Global Impact Through Local Action Education Essay

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Abstract

According to UNESCO's recent documents, sustainable development is the "ultimate goal of the Man-environment relationship"; thus, the whole educational process should be "reshaped for sustainable development." In view of this statement, the research paper will demonstrate the role of sustainable development and its educational impact and importance to the younger generation.

The principles of sustainable development already encompass the fundamental elements of social aspects, environmental concerns and the economic development of every nation. The goal of education is the development of citizens through an emphasis on critical and creative thinking and self-sufficiency to serve the purpose of future generations.

The aim of this paper is to show how the primary education in Mauritius has included sustainable development in its curriculum so as to abide to the UNESCO's programs on Education for Sustainable Development. Consequently, this research paper give an insight whether the principles of sustainable development has been totally embedded in the Mauritius education framework.

Introduction

Education is an important tool for reaching a sustainable society. Through media and other publications, we can notice that the current economic development trends are not sustainable and that raising awareness through training and education is a step forward to achieving sustainability.

The concept of sustainable development has not been understood by everyone and every nation. In view of this, Rosalyn McKeown (2002) argued that the definition regarding sustainable development has created different perceptions in people's mind of what sustainable societies will look like and how they will operate. Moreover this lack of proper understanding has hindered the move to implement sustainable development in the education structure. Furthermore the government and other professional bodies have difficulty in foreseeing sustainable development even though they can relate climate change and global warming has side effects of unsustainable behaviours. It can be argued that one of the biggest challenges for the academics and educational hubs will be to educate the future generations about the concept of sustainability and how to be more efficient to achieve this notion.

The professionals must have a clear understanding of the concept as well as decide what they want to attain through sustainability. Rosalyn McKeown (2002) stated that an important distinction is the difference between education about sustainable development and education for sustainable development. She defined the first as an academic approach and an awareness campaign. While Education for Sustainable Development is using education as a mechanism to implement in order to reach a sustainable world. In view of this, there is an urgency to reframe our educational system so that we can start to mend our mistakes and be more effective at this point of time.

This paper has refined its research and findings in the primary education especially for the Standard IV in the national context. The teaching of sustainable development at primary level needs to introduce fundamental elements of basic education. The role of the primary education will be to inculcate children with sufficient knowledge and skills for lifelong learning in order to find long term solutions in their decision making process regarding environmental, economic and social issues. These issues will shape younger generations as responsible citizens, therefore th governing powers need to define policies and new regulations that will enable teachers or academics, with the proper educational materials, to achieve these ideas.

The Concept of Sustainable Development

As stated before Sustainable development is a difficult concept to define moreover it is also continually evolving, which makes it even more difficult to define. There are many definitions of sustainable development however the most commonly used is from Gro Harlem Bruntland, former Prime Minister of Norway, and now Director General of the World Health Organisation:

"development which meets the needs of the past without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs".(World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987, p 43)

Sustainable development is depicted in several books and articles have having three intertwined pillars: environment, society, and economy. It is further debated that a healthy and sustainable society relies on a wholesome environment to provide food and resources, thriving economies, and reliable citizens. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio recognized that the protection of natural environments and human development are "part and parcel of each other", therefore sustainability has a greater impact and bearings than just basic environmental concerns. A sustainable society should also encompass civic actions, cultural diversity and impartiality.

At the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, convened by the United Nations, participants agreed: modern society, as we know it, is not sustainable. We take the earth's natural resources for granted, we use and abuse our planet contributing to its degradation. To sustain our needs, we are jeopardising our future and the future of our children.

The sustainability concept discards the facts that negative environmental and social impacts are part the consequences regarding economic development of our nations. Therefore in our opinion, sustainability is an opportunity where the three pillars, environment, society and economic issues, are interrelated to achieve sound development and improve the quality of life.

