Archive for August, 2012


Education for Sustainable Development in Japan

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“Integrated Studies” and “sustainability” in curriculum “Integrated Studies” was introduced in the Japanese school curriculum from primary to upper secondary school levels in 2000 before the resolution on the Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) was adopted in 2003. This is not an independent subject but integrated lessons across subjects. It covers topics across traditional subjects and allows for implementation of instruction and learning activities related to education for the sake of international understanding, information education, environmental education, health and welfare education, and other educations. The knowledge and skills are developed by integrated learning activities whose content is based on students’ personal interests. Teaching hours decreased from 105, 70 and 105 to 70, 50, and 35 for primary, lower secondary and upper secondary respectively after 2011. This topic of Integrated Studies serves as a foundation for ESD. In order to advance ESD activities effectively, the programs in Integrated Studies should be linked comprehensively and promoted continuously to learning activities. To assure this, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology supports: 1) the formulation of the Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education, which identifies ESD as a critical component; 2) the revision of Courses of Study to allow for ESD topics to enter various subject areas; and 3) the expansion of the UNESCO Associated School Network (ASPnet). Although the Integrated Studies hours declined in the recent curriculum reform, ESD practice survives in various other subjects because the new Course of Study mentions sustainability, which provides the foundation of ESD in school. Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU) introduced good examples of the practices in a Guide to Developing and Using ESD Materials. It collects 13 good ESD practice, explains a common approach to ESD and justifies with competency what students and adults would obtain through the practice. The National Federation of UNESCO Association in Japan also assists the fund for school ESD programs. Course of Study, the national curriculum standard, mentions a “sustainable society” in some subjects such as social studies, science and moral education. Course of Study sets the content and goals of instruction so that school teachers can design their lessons based on the aforementioned “sustainable society.” In addition, foreign language activity is a compulsory lesson for primary school since April 2011, and therefore, some teachers and scholars may find good opportunities to blend ESD practice with English lessons. Organizations out of School The ESD concepts are so wide that its practices are not always limited to school campuses. UNESCO introduced strong initiatives for ESD practice taken by private and/or nongovernmental stakeholders. UNESCO’s report revealed that there was little content in typical informal and non-formal education practices from the whole world survey. Active collaboration and cooperation between schools and non-official providers are sometimes very important for significant learning in ESD. Although Japan has not accumulated the experiences enough yet either, academic societies promote activities and research on ESD. For example, the Japan Association for International Education leads the interactions between researchers and social science teachers, and the Japanese Society of Environmental Education has a good relationship with science teachers. Both academic societies actively publish articles on ESD in their journals. There are more movements for research and development at the private sector. Development Education is quite a common concept for both local actors and school teachers who deal with international education: The teachers, students and civil organizations constantly hold joint projects and workshops for better practice. One of the most active organizations is the Development Education Association and Resource Centre in Japan. For ESD-domain activities, ESD-J is one of the largest NGOs, and takes initiative for cooperation among civil organizations, officials such as the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Environment, and practitioners.   Source: Image source:

The Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI)

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The Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI) is a partnership of the Australian Government, all state and territory governments and the Catholic and Independent school sectors, that seeks to support schools and their communities to become sustainable. AuSSI provides practical support to schools and their communities to live and work more sustainably. It engages participants in a whole-of-school approach, to explore through real-life learning experiences, improvements in a school’s management of resources and facilities including energy, waste, water, biodiversity, landscape design, products and materials. It also addresses associated social and financial issues and integrates these activities with teaching and learning across the curriculum. By participating in a learning by doing process, students achieve a better understanding of the world in which they live, and have opportunities to help create a more sustainable future. The Initiative’s vision is for all Australian schools and their communities to be sustainable. Because of the holistic nature of this vision, a wide range of individuals and groups can play a valuable role in AuSSI’s success, including students, school leaders, principals, teachers, other school staff, parent groups, community members, businesses, local government and non-government organisations. AuSSI helps to build sustainability knowledge, skills and motivation by supporting training of school staff, whole school planning, development of teaching materials and use of tools for measuring and reporting on sustainability outcomes. Furthermore, AuSSI does not replace other environmental or sustainability education activities in schools; rather it links to and complements existing programs already being implemented within schools. Participating in AuSSI provides many benefits to schools, including:
  • the opportunity to fulfil curriculum requirements in key learning areas in new and engaging ways
  • reduced consumption of resources and improved management of school grounds and facilities
  • teachers and students working on real life problems with real outcomes
  • professional development opportunities for all school staff
  • the school becoming a model for sustainability within the local community
  • students being empowered to make positive change in their communities
  • students improving their understanding of the complexity of the world in which they live by developing their knowledge, critical thinking skills, values and capacity to participate in decision making about environmental, social and economic development issues.
