will serve as a benchmark for ATP trainings for current and future foresters, as well as local residents who wish to become involved with community based forestry initiatives;
  • Continuing to provide trainings and seminars for rural environmental youth groups, family farmers growing trees, and visitors to ATP’s Michael and Virginia Ohanian Environmental Education Center at Karin nursery;
  • Continuing to provide trainings for educators throughout Armenia and creating a network for information and experience exchange for public schools environmental education teachers;
  • Working with organizations and individuals participating in the environmental coalition activities to advocate for the preservation of public green spaces, sustainable forest use policies, and other environmental issues having broad based public interest.
Environmental education Environmental education is developed by ATP as a core program area in order to prepare the nation’s youth for becoming the next generation of environmental stewards. In addition, all ATP’s reforestation work in rural villages—which is directly tied to social and economic development—has a key educational component focusing on youth and local partners. By actively engaging youth in a process to better understand and appreciate the value of a healthy and sustainable environment, ATP seeks to protect the trees they plant today from future exploitation. The public school system in Armenia does not have an environmental education component in its curriculum, so ATP designed a curriculum that will be introduced to the Ministry of Education for consideration as a mandatory teaching tool for primary through secondary school students. The curriculum was approved and recommended by the Republic of Armenia National Institute of Education as a manual for science teachers in public schools. All schools in Armenia have received the Curriculum. ATP in collaboration with National Institute of Education provides country wide trainings on environmental education in all regions (marzes) of Armenia. The ATP’s Environmental Education Curriculum can be consulted in English at the following address: http://www.armeniatree.org/pdf/ee_curriculum_july10.pdf. Further information about this organization and its work can be found at www.armeniatree.org. Image source: www.armeniatree.org
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Education for Sustainable Development – a response from the Nordic countries

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Finland: sustainable development in the steering of education and training Finland adopted a more serious attitude toward environmental education and protection of the environment after the Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972. The report of the Commission for Environmental Education in 1978 and the national core curriculum from 1985 raised environmental education as one of the educational goals in general education. Environmental education came to be a cross-curricular theme and also part of vocational education and training. A working group appointed by the Finnish National Commission for UNESCO formulated the National Strategy for Environmental Education in 1992. The strategy recommended measures to be taken in maternity and child healthcare, children’s day-care, the entire educational system, research and scholarship, the Finnish Defence Forces, the Evangelical Lutheran Church and parishes, non-governmental organizations, trade and industry, media, and international cooperation. In the 1990s, environmental education was expanded to consider all the dimensions of sustainable development. The focus shifted to the study of the ecological, economic, social, and cultural effects of human activities. It began to assess operating habits critically and to search for new solutions considering all the dimensions of sustainable development simultaneously. The revised core curricula of the new millennium state that sustainable development must be included in the teaching of all subjects, and the school’s operational culture must support learning. Political and administrative steering The Council of State defines the general lines of educational policy and draws up the development plans. Every four years it endorses a plan for the development of Ministry of Education training in the field of administration and development of research and scholarship in universities. The development plan Education and Research 2003–2008 states that sustainable development shall be promoted in education and research. The Ministry of Education published in February 2006 the report “Sustainable development in education; Implementation of Baltic 21E programme and Finnish strategy for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005–2014)”. It contains policy definitions for the whole educational system. A working group appointed by the Ministry of Education made a proposal for a national action plan for Global Education. One of the activity areas included in the Global Education 2010 programme promotes the ability to perceive the world as a whole with limited natural resources; a world in which we need to learn to save resources and distribute them fairly, equally, and equitably. The Local Government Act states that local authorities shall strive to promote the welfare of their residents and sustainable development in their areas. In a 1997 Strategy for Sustainable Development adopted by the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities (revised in 2001), the importance of collaboration between sectors and the integration of sustainable development perspectives in municipal planning are emphasized. Curriculum steering In compliance with laws, decrees, and the approved distribution of lesson hours, the Finnish National Board of Education draws up the national core curriculum for basic, upper secondary and upper secondary level vocational education and training and the foundations of degrees for vocational education. NBE also approves the core curricula for pre-school education and both the morning and afternoon activities of school-goers. Based on the core curricula, local authorities and other education providers devise their own curricula which are specified and complement the aims and core contents. Teachers implement the aims and contents of the adopted curriculum in the classroom. Cross-curricular themes are key areas in educational work. Their aims and contents are incorporated into several subjects and they pose a challenge to integrate instruction. Sustainable development is a cross-curricular theme in the national core curriculum for basic education, adopted in 2004, for upper secondary education, adopted in 2003, and for basic and upper secondary education for adults, adopted in 2004. Sustainable development must be included in the local curriculum work in the common and optional subjects and in common events, and it must be apparent in the school’s operational culture. The central tenets in both the curricula for basic and upper secondary