Sustainable development or global sustainability is a vague and abstract concept. Many people do not even understand the word “sustainability”. So, in simpler words it is the ability to understand the natural system that makes life possible on earth and to understand how everything is interconnected.
Global sustainability is the integration between the social, economic and environmental dimensions of the human activities and its impact on the planet.
Our role as educators is to equip and motivate the students to develop critical skills, build awareness and engage them in positive solutions for a sustainable future.
However most of us take the approach that it is good to teach students about recycling, save water but we forgot to link the social injustice with the environmental issues. We have to change the mindset that sustainability or the concept of Maurice Ile Durable is exclusively related to the environment.
Today global issues such as climate change, wars, poverty, injustice towards children and women place new demands on education. We should ask us the following questions.
- What does it mean to be a responsible global citizen?
- What does this require of education?
Through the Education for Sustainability (EFS) programme developed by ELIA in collaboration with the BEC and Catholic Schools in Mauritius, we believe that education is the KEY to help students meet the challenges they will confront in the future.
It is difficult to transform human mentality. A vicious circle where students repeat the behavioural patterns of parents and teachers. So we need to change and adopt a sustainable living first before inculcating these values to our students.
We should WALK THE TALK.
The EFS programme provides a practical framework for young students to understand these issues not as insurmountable problems but as opportunities to create a better world. It encourages students to care about the planet and develop empathy with those sharing it.
The EFS programme helps develop the following skills that are essential for students to participate in an interconnected world.
These skills are:
- Systems Thinking: helps students to understand that everything is interconnected.
- Critical thinking: students learn to evaluate, analyse and synthesise information. The Ecological Footprint Analysis (EF) activities are a good example.In 2012 during the first term, students were trained in EF analysis. The objective was to collect data for four categories namely waste, food, transport and consumables. The students actively participated in the separation of wastes.The students learned enormously by having hands on activities. Children need opportunities to engage with their surroundings if they are to gain and develop the ability to abstract learning to novel strategies and to apply such learning to new challenges.( Piaget 1952,1973) and (Vygotsky 1978)- conceptual development and constructivist theory.
- Collaboration & cooperative learning: ability to work together, to develop projects and to solve problems together.
A few more observations
(a) Students were motivated to participate in almost all competitions such as RGSC and SYAH with exchange between the chemistry and art department.
This helps the students to choose projects which are related to sustainable development where they developed most of the stated skills.
(b) The solidarity club organised a conference on the theme “WOMEN VIOLENCE”
The boys from St. Joseph and the LCC girls shared their views on the matter and the outcome was fruitful.
(c) The JPIC celebrated the LCC Family Day.
During the recess the students, teachers, administrative staff and support staff shared their lunch in a relaxed and warmth atmosphere.
A last comment
An over-loaded curriculum is a concern and fear of many teachers. Increasingly, teachers are feeling that there is not enough time to cover all additional materials related to sustainability. But teaching about sustainable development is within the curriculum as it emphasizes critical and creative thinking, problem solving, decision making, and cooperative leadership and communication skills. As a result, it is an effective way of achieving educational objectives without adding to the problem of curriculum overload.
Written by Mrs. Zaahirah Koheeallee Hosenbocus
10 July 2014
About the Author
Zaahirah Koheallee Hosenbocus is Head of Department of Chemistry at Loreto College Curepipe (LCC) Mauritius. She has been in charge of the LCC Go Green Club, formerly called the Environment Club, since 2008. Zaahirah is the EFS Mentor for LCC since 2011. She has done tremendous work to implement the EFS Charter in the LCC educational system and facilitate the change of behaviours of students and teachers to reduce the ecological footprint of LCC.
Note of Acknowledgement: This article was first published on our Education for Sustainability platform on 8 September 2014.