AuSSI is coordinated by the Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. It is being implemented in each state and territory using a variety of different models and is currently operating in almost 3000 schools, in all states and territories. AuSSI involves an action learning cycle and a whole-school approach, both of which engage all members of the school community and ensure that sustainability is embedded in all aspects of the school’s operations and management. An AuSSI school typically engaged in an action learning cycle involves:
  • making a whole school commitment to become more sustainable
  • auditing and collecting baseline data on its use of resources, its management of facilities and grounds and its approaches to teaching and learning
  • developing an action plan, including targets (often called a School Environmental Management Plan)
  • actively implementing, monitoring and evaluating its plan
  • critically reflecting on progress and revising plans for the future.
Effective education for sustainability is not just a curriculum issue. It requires the involvement of the whole school and pervades all aspects of the school operations, curriculum, teaching and learning, physical surroundings and relationships with the local community. A whole school approach to education for sustainability emerges from the school vision and is articulated in all facets of school life in:
  • the way the school is organised and operates
  • building design (within the limitations of existing structures)
  • the development and management of school grounds
  • improved management of resources (water, energy, products and materials)
  • enhanced connections between the school, its community and other educational institutions
  • the conservation and protection of natural and heritage values in the school buildings and grounds
  • reorientation of the curriculum and teaching and learning methods towards sustainability.
AuSSI supports schools in their growth from awareness through to leadership in education for sustainability and sustainable living. It fosters school ownership and empowerment and focuses on student involvement, leadership and learning. The Australian Government provides support to AuSSI partners through national coordination facilitation and funding of networks. Support is provided to AuSSI schools by state and territory governments including:
  • best practice and quality curriculum support
  • the integration of sustainability activities and their outcomes into the curriculum
  • coordination and guidance in implementing AuSSI
  • audit tools to manage resources and track progress
  • ideas for projects and ways to involve the local community as well as encourage a shift in the broader community towards more sustainable practices and processes
  • networking and clustering opportunities for schools
  • professional development and mentoring opportunities for all school staff
  • strategies to develop an overall, long term plan for sustainability for the school
  • encouragement for effective community partnerships.
AuSSI is a broad framework incorporating a wide range of activities which help schools and their communities to become more sustainable. Individual schools may choose to focus on certain areas that are of most relevance and interest to their school community. Actions and projects in each of the areas below can be incorporated into a variety of curriculum areas including science, technology, geography, English, mathematics, history and the arts. Action areas which can be incorporated into AuSSI are: Energy, Waste, Water, Biodiversity, Climate change, Transport, Health and Wellbeing, Spirituality and Values, Indigenous knowledge, Teaching and Learning, Community, Sustainable purchasing. In 2010, the Australian Government evaluated the governance arrangements and the operational effectiveness of AuSSI. The Programme has made a significant impact on education for sustainability in schools over the six years it has been operating, with a modest investment from the Australian Government. There are common goals and a collaborative and cooperative approach to implementing the initiative, but with flexibility that suits the individual needs of different jurisdictions. AuSSI achievements include:
  • Almost 30% of Australian schools are now AuSSI schools, including public, catholic and independent schools (both primary and secondary).
  • AuSSI schools are achieving immediate and measurable improvements in their use of resources, grounds and facilities. Participating schools have reported reductions in waste collection of up to 80%, reductions in water consumption of up to 60%, and savings on energy consumption of 20% with commensurate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Schools are achieving broad social, wellbeing and educational benefits from increased school pride and interest in learning.
  • Families of AuSSI school students across Australia have been influenced by their children’s participation in AuSSI.