education are the development of environmental literacy and future thinking, a sustainable way of life and learning to participate in public affairs and influence decision-making. In vocational education and on-the-job learning, promotion of sustainable development is a common emphasis in all fields. Four credits of environmental knowledge can be included in optional studies. Knowledge of environmental skills is part of the vocational skills in one’s own field. The beginning of 2006 will see an act regarding the implementation of the demonstration of vocational skills bring forth sustainable development in each vocational field. Other steering The Ministry of Education is responsible for the development of educational, science, cultural, sport and youth policies and international cooperation in these fields. It also defines the allocation of resources. The Finnish National Board of Education supports the curriculum work of the schools and educational institutions and the implementation of environmental systems via training, production of learning materials, networking support, and a web-service on sustainable development. The national core curricula and foundations of degrees, in turn, steer the producers of learning materials and degrees, teacher trainers and the initiation of development projects. Research, scholarship and assessment provide new perspectives to the development of education and training. Researchers and scholars are involved in many school development projects. New innovations are generated in national and international projects and programmes. The administration provides library, information and web-services. Training, visits and theme days are organized for schools. The administration also participates in local, regional, national and international cooperative projects. National parks and other reservation areas and their nature centres are important learning environments for people of all ages. Environmental awareness is promoted particularly through extensive distribution of information in the media. Metsähallitus, a state enterprise whose primary tasks are to supply wood to the forest industry and manage most of Finland’s protected areas, is in charge of nature guide services in Finnish national parks. The Finnish Association for Environmental Education promotes education for sustainable development and coordinates the activities of organizations in the field. The objective is to support and promote the educational work of organizations, improve the dissemination of information, and reduce overlaps in the activities of organizations. At the same time, it strives to create a common understanding among the organizations of what good education for sustainable development is. The association hosts a nature school group and a network of researchers in the field. It promotes interaction between researchers and educators. Nature and environmental schools support the environmental education work done in schools and day-care by teaching ecological literacy. The teaching takes place in the nature or other environments relevant to the instructional themes and is active learning, hands on and learning through experience. At the moment there are 24 nature and environmental schools in Finland. The network covers mainly the biggest cities in Southern Finland. The most important target groups of nature schools are the pupils and teachers in pre-school and basic education. Special environmental systems have been designed for schools. The Green Flag is an international programme of environmental education with the purpose of developing ecological everyday practices and furthering the participation of children and young people in decision-making.   Norway: the Norwegian approach to sustainable development Norwegian authorities claim to have taken a systemic approach to the issue of environmental education in line with the goals of the Brundtland Report, and see themselves as a vanguard of education for sustainable education. This systemic approach attempts “to create an institutional framework which at all levels promotes environmental education and in which environmental education is compulsory and fully integrated into normal activities”. Actually, the Norwegian Government became inspired by the UN Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 and included environmental education in the curricula for primary and secondary education already in 1974. In 1974 a subject called “nature and environmental protection” was introduced and later changed to “nature and the environment”. However, these early efforts were often limited to focusing on pollution control and nature conservation, and it was not until the national curriculum of 1987 that the environment was seen as part of the larger social and economic picture. While environmental education is an integral part of the Norwegian school system, teaching about sustainable development is not as systemic as one might hope. While there can be little dispute that the Norwegian population – young and old – has ready access to and knowledge about the environmental challenges we are facing, there seems to be a certain apathy – as illustrated  in the decline of environmental enthusiasm – towards taking real and decisive steps in order to deal with these. Since the publication of the Brundtland Report in 1987, sustainable development has been declared a policy goal by the Norwegian Government. However, the enthusiasm and priority given to sustainable development varies according to the social, political and economic situation. Despite fluctuations in priorities within the electorate and political system, sustainable development has been developed and integrated into the policy structure. Sustainable development is an integral part of the language and justification of policy and politics in Norway. In 1989, the Norwegian Government issued the White Paper no. 46 “On environment and development” as a response to the publication of Our Common Future two years earlier. A concrete result of the White Paper was the implementation of an obligatory course called “Nature, society and the environment” in teacher training in 1992. The subject was removed in 2002 with little resistance from politicians and bureaucrats. Research shows that lack of knowledge among teachers as well as scant resources are key challenges to integrating sustainability issues into teaching. The teachers’ attitude and interest in the theme, along with variables such as time and economy are also determining factors for why sustainable development and related issues are given small priority. In response to the UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development the Norwegian Government issued a document that summarizes the current situation and outlines challenges ahead for education for sustainable development. Even though this document is often referred to as a strategy plan for sustainable development, it does not spell out a new strategy or path, but provides an overview of the different initiatives taken