Education is the key to sustainable development
Policy makers need to be aware that today’s targets – to eradicate poverty and to balance the needs of the environment with human welfare – are part and parcel of the same agenda and the most effective way to implement it is through education.
Education, training and public knowledge about climate change remain crucial to the world we live in. Educators need to emphasise the role of education in ensuring sustainable development.
A solid education system provides access to opportunities, promotes health and increases the ability of communities to recuperate following crises. Education also provides the skills that people need to succeed in a sustainable economy that will include jobs in the renewable energy sector and agriculture.
Moreover, education can bring about a fundamental shift in the way we think, act and manage our responsibilities towards others and towards our planet. Financial incentives, relevant policies and technological innovations are required to find new ways to manufacture and consume goods but they cannot reshape people’s value systems to make them accept and promote the principles of sustainable development. Schools, however, can nurture a new generation of citizens who are conscious of the environment and who can champion the transition to a more sustainable future that bodes well.
Our schools need to implement the Danish model where education is centred on sustainability. Sustainable living is the focus of the syllabus in the Green Free School in Kopenhagen. The building itself, made from sustainable materials, comprises a class where students learn to use materials such as wood, clay, metal and plastic. They also learn how to make compost, fix bicycles that they use for transport and collect rainwater. Students at this school are encouraged to spend as much time outdoors as possible exploring their environment and learning how to grow their own vegetables and climate conditions. The teaching method at this Danish school is based on projects and creative thinking. Students carry out practical projects under the supervision of their teachers.
This model, albeit important, is just the start. What is needed is a world movement where every student in every country, including Malta, learns about sustainable development from teachers who are well trained and armed with a suitable curriculum and resources.
Without a doubt, we cannot guarantee a sustainable future within a few months. But, given a good set of targets and aims, we can start going down the right road. With effective educational programmes that instil the importance of taking care of the world we live in, in future generations, we can stay on track. This is the message that needs to be emphasised with educators, particularly by the Government education authorities.