  Source: Image source:
enviroschools nz

The Enviroschools Programme in New Zealand

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Enviroschools is a national programme that aims to create a whole-school approach to environmental education, through which schools are supported to become more sustainable and are rewarded when they reach a level of achievement. The Programme is a joint local–central government initiative focusing on community partnerships, sustainable school practices and student leadership/engagement. It focuses on learning communities that draw on — and develop — the leadership of students and community members. It also draws on educational knowledge from the community sector, including Māori knowledge. The Enviroschools Programme began in Hamilton in the late 1990s as a local government initiative and now involves approximately 20% of all New Zealand schools (there are currently 587 Enviroschools nationally). The Programme is being implemented in Early Childhood, Kura, Primary, Intermediate and Secondary school settings. It delivers Education for Sustainability (EfS) support in schools through a local and regional structure funded by local government, and a national office funded currently by the Ministry of Education. The Enviroschools Programme is implemented regionally, along regional council boundaries and is supported by a network of people working for a range of different organisations. Regional partners contribute by providing funding, skilled people, ideas and networking opportunities. Assistance differs from region to region depending on the number and type of organisations involved. Each enviroschool has a Facilitator who guides and supports the journey.   A region will usually have a number of people working as facilitators and a Regional Coordinator who ensures collaboration, networking and support between all agencies involved in the Enviroschools Programme. The five Guiding Principles of the programme Enviroschools is based on five guiding principles. Schools are encouraged to integrate these five principles in all the learning and action they undertake.
  • Empowered Students are enabled to participate in a meaningful way in the life of their schools and community, their unique perspectives are valued for the knowledge and insight that they bring, and they are supported to take action for real change.
  • The principle of Learning for Sustainability recognises the types of teaching and learning that foster student empowerment, decision-making, action and sustainable outcomes.
  • The principle of Māori Perspectives honours the status of tangata whenua in this land and the value of indigenous knowledge in enriching and guiding learning and action.
  • Respect for the Diversity of People and Cultures acknowledges the unique gifts, contributions and perspectives of individuals and groups, reinforcing the need for participatory decision-making in Enviroschools.
  • Sustainable Communities act in ways that nurture people and nature, now and in the future, to maintain the health and viability of our environment, society, culture and economy.
The four key areas that make up a Whole School Approach Within schools there is a strong focus on what students learn through the formal curriculum.  This includes gaining skills, knowledge and competencies in subject areas through formal curriculum projects. Students also learn through knowledge and experience that they gain from other aspects of school life, such as what the school grounds feel like, how the buildings are built and what people do. This is sometimes referred to as the hidden curriculum. A whole school approach aims to make visible what is currently hidden and enable all aspects of school life to be threads that strengthen the learning experience of students. A whole-school approach incorporates four key areas of school life that have an effect on sustainability and student learning.
  • Place: Where the school buildings and grounds are designed to work with natural systems, and reflect the culture and heritage of the place.  The school becomes a site for hands-on student action and learning, which integrates the academic, creative and practical aspects of learning.
  • People & Participation: Decisions and actions are made with the involvement of students, staff and other members of the community. There is a sense of belonging and ownership as schools draw on the combined wisdom of their multi-cultural community.
  • Practices: School policies and systems support environmentally friendly and sustainable practices, which are monitored and evaluated, to document progress being made towards sustainability.
  • Programmes: Students take action on real issues in the school and wider environment, and they learn as they create a sustainable school and community. Sustainability is a core part of the formal curriculum and students research, design and implement sustainable projects, and draw on role models and experts in the school and community.  Students share their learning and become mentors and leaders for younger students, and for other schools and groups in the community.