by the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. The initiatives include developing and supporting project-based learning about sustainable development. The document does not provide information on how many schools are involved in these projects, but it mentions that the national curriculum should guide education for sustainable development. The National Curriculum During the past decade “Lærerplan 97” (L97 – Curriculum 1997) has been the guiding document for teaching in primary and secondary education in Norway. In the fall of 2006, L97 was replaced by a new reform and curriculum called Kunnskapsløftet (KL07 – “The Knowledge Promotion 2007”). The overall organization of the subjects remained the same, except for some changes in the structure of individual subjects and number of hours devoted to the different subjects. The major change is that the new plan provides clearer, shorter and more overarching goals for the education. In both L97 and KL07, issues related to sustainable development are primarily covered in the subjects: social science and natural science (in KL07 the “environmental” part of the subject’s name was omitted). However, in the curricula for the subjects: “Food and Health”, “Christianity, Religion and Ethics”, and “Arts and Crafts”, mention sustainability, but it is not a central focus in neither of these subjects. Both the old and the new curricula provide relatively little emphasis on environmental and developmental issues the first seven years, but such issues gain more attention at the secondary level. RORG, a coalition of Norwegian NGOs, argues that KL07 is a step down when it comes to the education for a sustainable future. Overall it is the environmental aspect of sustainable development that receives attention in the curriculum. The NGOs claim that the curriculum is missing a global development focus with attention to issues such as inequality and poverty in an international perspective. Furthermore, the Norwegian authorities’ focus on sustainable development and international cooperation seems to be largely absent in the curriculum. Another critic of the new curriculum, educational researcher Camilla Schreiner, criticises the lack of systematic inclusion of sustainable development in the new plan and argues that the natural sciences are presented as detached from the social and environmental reality.   Sweden: from environmental education to education for sustainable development Considering that Sweden has a long tradition of environmental education, the Swedish research field is relatively new. Since the beginning of the 20th century outdoor education has had a strong position in the Swedish curriculum, and care for nature and environmental concern have been recurring themes in these activities. In the late 1960s, the outdoor education tradition fused with the new wave of environmentalism that arose during these years to form the basis for Swedish environmental education. This combination is evident in the Swedish national curriculum of 1969 (Lgr 69), in which environmental education intentions appear for the first time. Important inspiration for the Swedish environmental education movement came in 1972, when the Swedish government initiated the first major global environmental meeting known as the Stockholm Conference (the UN Conference on the Human Environment). At this conference education was emphasised as a key issue in environmental protection. Detailed guidelines for environmental education were further developed at the world’s first intergovernmental conference on environmental education organised by UNESCO in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1977. The Tbilisi Declaration had a strong impact on the national curriculum of 1980 (Lgr 80), in which environmental perspectives were integrated foremost in science education. The importance of education in the strivings for a sound relationship with the environment, and later for a sustainable development, have been emphasised in a number of UN policy declarations and reports: Our Common Future, 1987; Agenda 21, 1992; and the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, 2002. In order to further underline the importance of education in addressing global challenges, in 2002 the UN General Assembly declared 2005–2014 as the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD). The DESD declaration signifies one of the most obvious changes in environmental education policy and practice in recent years, namely the conceptual change from “environment” to “sustainable development”. In Sweden “sustainable development” has been less controversial than in the rest of the world. While there may be several reasons for this, the fact that there has been strong political consensus about the concept and the fact that many regard it as a necessary qualitative improvement of the welfare state have probably contributed. This can of course been seen as a rather naïve attitude that hides the ideological tensions and embedded contradictions within the concept. However, ESD does not necessarily have to be restricted to the UNESCO version, but can be interpreted and negotiated in many different ways. The interesting thing is therefore to reflect on what kind of changes these interpretations and negotiations bring about in educational practice. One way of capturing these changes is to study “selective traditions” within sustainability and environmental education. Such studies have shown a gradual transition from a fact-based tradition characterised by a focus on the transference of scientific knowledge, via a normative tradition with a focus on teaching students the necessary environmentally friendly values and attitudes, to a pluralistic tradition that endeavours to mirror the variety of opinions and perspectives informing contemporary debate. Another way of describing this shift is in terms of a movement from behavioural modification to a participatory approach involving diverse interest groups towards supporting independent opinion-making, action competence and critical thinking. Changes in environmental and sustainability education are not only evident in the approach and the teaching methods, however. The content is also shifting. In particular, the sustainability perspective has significantly broadened the scope for this kind of education. There is a clear trend towards giving political and moral perspectives greater importance in environmental and sustainability education and that increasing attention is paid to the interrelations between economic development, environmental protection and social justice, both on a local and global scale. Not least, climate change and its increasingly obvious consequences have made it necessary to capture the complexity of sustainability issues in educational practice. As a consequence, the broadening of environmental education is no longer the sole responsibility of science education. In fact, in many secondary and upper secondary schools, social science teachers seem to be taking a leading role in the development of these teaching perspectives. Today, environmental and sustainability education issues are central concerns in many subjects in the Swedish educational system as a whole – from preschool to higher education.   Sources: http://www.oru.se/Extern/Forskning/Forskningsmiljoer/HumUS/Utbildning_och_Demokrati/Tidskriften/2011/New%20Swedish%20environmental%20and%20sustainability%20education%20research.pdf http://www.ceres21.org/media/UserMedia/Laumann%20thesis.pdf http://www.oph.fi/download/47693_engnetKekekajako.pdf Photo credits: Livia Minca