The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development has identified at least 21 principles of sustainability. With regards to this research paper, we will concentrate on the principles regarding the education for sustainable development. These principles stress on the fact that for a sustainable world, all three pillars of this concept must be interrelated and raise concerns through decision making process and adopting the right strategies in implementing them.

Consequently, we can observe that the role of education is quite crucial if the concept of sustainable development is to be fully adopted. At the Rio Summit, the role of education in promoting sustainable development was made explicit by Agenda 21, which is a global action plan for the 21st century.

"Education ... should be recognised as a process by which human beings and societies can reach their fullest potential. Education is critical for promoting sustainable development and improving the capacity of the people to address the environment and development issues". (Agenda 21, 1992)

Education for Sustainable Development

According to research, the relationship between education and sustainable development is quite intricate. The basic education provided in many countries is already developing a nation's ability to think and stand on their own that is attaining sustainable goals. Research has shown that education can improve productivity, critical and innovative thinking and generally raise the standard of living.

Moreover in some nations, the level of education is minimal and can impede on future economic and societal development. Thus, an improved education level is necessary to create sufficient knowledge and skills in citizens to enhance their jobs and industries.

The United Kingdom Education policy has already embrace sustainable development in their curriculum framework. They argued that sustainability "enables people to develop the knowledge, values and skills to participate in decisions about the way we do things, individually and collectively, locally and globally, that will improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet of the future"(UK Panel for Education for Sustainable Development, 1998).

The need for a clear and defined curriculum is therefore of highest importance as it needs to reflect on what and how to teach using motivating methods. The curriculum needs to encourage students to think for themselves, participate in decision making process and cultivate lifelong learning where innovative and lateral thinking will take place. Cohen (1992) argued that our cultural background and social environment play an important role in the way we think, feel and act with regards to the surrounding environment. Hence, the curriculum needs to encourage students to be responsible and to take action towards achieving sustainability and endorsing sustainability in their environment.

One of the main principle in Agenda 21 concerns the younger generation. It states that "the creativity, ideals and courage of the youth of the world should be mobilized to forge a global partnership in order to achieve sustainable development and ensure a better future for all"(Principle 21, Agenda 21, 1992). Through education and relevant policies and materials development the younger generation will be equipped to achieve a sustainable world.

Professor William Scott (2002) emphasised that it is vital to include sustainability in the education system at all levels. Schools and universities need to analyse together with students what is sustainable development and how to implement the concept at its bottom line. As a result it is time we consider the required strategies associated with education and sustainability to work through new environmental, societal and economic approach for the future generations. We can argue that it is important, when making strategic choices, to acknowledge that both the sustainability issues and the individuals know how contribution, should be combined efforts to attain these issues.

In order to achieve the required knowledge and skills, teachers play an important role as facilitator and driver of this programme. Teachers and a good curriculum framework for the educational systems at all levels must provide accountable, feasible and attainable approach in the delivery of sustainable issues. Below is the framework which further explains the concept of ESD.

A framework to integrate ESD in the curriculum of teacher training institutes.Comenius 2.1 project 118277-CP-1-2004-BE-Comenius-C2.1

This framework clearly clarify how the teacher needs to acquire the right skills in delivering lessons by encouraging students to create, share their opinions and foster a knowledge hub where the teacher, the school environment, and the society share the same meaning towards sustainability. Teachers must be the drivers, promoting active participation in enhancing the quality of life of the community. Hence, sustainability can be achieved through the appropriate educational background and the right learning environment.

Primary Education and Sustainable Development in Mauritius

Figure 1: Conceptualized Framework of Environmental Education in the School Curriculum

Environmentally aware citizens

Ministry of Education

Curriculum Developers

Inspectors of schools

Primary School teachers

Primary School pupils

Secondary Schools Tertiary Institutions

PTTC Tutors

SOUND ENVIRONMENT

Project by the Ministry in relation to Environmental Awareness

ARPEGE (Apui Régional à la promotion d`une Education pour la Gestion de l`Environnement) is a pilot project for the promotion of environmental education programmes  within the  Indian Ocean countries and is initiated by the IOC.  It involves a long term sensitization programme amongst the younger generation on the problems of the environment. The project is receiving financial and technical assistance under FED (Fond European de Development). The project makes provision for training of teachers involved in imparting environmental education in schools and the preparation of teaching materials adapted to the region.

