Education for Sustainability

Each month, Learning for Tomorrow publishes a review of something of interest in sustainable education. This month the book "Education for Sustainability" written by John Huckle and Stephen Sterling.

An extraordinary book - certainly in 1996 - this plea for a new vision of learning: 'Education for change' Sterling calls it himself in one of his articles. What 'we' were doing at the time is 'Education for confirmation', he thought: confirmation of what already exists. What we need is a radical transformation of 'education', they proposed. We know this from Stephen Sterling, see for example his booklet 'Education for confirmation'.Sustainable Education.

Re-visioning Learning and Change from 2002 (repr.).(repr.). Could that be the reason why this book received so little attention in Europe at the time, in 1996 and thereafter, while it is buzzing with activities that try to bring a more sustainable society closer. But radical change does not happen overnight. A whole series of well-known and less well-known authors have contributed to this collection of articles on the renewal of EnEd. Not only these editors but also (in 1996) co-authors such as Jeff Bishop (renowned English NME consultant), Lisbeth Grundy (then director of the former Council for Environmental Education in Reading), Peter Martin (WWF-UK) and Jonathan Porritt (then director of Friends of the Earth) were among the best known and most influential NME authors in Europe.

The book is hefty in size, solid, in five parts (Perspectives; The Formal Sector; The Informal Sector; Continuing Education; Progress). The whole thing is fairly easy to read, though, even in English. Sometimes the articles are nice and practical, other times they are of an academic nature. That may also have been the intention of the compilers. And this alternation is also a reason to pay attention to it now, in the year 2021. Because it takes us - in readable language - on the one hand 'reflectively' away from daily practice and on the other hand gives us the familiar feeling of being focused on reality.

What does this book actually want? The most important thing I take from it is that if you as an NME'er - but it applies equally to teachers - want to contribute firmly to a more sustainable society, then you will have to incorporate quite fundamental views and considerations about sustainability into the teaching process Apply - if it hasn't already.
That utopian society is, understandably, not clearly defined; that is something of a pluriform perception of what individuals, social contexts and formal institutions - in the longer term - really consider important and therefore remains a quest. Peter Martin, one of the authors, is very critical and principled: 'I believe that, having become institutionalized, environmental education is a lost cause and should be phased out as soon as possible. Its history and conventional wisdom stand in the way of its morphosis into anything that can possibly achieve goals remotely akin to those set by the WCS. Go ahead; but something to think about.
However, knowing him at the time, he did not mean that EnEd can be discontinued as a type of work but must evolve into something more advanced than was the case at the time. Here and there, the text makes various (non-exhaustive) proposals as to what needs to change in order to bring about this evolution of EnEd (and education):

- Learning to deal with uncertainties even as a goal of learning.
- Abandoning one's own sectoral approach in favor of one that takes as its starting point the - often used - trinity of sustainability (ecological quality, economic viability and social justice - and in its wake also technology, global land use and culture).
- Globalization of themes and issues related to sustainable development.
- Attention to target groups that have decision-making functions.
- Formation of an education in which learning rather than "teaching" is central.
- Formation of a 'social' curriculum alongside a 'pedagogical' curriculum (which addresses the human being as learner in a non-formal learning situation (think adult education) and in 'constructivist' sensesentence).

If we project this thinking onto what is currently going on in education with regard to the revision of the core objectives, I suspect that these authors - however long ago they developed their vision - have developed some thinking that fits in well with it. As for the relevance of this thinking for NME, I would like to refer, for the issue of 'globalization', to an article I wrote for the magazine Environment of the VVM network of environmental professionals. To be found, for those who are members, in the April 2019 issue.
The intro on that article, with the headline 'Shorn of nature and environmental education on new footing', read as follows: For decades now, nature and environmental education has focused primarily on the local environment. For a long time, this local and sometimes regional approach was fine. However, it falls short of playing a role in the major transition issues of our time'.
With the main theme being the old adage: "Think globally, act locally.
Otherwise, it seems clear to me that the educational and teaching interpretations of the Sustainable Development Goals provide a (not: the) meaningful basis for response to the above proposals.

    Education for Sustainability

    John Huckle and Stephen Sterling

    Earthscan Publications, Ltd., London

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