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Education for Sustainable Development in Estonia

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In the middle of the significant developments in education policy that Estonia faced recently, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has been an important topic present in the educational debate and has received its well-deserved attention from Estonian policy-makers. In the Estonian case, not only the Ministry of Education and Research is responsible for implementing sustainable development ideas in education, but it is strongly supported by the Ministry of Environment. In 2005 a Memorandum of Cooperation was signed between the two ministries. This document established the development of environmental education as a priority for Estonia. The role of the Ministry of Environment has been to develop the infrastructure for practical environmental education activities for more than 10 years now. Examples of the means that help put ESD into practice include the Estonian Museum of Natural History, the Environmental Information Centre, the State Forest Management Centre with its nation-wide network of nature centres and study programmes developed based on the national curriculum, etc. A great number of ESD-related activities and programmes are developed and coordinated by the Environmental Board that falls within the area of governance of the Ministry of Environment. One of the goals of this Board is to foster a sense of responsibility in Estonians, particularly young people, regarding nature. The Education Department of the Environmental Board bases its work on the idea that environmental education shapes the way people think and implements this philosophy by offering continuous training to specialists in nature and environmental education, improving the study resources on sustainable development and offering free programmes to tens of thousands of students from all over Estonia to complement the education based on the national curricula. There are lots of practical ESD-related activities and programmes available for schools in Estonia and they are extremely popular among teachers and students. The Ministry of the Environment coordinates the electronic database that unites educational programmes for environment and sustainable development topics; more than 70 organisations provide activities to children from pre-school age to adults, from camping in a bog to studying aquatic life in Estonian lakes. The Ministry of Education and Research is responsible for implementing ESD topics through the formal education system and the national curriculum. Teaching sustainable development topics starts in early childhood education. The Estonian National Curriculum for Pre-school Child Care Institutions describes the learning content and educational objectives in seven fields, one of which is “Me and the Environment”. The objectives of this field of study include both cognitive content elements (e.g. noticing changes in the nature) and skills and values content (e.g. valuing the health of oneself and others, trying to have a healthy and safe lifestyle). In addition to involving ESD topics in the subject curricula, Estonia has a relatively long history in teaching sustainable development as a cross-curricular topic. The idea of cross-curricular topics in the national curriculum is to integrate general and curricular competences and to span them across numerous subjects. The cross-curricular topics are priorities for society. In schools, the cross-curricular topics are taught through the structure of the learning environment, subject study, selection of optional subjects, creative works, extra-curricular and hobby activities. The compulsory cross-curricular topic “Environment” was first introduced in the National Curriculum for Basic and Secondary Schools in 1996. The later version of the National Curriculum adopted in 2002 implemented a cross-curricular topic that from then on is called “Environment and Sustainable Development”. This topic strives to shape the pupils into socially active, responsible and environmentally aware people, who preserve and protect the environment, value sustainability and are ready to find solutions to the problems of the environment and human development. This cross-curricular topic, regardless of its name, has, through more than 15 years, concentrated on promoting environmental aspects of sustainable development. The economic content present in the general objectives of the cross-curricular topic talks mainly about valuing and following sustainable lifestyles. Compared to the environmental content, socio-cultural objectives are least presented in the three versions of the national curriculum. The latest of them, however, has several improvements and aims at guiding the students towards understanding how social, economic, cultural and technological developments of the humanity are connected. Since the schools started following the latest version of the national curriculum only in September 2011, it is still too early to comment how the improved content was implemented and how it affected students’, teachers’ and schools’ understanding of sustainable development. Estonia has established a clear state policy about ESD: a programme and an action plan for developing environmental education at basic and secondary school level were launched in January 2011. The objectives of this programme are not only to educate the teachers about ESD topics, but also to conduct research on the availability of ESD-related teaching and study materials or how ESD networks function in Estonia.   Source: http://www.enjoined.edupolicy.net/files/EST_ESD_eng1_opt.pdf Photo credits: Livia Minca
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Education for Sustainable Development in Germany

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Since the mid-1990s the federal administration and the Länder have been adapting their policies to the basic concept of sustainable development as defined by Agenda 21. Below is a chronology of the most important steps:
  • In 1998 the German Bundestag’s Commission of Inquiry on the “Protection of Man and the Environment” published its final report entitled “The Concept of Sustainability – from principle to implementation”. In the same year the Bund-Länder Commission for Educational Planning and Research Promotion presented the “Framework of reference for Education for Sustainable Development”.
