Responses to Sustainability Issues and Concerns

Globally and regionally, attempts have been made to respond to sustainable development issues. Some of the responses at global level are policies, cross border protocol agreements and global institutions.

For example, the SDGs have been put in place to respond to the different sustainability issues such as biodiversity, energy, social injustice, and so on. Drawing on global and regional policies, different countries in southern Africa, have developed policies and legislation on the sustainability issues. For example, a number of southern African countries have climate change policies. These countries also regularly report to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change via documents called ‘national communications’, which provide helpful, up-to-date information on country responses to climate change. These can be found on the UNDP’s climate change adaptation website, where news on climate change in each country is also carried. 

Below are links to examples of national policies related to ESD:

UNESCO states that:

“In today’s interconnected world, culture’s power to transform societies is clear. Its diverse manifestations – from our cherished historic monuments and museums to traditional practices and contemporary art forms – enrich our everyday lives in countless ways. Heritage constitutes a source of identity and cohesion for communities disrupted by bewildering change and economic instability. Creativity contributes to building open, inclusive and pluralistic societies. Both heritage and creativity lay the foundations for vibrant, innovative and prosperous knowledge societies … UNESCO is convinced that no development can be sustainable without a strong culture component. Indeed only a human-centred approach to development based on mutual respect and open dialogue among cultures can lead to lasting, inclusive and equitable results. Yet until recently, culture has been missing from the development equation.”

Work through the responses on Sustainable Development in your Learning Action 2 Course Material Booklet.

Looking back at Zambia’s cross-cutting issues that have been identified as ‘national concerns’, and the point made above by UNESCO on culture being ‘missing’ from sustainable development, analyse your national education policies and the national curriculum to identify cross-cutting issues that need attention in ESD.

Please write your suggestionsin the forum (Topic: Identify cross-cutting issues) on how these cross-cutting issues can be dealt with in the curriculum at the level of teacher training and at the school / TVET institution level?

ESD knowledge in the curriculum

When we think about environment and sustainability in the curriculum in schools or TVET institutions, we should try to bring out the core curriculum principles and expand on these through thinking about ESD content and processes that can be found in all subjects.

This ‘Sustainability Starts with Teachers’ course helps teacher educators / TVET educators to think about these aspects of the curriculum, and to ‘bring out’ expanded knowledge and understanding of these important aspects of the curriculum. Sometimes these are ‘missing’ and there is need to integrate new content into the subjects or curriculum.

This includes understanding the particular form that environment and sustainability education knowledge takes in different subjects, and why this is so. In some southern African countries, such as Zimbabwe, TVET is also responsible for training teachers, thus TVET curricular also includes an understanding of environment and sustainability knowledge.

In countries such as Namibia, environment and sustainability is a cross curricular focus. Therefore, each school subject (across grades and phases, i.e Early Childhood Education, Primary and Secondary) has an environment and sustainability focus, but this focus varies depending on the subject and the phase. This is because subjects or disciplines have their own knowledge structures and modes of enquiry, or ‘ways of knowing’. In these various subjects, teachers therefore engage with environment and sustainability content and teaching methods in different ways.

There is a big global movement to ‘green’ TVET curricula, or to make TVET education more relevant to sustainability concerns. UNESCO-UNEVOC have recently released an excellent document on ‘Greening TVET’ which TVET educators can consult. UNESCO-UNEVOC have a special website on ‘Greening TVET’ which offers many good suggestions for TVET educators. The AmanziforFood [WaterforFood] website offers good suggestions on how to integrate rainwater harvesting and conservation practices into education, with a lot of useful materials for Agricultural Educators who want to bring about curriculum innovation. This project was developed because South African educators found that rainwater harvesting and conservation knowledge was ‘missing’ in TVET curricula, despite the fact that South Africa is a dryland country suffering from water scarcity! This shows how important it is to identify what is there and also what is missing in our curricula from a sustainability point of view.

Go through two or more different Early Childhood, Primary and/or Secondary school documents from your country OR the TVET curriculum. Identify the environment and sustainability content in these documents..

  • Do the curricula adequately reflect sustainability challenges of the country?

