Education For Sustainability
By Atima Joshi, Vice Principal and IB PYP Coordinator at EtonHouse International School Broadrick
Education for sustainability is a philosophy and a transformative process which seeks to re-define the strategic objective of education in the society. It requires deep commitment from the educational institutions across the globe to ensure that 'human needs (are met) today in such a way that future generations can meet their own needs.' (The Brundtland Report, 1987).
'This vision of education emphasizes a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to developing the knowledge and skills needed for a sustainable future as well as changes in values, behavior, and lifestyles.'
- Excerpt from the Draft Framework for an International Implementation Scheme United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014)
Sustainability is not just a buzz word; it is the need of the hour. It is vital that schools today equip their learners with the concepts, skills, attitudes and knowledge so as to be able to take responsible action that helps them better themselves, their immediate environment and/or the world at large. It demands that education works on a systemic approach which recognises and respects the complexities and ‘interwovenness’ of living beings with one another and with their environment. It demands a conscientious and conscious choice of the focus in the written, taught and assessed curriculum.
At EtonHouse International School Broadrick, the written curriculum includes the Programme of Inquiry, which offers a myriad of possibilities for exploring the concept of sustainability. Learners have an opportunity to inquire into the concepts of - sharing the world with other living things (Nursery 2), different roles in the community (K-1), the needs of living beings for health and well-being (Year 1), renewable and non-renewable resources (Year 2), harmony, organisations and sustainable architecture (Year 3), equal and fair access to community resources (Year 4), water, migration and rights and responsibilities (Year 5) and conflicts and peace (Year 6). Such a rich written curriculum offers possibilities of local and global perspectives and provides the learners a range of opportunities to inquire into the complexities and interconnectedness of this world.
On 25 September 2015, countries adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. These are known as Global Goals. Of the 17 goals outlined for the world, the Broadrick Programme of Inquiry is explicitly connected to 10 of the 17 goals, and indirectly connected to the rest of them. This offers a powerful context for international mindedness, not only in our students but also our extended school community including parents, teachers and students. It is no longer a surprise then to see our community involved in a range of actions.
In 2015, after having started the unit of inquiry on renewable and non-renewable resources in Year 2, the students got interested in the continual running project of ‘Travelling Pencils’ at the school. They started collecting used and new stationery to send to those less fortunate as part of this ongoing project. This in turn inspired their teacher who came across a community project in Singapore for the people of Myanmar. As the news spread, the school community joined hands and the teacher, Ms Nathalia, flew to Myanmar with a generous donation of clothes and resources, for a service trip of a week. The powerful lessons from the service trip not only transformed Ms Nathalia herself, but also inspired her students. She then became the primary resource for the Year 4 inquiry on access to equal rights and opportunities.
The summative assessment of the Year 3 unit on Organisations helped the Year 3 students learn through inquiry, concepts and skills behind fundraising for a cause. Six months later, four of these students (by that time, Year 4), distressed by the refugee crisis in Syria, decided to do a fundraiser for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). They were joined by the rest of their classmates, and the extended school community followed closely. They raised more than 2000 SGD for the cause.
Year 5 student Linda Jaschik, ran part of the ‘Cyberbullying workshop’ for the Broadrick Parents Community along with her teacher Ms Vibha. Linda used the knowledge gleaned from her inquiry into Digital Citizenship and took action to spread awareness within her community. The Year 7 students went for a toy-making workshop and organised workshops for their younger peers at school, as part of their Design and Technology module. The Year 3 students collected their pocket money to sponsor endangered animals from the WWF. The Year 1 students collected sticks to make a nest for the birds. This range of experiences across the school, provide us an evidence of the success of our educational beliefs and practices through action.
The 2016 REACH Conference presented a dialogue around sustainability. The speakers from Reggio Emilia discussed the importance of participation of all stakeholders in the community as the key ingredient of education for sustainability and democratic ideals. Participation for sustainability is not merely ‘taking part’ in the community but ‘being a part of’ the community. From teachers, students and parents getting together for the Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer awareness walk, to the school choir going to the K K Hospital wards to sing for the patients, to students creating recycling bins to reduce waste; there are many indicators that the foundations for a sustainable world are being laid at EtonHouse Broadrick.
A year ago after the Nepal Earthquake, a Year 4 student set up a ‘Wall of Hope’ in the dining area. She spent her lunch breaks making cards and inspiring the rest of the school community to write messages of hope to send to the people of Nepal, “so that they did not think that people just gave them money and did not care about their feelings”.
The United Nations Education for Sustainable Development talks about “the requirement to reorient education systems, policies and practices in order to empower everyone, young and old, to make decisions and act in culturally appropriate and locally relevant ways to redress the problems that threaten our common future."
When I see an eight-year-old giving up her lunchtime to help a community far away and yet so close, I cannot but feel proud of our school culture. The action coming from within the community is a strong indicator that our conscious choices of the curriculum, pedagogical philosophy, stance and practices are in complete alignment with education for sustainability. The ‘Wall of Hope’ cannot but grow!