  • In 2000 the German Bundestag unanimously passed the resolution “Education for Sustainable Development”.
  • One year later the German government set up a state secretary committee for sustainable development, which is maintained by the present government, and appointed the Council for Sustainable Development.
  • In 2002 the national strategy on sustainability “Perspectives for Germany” was published. Several Länder additionally formulated their own strategies on sustainability.
  • In 2005 the German Bundestag established a parliamentary advisory board for sustainable development.
  • In 2002 and 2005 the Federal Ministry for Education and Research presented the government’s first and second reports on Education for Sustainable Development based on a decision of the German Bundestag.
  • To implement the concept of sustainable development into all educational levels in Germany, a National Plan of Action for the UN Decade was developed in 2005 on the basis of a resolution unanimously adopted by the German Bundestag. The aim is to integrate ESD cross-sectorally in all policy areas that are relevant to sustainable development. Some Länder have already initiated their own plans of action for the promotion of the UN Decade, while several others are preparing those plans.
The National Plan of Action includes numerous measures for planning, dissemination and embedding ESD. The programme “Transfer 21” is one of these measures. The concept of participatory skills in ESD is being developed within the framework of Transfer 21, together with the “Cross-Curricular Framework for Global Development Education”. Further important examples are the development of teaching materials on subjects related to sustainability (e.g. energy, climate protection, biodiversity) provided by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the elaboration of a framework for “Education for Sustainable Development” for school curriculums in North Rhine-Westphalia, the certification of extracurricular educational institutions in the field of environmental education and global learning in Schleswig-Holstein, the establishment of a regional network for ESD in primary education in Bavaria, embedding the overall concept of sustainability in the vocational education and training ordinances issued by the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB). The measures cited above and a multitude of other measures from the Länder and also from the federal government, companies and organisations are aimed at preparing and testing teaching materials, developing quality criteria for teaching and evaluating student competencies in the context of ESD, establishing quality standards for ESD-schools, and forming regional networks as well as networks at national and international level. A Cross-Curricular Framework for Global Development The Cross-Curricular Framework for Global Development Education offers support for schools, school book publishers and all those in the education system who administrate and plan curricula. It is the result of a joint initiative by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) and the German Federal Ministry for Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Their project goal is to integrate global development into school curricula, thus promoting Education for Sustainable Development. The framework
  • is a conceptual framework for the development of syllabi and curricula, for designing lessons and extra-curricular activities as well as for setting and assessing requirements for specific subjects and learning areas;
  • offers inspiration for: school profile and full-day school programme development, for cooperation with external partners and for teacher education;
  • offers concrete recommendations and suggestions for the interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary organisation of instruction, and offers classroom materials (for vocational schools as well), to work out intricate global development issues.
