What is needed?
It is essential that politicians and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science have a clear vision of the role of education in realizing the desired sustainable future, as also stated in international networks such as UNESCO and UNECE, in which the Netherlands participates.
Currently, there is no explicit vision and policy in this area. Our education has hardly changed in the last fifty years. The legal learning objectives for PO and VO have not been adapted since 2007 and, despite a promising process within curriculum.nu, it remains to be seen whether this will happen substantially in the coming years.
The education debate is mainly about disadvantages, salaries and inequality of opportunity. These are, of course, important contingent elements, but the primary task of education is to prepare pupils and students for society and the issues of the future. In addition to the question of "what" and "how", it is precisely the question of "what" that is essential.
We expect the government to play a stimulating and facilitating role in the field of sustainability education. From the educational sector, we expect the embedding of sustainability in policy and integrated programs, with more room for the teacher to respond to current events in a cross-curricular dialogue with their own environment.
In particular, we want to focus on the following points:
- A central direction function of the central government, to set up, coordinate, facilitate and secure the process of sustainability education.
- Involving young people themselves actively and structurally at every level of decision-making in the formulation of policies concerning their education.
- Target education funds to ensure that sustainable education development is indeed invested in the workplace.
- An incentive fund for sustainability education, including for scaling up current pilots and initiatives and mentoring pilot schools for sustainable development education.
- Establishing a Sustainable Schools program to help schools incorporate sustainable development into policy and implementation from a Whole School Approach.
- Clear quality requirements for sustainability education, laid down in final attainment levels, examination requirements and qualification files, and an active role for the Education Inspectorate to verify these. This could include the use of a benchmark such as the Sustainabul, AISHE or other instruments. This is in line with the goal of SDG4: Quality Education.
- Focus on sustainable learning goals in the new learning goals for primary and secondary education and in the qualification files for vocational education (MBO). The SDGs provide a good framework for this;
- Translating these objectives into specific learning content, projects, etc.
- Instilling 21st century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and entrepreneurship
- More room for integrated education according to the Whole School Approach: cross-curricular, cross-year, in continuous learning lines.
- Making each educational institution's own building and operations more sustainable
- More contact with the environment of the school: parents, community, businesses and civil society organizations, to connect to current issues of sustainability and ecological stability. The school can be supported in its social task: it takes a village to raise a child.
- More attention to the individual qualities and interests of students in student-centered education so that they discover the issues to which they can most meaningfully contribute in the future.
- Less bureaucracy and more room for (and confidence in) teachers to give substance to the curriculum and to continuously update and utilize their expertise, teaching content and didactics.