30 SES 03 B, Comperative perspectives on ESE
There is global scientific agreement that climate and environmental change threatens the wellbeing and survival of the human species (Rockström et al., 2009); that these threats are unevenly distributed across geographical spaces, human populations, and plant, animal, bacterial, and viral species (Githeko, Lindsay, Confalonieri, and Patz, 2000); and that new models of livelihoods and wellbeing need to be adopted to mitigate these changes. International frameworks like the 2015 Paris Accord and Sustainable Development Goals call for a multi-sectoral intervention to these threats. In response, schools around the world are increasingly tasked with fostering conservation-focused and sustainable development norms, ideals, and practices in students. While education research is generating a growing body of teaching materials and guidelines (Fien, 2004), the question of whether schools can actually foster the kinds of norms, values, and practices that translate into sustainable livelihoods is contested (Hellberg & Knutsson, 2016). So far, the vast majority of educational research is focused on industrialized countries (Ridgers, Knowles, & Sayers, 2012), and this scholarship often claims that curriculum-based interventions are universally important to foster students’ future identities as “sustainability citizens” (Wals, 2015). Missing, however, are understandings of how environmental change impacts schools and shapes young people’s engagement with schooling in some of the world’s most affected ecologies, including in Sub-Saharan Africa. Researchers have already begun to document the impacts of climate and environmental change on children’s lives and time-use (Levison, deGraff & Dungumaro 2017), which provides a first indication that without a more holistic understanding, international and national education policies will fall short of promoting new models of sustainable livelihoods through schooling in highly-affected ecologies. The common focus in industrialized countries (and many international organizations) on curricular interventions may limit the capacity of educators to more fully conceptualize the current consequences of environmental and climate change on youth, communities, school infrastructure and school actors; and their ability to envision future potential solutions.
The project “Educational Policies and Sociocultural Practices of Sustainability” aims to fill this gap by examining young people’s perceptions of human and planetary wellbeing in relation to their daily routines and responsibilities (e.g., household chores, family care, attending school, etc.), and by contrasting them with international frameworks, national curricula, and classroom pedagogies to develop a more comprehensive approach to environmental education for sustainable development. In 2017, we collected data in four geographically diverse sites in Ghana and Malawi (farming and fishing communities) through group interviews with students and community members; interviews with teachers, headmasters, and community leaders; classroom observations; shadowing and interviewing students outside of school; and reviews of curricular materials. In this paper we focus on the results from curriculum analyses, in which we contrast data from Ghana and Malawi with two UNESCO frameworks (Education for Sustainable Development Goals: Learning Objectives  and Global Citizenship Education [2014, 2017]). We have identified three themes that illuminate similarities and significant differences across the materials: I) how people are positioned in relation to the environment; II) how roles and responsibilities related to the environment are assigned differently across actors (e.g., governments, local authorities, corporation and businesses, and individuals); and III) pedagogical differences.
I) In the international framework, individuals are portrayed as global citizens who should protect the environment and the planet. In national textbook materials, individuals are portrayed primarily as economic actors, who should use the earth’s resources for economic gain and survival, and to support national development. II) Across these materials, environmental problems are depicted as being highly diffuse, whereas responsibilities for finding solutions are highly individualized. Across the different materials, individuals are supposed to learn to examine their environment systematically and through scientific lenses, but to different ends. The UNESCO frameworks emphasize empowerment whereby students, will acquire knowledge and then opt to influence local authorities, governments, and corporations accordingly. In the Ghanaian textbooks, students are supposed to gain a scientific understanding of natural resources in order to use them effectively, thus contributing to the development of Ghana. In the Malawian textbooks, there is a strong emphasis on using resources innovatively and with no external support to develop a livelihood and ensure individual survival. III) All three sets of materials emphasize problem-based approaches. However, in the UNESCO framework and the Malawian textbooks the focus is on experiential learning whereas the Ghanaian materials emphasize examinable knowledge. We conclude that the materials display particular notions of human agency, responsibility, and morality vis-à-vis the environment. They largely adopt a knowledge-attitudes-practices theory of individual behavioral change that elides powerful actors’ and institutions’ environmental actions (e.g., corporations, governments) and places responsibility on individual students to address environmental degradation; and a dominionist notion of humans’ right to use natural resources, and ability to improve them. Such curricula are unlikely to provide the kinds of transformational educational experiences that are so often imagined to be a vehicle for significant changes in human-environment relations.
Fien, J. (2004). 11 Education for sustainability. In R. Gilbert (Ed.), Studying society and environment: A guide for teachers (pp. 184–200). Southbank, Australia: Victoria Thomson Social Science Press. Githeko, A. K., Lindsay, S. W., Confalonieri, U. E., & Patz, J. A. (2000). Climate change and vector-borne diseases: a regional analysis. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 78(9), 1136–1147. Hellberg, S., & Knutsson, B. (2016). Sustaining the life-chance divide? Education for sustainable development and the global biopolitical regime. Critical Studies in Education, 1-15. Levison, D., DeGraff, D. S., & Dungumaro, E. W. 2017. Implications of Environmental Chores for Schooling: Children’s Time Fetching Water and Firewood in Tanzania. The European Journal of Development Research, 1-18. Ridgers, N. D., Knowles, Z. R., & Sayers, J. (2012). Encouraging play in the natural environment: A child-focused case study of Forest School. Children’s geographies, 10(1), 49–65. Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, A., Chapin III, F. S., Lambin, E., Foley, J. (2009). Planetary boundaries: Exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society, 14(2), 32. Wals, A. (2015). Beyond unreasonable doubt. Education and learning for socio-ecological sustainability in the Anthropocene. Wageningen: Wageningen University.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
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Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
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Network 26. Educational Leadership
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