The goal of the framework, approved in June 2007 by the KMK, is to embed the Global Development learning area into the educational system – cross-curricular and in individual subjects from the primary and secondary levels to vocational education. Over 40 experts from the areas of education, didactics, the sciences, and development and non-governmental organisations also participated in the project. The framework sought to adopt knowledge already gained from out of developmental policies and global learning education and integrate this into an education for sustainable development in accordance with current educational reforms. It is dedicated to following the guiding principles passed by the World Summits on Sustainable Development held in Rio 1992 and Johannesburg 2002 which were also embraced by Germany. The BMZ draws a distinction between the following four different components of development: society, economy, politics and environment. The framework links these with various structural levels (the individual, family/small group, community, state, region, nation/State, trans-national elements, world). It establishes relationships to disciplines and in this sense into school subjects. It also clarifies at what point and with which didactic concepts the Global Development learning area can be firmly embedded into various subjects. In the meantime the framework has drawn considerable attention from experts in the field. It is also an integral part of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development catalogue of measures.   Sources: http://www.ensi.org/media-global/downloads/Publications/321/Orientierungsrahmen%20Kurzfassung%20englisch.pdf http://www.bne-portal.de/coremedia/generator/unesco/en/04__The_20UN_20Decade_20in_20Germany/06__Publications_20and_20documents/Recommendation_20KMK__DUK__ESD_20in_20Schools.pdf Photo credits: Livia Minca
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The programme “Learning for Sustainable Development” in the Netherlands

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The Dutch Program “Learning for Sustainable Development” enhances learning processes on sustainability in many issues, and helps students, professionals, organisations and individuals to identify and make sustainable choices. Participants in decision-making processes work together to resolve problems, carefully balancing the interests of people, nature and the environment, and the economy, in perspective of global responsibility, future orientation and sharing of values. Learning for Sustainable Development facilitates sustainable decision-making by:
  • explaining and concretising the concept of sustainability (e.g. by publishing essays or developing continuous learning strands)
  • bringing the parties involved together at all levels in order to work out concrete issues (organising workshops, starting up networks, supporting websites for sharing knowledge)
  • offering training and coaching to participants in the program (participating in processes designed to embed sustainability in the structure and administration organisations, for example)
  The three pillars of the “Learning for Sustainable Development” Program Pillar 1 – Learning individuals: this aims to ensure that all school-leavers and graduates are able to make an active contribution to sustainable development. The program targets educational institutes, teachers, lecturers and administrators in all sectors of education: primary, secondary, higher and vocational education (within the formal education system) and the organisations that support the education sector in the area of sustainable development (outside the education sector). This pillar addresses ESD in all curricula. Pillar 2 – Learning organisations: this aims to help civil servants acquire the competences to make responsible ecological, social and economic decision-making and prevent responsibilities being shifted to other places or generations (the global dimension and the future dimension). The target group is the public sector: policy-making officials, administrators and administrative consultants, as well as the implementation departments of ministries, provinces and district water boards. More and more attention is being devoted to municipal councils and businesses. Pillar 3 – Learning society: this is primarily aimed at provincial scale. Working towards a sustainable society concerns us all, at local, provincial and regional level. Local authorities (provincial councils, municipal councils, district water boards), businesses, civil society organisations, NGO’s and individual citizens are involved in participative policy-making processes. How can these processes (and the specific learning and decisions making within) contribute to sustainability? And, in terms of sustainability, what are the key processes of change (transitions)? The provincial network of Learning for Sustainable Development directors allocates resources (money and expertise) to facilitate this “voyage of discovery” and make the results accessible to others. The type of learning processes between stakeholders is defined as “social learning”. Over the past two decades, “Learning for Sustainable Development” has become deeply ingrained in a number of other educations, such as citizenship education, world orientation, development education, environmental education, health education, intercultural education, and peace education. It stimulates children in their development and their orientation in a complex world. In addition to this socialising function, it also contributes to the pedagogical function of education by asking ethical-philosophical questions. Leading up to “Learning for Sustainable Development”, the Netherlands is fortunate in that the environmental education has always received ardent attention. The link between environmental education and – especially – basic education seems an obvious one. During the first few years of primary education, the child’s orientation on the world around him is basal, small-scale, and close-by. These young children are oriented upon, surprised by, care for, and experience natural and environmental issues close to home and these aspects need to form the basis for lessons in world orientation. As the children’s perception of the environment grows and becomes more complex, these lessons can be scaled up to include a wider world view. However, children are also a part of their living environment: they see and hear what is going on around them, on television and in real life. They view a world that is far away and become interested in it. Therefore, a second starting point may be Citizenship Education. Education is meant to prepare people for active participation in society. Sustainable Development offers youngsters the opportunity to focus upon their future roles as world citizens. Sustainable Development is not possible without the engagement and participation of the population, including youngsters. “Learning for Sustainable Development” and Citizenship Education share important basic principles. In fact, one follows from the other. The legal status of Citizenship Education (in schools) seems a logical step in the direction of a broader acceptance of Learning for Sustainable Development. In addition, both traditional and new subject areas, such as Nature, Life and Technology and philosophy, offer starting points for Learning for Sustainable Development. The concept of sustainable development provides a great challenge – as well as a great opportunity – for education. “Learning for Sustainable Development” touches the real, day-today living environment of pupils, parents and teachers. Attention for sustainable development touches the very core of education: to prepare pupils for their future, their role in it, and their responsibility for it.   Sources: http://www.lerenvoorduurzameontwikkeling.nl/sites/default/files/downloads/lvdo_programmabrochure_engelstalig_tcm24-290166.pdf http://www.lerenvoorduurzameontwikkeling.nl/sites/default/files/downloads/learning_sstnbl_dvlpm_tcm24-298876_0.pdf http://www.slo.nl/downloads/2008/sustainable_development-def.pdf/ Photo credits: Livia Minca