  • Where ESD content is covered, is it adequate? And how does this content differ from what is included in another subject?

  • What needs to be taken into account to integrate sustainability knowledge into subjects?

  • What gaps can you identify?

Engaging with sustainable development issues in TEI, TVET, school and community contexts is not just a ‘content’ issue however. It is a values or ethics based concern as well, and it also requires us to think about culture and the relationship between local knowledge and scientific perspectives on sustainability. Educational responses that take account of sustainability therefore need to take the issue of RELEVANCE seriously, and this requires giving attention to knowledge, values as well as cultural aspects of education.

The place of values and ethics in the curriculum

The aim of the curriculum, especially in ESD, is not only to organise and deliver content, it also concerns the development of attitudes and values, such as respect for human rights, ecological integrity, and equity. Acquiring such values must be nurtured throughout the schooling and education and training system.

It is thus important for teacher/TVET educators to focus on values and to develop the potentials of students. To be able to do this effectively, teacher/TVET educators must be able to fully articulate and explain the place of values in the curriculum.

The International Earth Charter movement offers some very helpful ethics principles that can be considered when we are responding to sustainability challenges in education and curriculum innovations.

The Earth Charter offers 16 ethical principles that were developed via a world-wide social movement consultative process including the late Wangari Maathai which are organised around four key themes:

1) Respect and care for the community of life

2) Ecological integrity

3) Social and economic justice

4) Democracy, non-violence and peace.

Visit the website of the late Wangari Maathai’s organisation, known worldwide as the ‘Green Belt Movement’. When you are going through this website, and reading up about her work, consider the values above. Which of these values did she support in this initiative. You can also encourage your students to join movements such as this, and you can find interesting teaching materials and more on the website. How could you integrate work such as that done by Wangari Maathai into the TVET curriculum or teacher education programmes that you run?

Can you identify similar initiatives in your country (see some of the video’s below) that also demonstrate ethics-led transformations of society that reflect the principles of sustainability and the Earth Charter ethics? However, there is need to consider this critically because sometimes things are not quite what they are said to be.

Think about the implications of these responses for ESD in Teacher Education and TVET, and how you might find good examples of responses to share with your students. It is especially important to identify alternatives that they can be part of, and contribute to so that they can experience ethics-led learning and actions.

Visit the Earth Charter website and download some materials that you think will be helpful to bringing a stronger ethics and values focus to your ESD Change Project.

An interesting regional project that is developing to illustrate how values and ethics can lead ESD activities in education is the Handprint-Care Ethics project, which is developing a number of case studies of ethics-led learning for Primary and Secondary educators. Visit the e-learning library to download and use the materials developed in this project. These materials can be adapted and used for teaching practice activities with your students.

One of the challenges we have in southern Africa is a shortage of good case studies and examples of ethics led sustainability learning in TVET institutions. If you have examples that you can share, please upload them with your assignment in the next section or send them to the course co-ordinators for including in the e-learning library.

Working with local and indigenous knowledge

Read the extract from the text in the Fundisa for Change ‘Teaching Indigenous Knowledge ‘on page 11 and 12 in the e-learning library folder on Indigenous Knowledge. Read some of the sections in the United Nations University Booklet on southern African Heritage Knowledge and ESD also contained in this e-learning library.

Visit some websites that share interesting knowledge and examples of local and indigenous knowledge.

Watch the videos below, and visit the e-learning library where other examples and teaching materials on indigenous knowledge are available for sharing with your students.

The videos below help us to think about indigenous knowledge in education, and how we might mobilise indigenous knowledge to enrich and extend existing curricula. Because indigenous knowledge is often local and situated, it is important to research local and indigenous knowledge with local communities, and to explore WITH them how to integrate this knowledge into education and learning systems.

Once you have done this, we can continue with our Case Story.

 You are almost at the end of Learning Action 2, before you continue to the final session with the Change Project 2 Task instructions please complete the task below . Your research on local and indigenous knowledge will help you answer the task questions. Just type your answers in the given field and once you’ve completed the task just “click” on submit.

Local and Indigenous knowledge

Please complete the following question.