Another project which the Ministry supports is the Green M, Innovators Mauritius Award, which is held by the NPCC. The theme of this second edition of the: 'Green M' was: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle wastes. This project involves both the secondary and primary school students.

We believe that People should think about environmental impacts of their consumption choices especially when one knows that natural resources are not always renewable and permanent. People should learn to use goods and services to satisfy their basic needs and improve their quality of life while minimizing the use of irreplaceable natural resources and the byproducts of toxic materials, waste and pollution. If such practices are learnt at an early stage, the battle of having a global impact through our local action is already won. ADDRESS BY HON D.GOKHOOL, MINISTER OF EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES Opening Ceremony for the Exhibition and WorkshopWorld Environment Day Sustainable Consumption

Children at school are very aware of and concerned about global issues.

Children see the ENVIRONMENT as a key concern for humanity, with destruction of the ozone layers, deforestation, global warning, CFC'S and endangered species. These are problems needing urgent attention. Generally children show a high level of interest in and are very sensitive to environmental issues with school lessons and projects being cited as their main source of information. According to the Minister of Education, through the children, we hope to reach out to parents, friends, neighbours and the community to make use of the environment without abuse. Our new curriculum will in fact lay much emphasis on the environment. We believe that the best way to achieve our goal of protecting and preserving the environment is to make sustainable development an integral part of learning experiences.

Teachers support towards Sustainable Environment

All this cannot be done without the support and training of our teachers; they are those who initiate, innovate and as agents of change bring improvements in the teaching - learning process and a balance between theory and practice. Their dedication to the cause of environment will not go unnoticed and the future generation will be grateful to them. Heads of schools, inspectors, teachers all have a key role to play in all such projects and the success of all new initiatives will depend upon their vision and their leadership.

Despite all this, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is rather new in the field of education. From a global perspective as well as a local perspective we have to direct education toward what will be truly useful for each child and for each society in the future.

Why a New Primary School Curriculum?

The first priority is to have an education relevant to the needs of the country. It is proposed that the primary level be divided into three stages of two-year span each.

• Stage I - Standards I and II

During this phase, in Standards I and II, the emphasis will be on preparing the young child to successfully to adjust with the school environment.

• Stage II - Standards III and IV

During this stage there will be a consolidation of elementary skills. The focus will also be on the development and understanding of basic scientific concepts, environmental issues and values that would lay the foundation for a healthy living.

• Stage III - Standards V and VI

The same core areas will be reinforced during phase III with a view to preparing the pupils for the end of primary cycle evaluation.

Towards a Quality Curriculum- strategy for reform by the Ministry of Education in November 2006

Thus for the purpose of our study, the Stage II is more relevant given that the stage III are busy with their CPE Exam; the stage 1 is too early to test sustainable awareness. Therefore for best ideal target is more likely to be the standard IV based on their level of understanding and maturity.

Teaching sustainable environment differs among schools

It is true that all primary schools have to abide by an existing uniform curriculum but yet it can be said that teaching sustainability issues differ. It can be due to the environment (rural or urban), the teaching methods of teachers and the equipment or facilities available to conduct such teaching.

Based on the above research work, we shall now proceed with assessing the existing primary school curriculum in relation to environmental sustainability to see to what extent, the latter is met. The assessment and therefore this research paper aim to provide a good insight about the Green Environment which is the very aim of the Ministry of Education and therefore moving towards a sustainable society. Through this project, the flaws of the existing curriculum may be identified and proper recommendation may be reached.

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