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The Austrian programme “Ecologisation of Schools—Education for Sustainability” (ECOLOG)

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ECOLOG, a key action programme and network on the ecologisation of schools and education for sustainability, was developed by an Austrian team of teachers working on the international project “Environment and School Initiatives” (ENSI) in the 1990s as a national support system with the aim of promoting and integrating the development of individual schools, and attempts are being made to embed the programme in Austria’s federal states through regional networks. Overall coordination is ensured by the Forum Umweltbildung, which operates as a contractor with the Federal Ministry of Education, Sciences and Culture and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Environment. In this setting, the ECOLOG programme may itself become sustainable and be seen as an interface between environmental education and school development. ECOLOG is based upon an ENSI approach: Schools – so called ESDSchools – define the ecological, technical and social conditions of their environment and, on the basis of these results, define objectives, targets and/or concrete activities and quality criteria, to be implemented and evaluated. Students as well as all the other actors at school should be involved in a participatory way and collaboration with authorities, business and other interested parties is encouraged. The measures concern, among others, areas like saving of resources (energy, water etc.), reduction of the emissions (i.e. waste, traffic), spatial arrangement (from the classroom to the campus), learning culture (communication culture, organisational structure) and health promotion as well as opening of the school to the community. All in all, over 300 schools with about 70,000 students are currently in the network. Many others are reached by the web site, teacher inservice-training seminars and newsletters. What has been achieved in relation to the goals and objectives of the ECOLOG network:
  • The pilot phase of the network (1996–1998) successfully achieved its main goals of supporting ecological awareness and fostering school development through environmental projects.
  • The nationwide contest (Phase II, 1997–1999) called “The Slightly Different Contest—Ecologising Schools”, with 200 participating schools, was a striking success. What made the contest innovative was that it was not the product that was examined but the growth in experience and change achieved in the schools.
  • In Phase III (since 1999), which focused on the development of regional support networks, the cooperation with school authorities and environmental departments of the regional governments has been successfully established and has been working well in most Austrian provinces.
  • Some federal states—such as Upper Austria and Styria—are repeatedly mentioned in the interviews as good practice models for this cooperation.
  • Beside these forms of knowledge management there are also opportunities of gaining new knowledge: regular training workshops (e.g. team formation, curriculum, environmental topics) are offered to network members.
  • A considerable number of school-development consultants showed a lively interest in participating in the network. These consultants are supposed to provide valuable knowledge and support concerning the further development of the network.
Problems were identified in relation to cooperation and the flow of information within the network, time pressures, tight deadlines and excessive workloads as a result, varying levels of commitment by staff in the coordination groups, and a lack of material and other resources for coordinators and schools. In the immediate future, keeping a balance between bottom-up and top-down developments, together with the introduction of some new organisational features (i.e. more team-oriented work and more horizontal connections between the network partners), will be the key challenges of the network Ecologising Schools—Education for Sustainable Development. Crucial questions for a sustainable development of the network include how to keep up funding, how to develop local advisory support further, and how to find structural links and cooperation to quality assessment and educational standards development. Good practice Example of an ECOLOG School Sustainable development is an important part of the school culture at the Upper secondary technical School (HTL) Donaustadt in Vienna. Aspects of sustainability are reflected in numerous projects, diploma thesis and by the certification through environment management systems (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme – EMAS). In addition to high quality technical training, students acquire specialised knowledge in the area of company environment protection by getting qualified as waste-, environment- and sustainability agents as well as by acquiring social competencies. Through this practice relevant and modern training, alumni are sought as valuable employees in companies. Throughout the year the school organises film and discussion days focusing on sustainability themes. These events have been well attended by students. The selection of topics for diploma theses and projects ranges from optimising waste management to the development of a “reminder-calendar” for vaccination shots in companies. The “HTL Donaustadt” and its highly motivated students also support regional nature protection projects like the resettling of tawny owls with helpful technical solutions. Modern company culture also needs to take into account the satisfaction of its staff and of the students. For this the HTL Donaustadt has a communication platform “we for us”. In a technical school with a high percentage of male staff members and students an active approach to gender mainstreaming is a logic consequence; for this the network called “women-technology-future” has been developed. The “HTL Donaustadt“ sees itself also as a cultural impulse transmitter in the