The Enviroschools process (main elements that schools undertake) Every school in New Zealand is different, so the enviroschools process is different in every school. However there are some key processes that all schools undertake – such as creating a whole school vision, forming an envirogoup, working with the community, implementing action projects and reflecting on and monitoring the changes. Each enviroschool works with a trained facilitator who guides and motivates schools along their journey, and helps to create valuable links with complementary programmes, relevant experts and other schools. The process is not a checklist and should not be seen as linear.  Experience has shown that the components of the process overlap, are revisited, modified and further developed over time. So while there are key Enviroschools values and concepts, there is no fixed formula for being an enviroschool. Schools are encouraged to work at their own pace – becoming a sustainable school is an ongoing process that develops and deepens over time The Action Learning Cycle is the main Enviroschools tool used to help plan and carry out student-led projects. It enables young people to be empowered to investigate, explore ideas, make decisions, take action and reflect on the changes they have created. Also, sharing knowledge is an essential part of the Enviroschools process. Local, regional and national Enviroschools events provide opportunities for all participants to learn from each other. Events are also a great way to link schools and centres with the diverse range of expertise in the wider community on sustainability topics. Multiple Outcomes – Multiple Benefits The Enviroschools Programme empowers young people to take action for a healthy, vibrant school, community and world.  The outcomes go well beyond formal education and include environmental improvement, reduction in anti-social behaviour, youth leadership, Māori achievement and community engagement. These outcomes contribute to a viable and progressive society, economy and country, and to New Zealand’s profile as a tourist destination, a trading partner and great place to live. 1. Student Achievement Through Action-Learning: Enviroschools enables foundational skills, such as literacy and numeracy, to be grounded in real-life issues relevant to young people.  The action-learning approach is engaging for students in Māori Medium schools as well as in Mainstream/ English-language schools. 2. Environment and Economy Grow Together: Schools report immediate financial benefits from Enviroschools, such as lower water, electricity, and waste disposal bills. Long-term economic benefits arise from the innovation and enterprise that this enquiry-based action-learning approach engenders in young people. Many environmental projects are turned into money-making ventures by enterprising young students. 3. Youth Community Leadership: Now that the programme has been active for 10 years, a large number of Enviroschools students are leaving school. They are engaging with their communities in a number of ways; mentoring secondary school students, forming community groups, contributing to regional decision-making and developing employment in the area of ecosystem regeneration and sustainability. 4. Cultural Integrity and Social Resilience: When students and their communities engage in environmental action, they work with a diversity of people for a common purpose. This approach improves the health and productivity of the physical environment and enhances social and cultural well-being. Including Māori perspectives in decision-making and action improves understanding about indigenous solutions to development, creating a foundation for working with the many cultures in our communities. 5. Innovation, Technology and Future-Focussed Skills: young people have endless ideas, and at a certain age start thinking about their future and the world they want to live in.  Enviroschools students develop creativity, decision-making and entrepreneurship to be active in creating a healthy and viable society, economy and country. Students become citizens and leaders in the present, as well as the future. 6. International Reputation: The Enviroschools network is hosting an increasing number of international visitors, who see Enviroschools as cutting-edge. Visitors highlight three main aspects that they value and want to know more about – student-centred action-learning, the integration of Māori perspectives and the whole-school/whole community approach.   Sources: Image source:
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Education for Sustainable Development in North America

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USA: The U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development The U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development (USPESD) was conceived at a November 2003 “Open Space” gathering held in Washington, DC that included almost 100 participants from a diverse range of sectors including K-12 and higher education, science and research organizations, conservation and environmental NGOs, faith communities, living institutions, youth advocacy organizations, government agencies and others.  Convened by the National Council on Science and the Environment and University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, the group met to respond to the call by the UN General Assembly for a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005 through 2014) and to consider specifically: 1) how the Decade could be leveraged to advance education for sustainable development (ESD) in the United States; 2) what were the opportunities for collaboration within and across sectors and 3) how could widespread engagement in the Decade by U.S. organizations be facilitated. A subsequent strategic planning retreat on the campus of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania gave shape to the emerging Partnership.  Hosted by the International Centre for Leadership Results and facilitated by Group Jazz, participants agreed upon the Partnership’s Vision – “sustainable development integrated into education and learning in the United States;” and Mission – to “leverage the UN Decade to foster education for sustainable development in the United States”.  They also conceived of an operating structure for the Partnership, including Action Teams (Marketing, Outreach, Funding, ICT, Youth etc.) and Sector Teams (K-12, Higher Education, Faith Communities, Business, and Communities.), whose volunteer leadership would comprise an Executive Team.  