region and organises events to which people of the surrounding district are invited. Highlights of this impulse activity are the “long night of sustainability” and the cooperation with a local business Agenda 21 initiative. Since 2005 this variety of projects and activities has been documented in “sustainability reports“. This documentation allows to analyse strengths and to give room for improvement and helps to act accordingly. The continued improvement has led to numerous awards like the “Environment Award of the City of Vienna”, the Austrian Sustainability Reporting Award, the Mobility Award and the Eco Profit Award. Seminars for heads and coordinators to enhance quality of ESD schools In November 2007 and April 2008 a two-part seminar was offered to heads of Austrian ECOLOG schools. In May 2009 a further seminar was held for co-ordinators at the ECOLOG schools. The seminars aimed to spread innovative ideas to the ECOLOG schools through an organised framework in which school representatives could discuss their work and which facilitated a systematic confrontation with the “Quality Criteria for ESD-Schools”. The intention of the seminar was to enhance innovative potentials at the schools and it was the aspect of ESD being “part of everyday school life” or part of the mission statement for the schools that led the Austrian ENSI Team to think of innovative approaches. The task was to keep what was there alive, leading on to intrinsically motivated further development through the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts. When school initiatives are recognised as positive and have become institutionalised, there is simply a danger that they may become purely an “institution”, suffer from a loss of impetus and also become the task or even burden of a small group – or at worst, one person – rather than a living part of everyday school life. All in all the feedback from the seminars was very good. An interesting aspect was that the participants were not daunted but inspired by excellent school examples. It was clear that it takes time to reach such a level, that it can only be achieved in a team and step-by-step. A further aspect was that it was the practical examples that clarified the quality criteria. Beyond seminar programmes, the aim is the integration of the quality criteria as a framework for ESD within regular teacher education.   Sources: http://seri.at/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/CEER_A_152761.pdf http://seri.at/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/ESD-in-Austria_proofed.pdf Photo credits: Livia Minca
slovenia

Education for Sustainable Development in Slovenia

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The topic of sustainable development and education for sustainable development (ESD) is present on various levels in the Slovene education debate. Stakeholders involved in ESD come from different institutions and organisations, like the NGO sector, different ministries, institutes, schools, out of school education organisations, etc. Although the debate is almost omnipresent, it does not result in official documentation and practice as much as the global situation demands. The white book on education, which includes most of the topics on ESD, was drafted and has been in public consultation since spring 2011. However, as the government fell in September 2011 and a new one has been installed only since February 2012, the question regarding what is going to happen to the procedure is still pending. There are also several documents on ESD that are all non-binding, such as guidelines for ESD or the cross-curricular subject called Environmental Education, which is defined as one of the additional non-obligatory subjects on the web page of the Ministry for Education and Sports, etc. In the elementary education it appears as an inter-subject field, meaning the teachers include it in teaching specific subjects, daily activities and other activities in schools. Elements of environmental education are present in all the three periods of elementary schooling. In the third period (grades 6 to 9) it can be taught as a separate, optional subject, which is designed in an interdisciplinary way: it connects and expands knowledge gained in different compulsory natural science and social subjects. But it is still optional and not compulsory, which means it depends on the teacher how much and what to incorporate in his/her classes. Therefore, not all pupils get this kind of education. In the NGO community, ESD is called also Global Education (GE). GE is understood and presented even more broadly than traditionally understood ESD. It focuses on skills and even more on values, topics are presented as interlinked (development cooperation, peace studies, human rights, environmental education, climate change, etc), it involves also contemporary teaching methods, like the open space methodology, learning by doing, blurring the border between teachers and students, participatory learning, research and critical thinking. However, GE is still implemented on the level of out-of-school activities or on special occasions, where individual teachers invite speakers to carry out workshops. Despite its presence in official educational documents, like the curricula, sustainable development is rarely understood with all the three components (economic, social and environmental) and it is mostly linked to environmental education. Even this theme is mostly related to noticing problems, rarely encouraging pupils to active engagement in the field. Important features, such as climate change, are also missing. A two years educational program for educators was developed by the University of Ljubljana and it included several topics of sustainable development from the three perspectives. The topics were presented using various methods, in line with ESD and many teachers attended the program. However, since its end in 2011, no further similar projects emerged. A cross sector working group led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Group for Global Education, is operational. It was established in 2010, influenced by the NGO community dealing with GE, and, despite some bottlenecks in its functioning, the mere existence and formation of the group is a positive sign. There are also various voluntary initiatives and networks of schools, linked to ESD. These are eco schools network, UNICEF schools, UNESCO schools, healthy schools, etc. They depend on individual actors in the schooling community, the level of engagement and inclusion and the way sustainable development is incorporated into educational processes, both as methods and as contents. In Slovenia, the ESD is still not perceived as an integral part of (formal) education as such, but as an additional element. In the textbooks, the elements of sustainable development are mentioned as a separate, additional part of different chapters. The trend of strengthening ESD is noticeable, but it is still in the early stages.   Source: http://www.enjoined.edupolicy.net/files/SLO_ESD_eng.pdf Image source: http://www.puretravel.com/itineraries/2153