An “Interim Steward” would provide ongoing facilitation and leadership. Participants decided that the Partnership would not design or implement programs of its own. Rather, it would serve as a clearing house – helping to connect, highlight, and foster collaboration among partners – and serving as a catalyst to convene groups and build community to support existing and emerging initiatives. The U.S. Partnership consists of individuals, organizations and institutions in the United States dedicated to education for sustainable development (ESD). It acts as a convener, catalyst, and communicator working across all sectors of American society. In late 2005, the Executive Team decided to incorporate the Partnership as a non-profit and to apply for tax-exempt status in order to facilitate fund-raising.  The Board of Directors was elected in July 2006 and the first full Board meeting took place in November 2006.  . With almost 600 partners and over 50 collaborators, the Partnership supports its vision and mission through periodic conference calls, in-person meetings and events, and its website. Action Teams are responsible for planning and carrying out joint activities that support the entire partnership, while Sector Teams focus on the needs of their own sector. The Sector Teams have compiled ESD tools and resources and worked together to advance ESD through initiatives held “in collaboration with the U.S. Partnership”.  The Decade and the U.S. Partnership provide international and national context for such efforts, helping to promote and strengthen education for sustainable development in the United States.   Canada: ESD Canada ESD Canada is a network that brings together a broad range of stakeholders from across the country to support systemic change toward Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) within the formal, non-formal and informal education systems. Made up of the ESD Canada National Council, Provincial/Territorial Working Groups and sustainability educators, among others, the network operates at multiple scales, collaborating to move ESD forward in Canada The vision of ESD Canada is to see that all people and organizations in Canada are living sustainably. Its stated mission is to promote a Canadian culture of sustainability by developing and strengthening collaboration and leadership in education and training. Goals of ESD Canada:
  • Strengthen, promote and communicate ESD activities in Canada directly by the ESD Canada National Council and through the ESD Canada network.
  • Provide leadership and support innovation in ESD.
  • Coordinate the identification of ESD activities and resources across Canada; identify gaps at a national level and the process to address gaps.
  • Identify, nurture and disseminate ESD research to provincial/territorial ESD working groups and national and international organizations as appropriate.
  • Monitor and report on ESD progress in Canada
  • Develop and implement a short term and long term plan for financial stability of ESD Canada and ESD Working Groups.
Through a partnership between Learning for a Sustainable Future (LSF), Environment Canada, and Manitoba Education, Citizenship and Youth (MECY) and Manitoba Advanced Education and Literacy (MAEL), the ESD Canada National Council was established in 2006. The Council was conceived as a key mechanism that would be used to bring a complementary and national perspective to the work that is being done by the recently established seven provincial / territorial Education for Sustainable Development Working Groups (ESDWG). Both structures provide an opportunity and a means to support and contribute to the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD). Ultimately, the goal is to help citizens acquire the knowledge, skills and values they need to contribute to the development of a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable society. The ESD Canada National Council is made up of representatives from provincial and territorial Education for Sustainable Development Working Groups, Ministry of Education representatives for jurisdictions that do not yet have Working Groups, as well as national and international organizations. The National Council addresses crosscutting issues of ESD and promotes research, communication and the sharing of best practices across the country. The National Council was established as in 2006. The Provincial/Territorial Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Working Groups support and foster a culture of ESD in each jurisdiction. They will achieve this vision by engaging senior leaders from provincial Ministries, federal government, the formal, informal and non-formal education sectors, business and community organizations in determining the goals, priorities and objectives for ESD activities and working together to support their regional advancement. To date, eight Provincial/Territorial ESD Working Groups have been established and it is proposed to have Working Groups established in every jurisdiction in Canada. The first working group was established in 2005 by Manitoba as a pilot for the project. In Feburary 2006, seven additional provinces/territories were selected to establish ESD Working Groups. The objectives of the ESDWG:
  • Build Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into the formal/non-formal and informal education culture, including the body of generally accepted curriculum and learning activities, teacher training, facilities management, procurement, etc.
  • Establish strategic collaborations between governments, education sector leaders, business, and community NGO’s in order to increase cohesion and leverage in creating a culture for ESD.
  • Relay a sense of urgency and the latest science on critical sustainability issues such HIV/Aids, climate change, poverty reduction and energy.
  • Coordinate, facilitate connections and bring together stake-holders from the formal, non-formal and in-formal education sector for policy input, debate, exchange, planning to enhance delivery of ESD activities in support of the UN’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.
Expected results:
  • A culture of Education for Sustainable Development is fostered in Canada;
  • Support for educators and youth as they pursue practical and action-oriented activities in support of Education for Sustainable Development;
  • Advanced policy and curricula related to Education for Sustainable Development.
  Sources: Photo credits: Livia Minca