30 ONLINE 24 B, Global citizenship education and ESE
MeetingID: 821 8726 7756 Code: FQu21F
Climate change is a complex and multifaceted issue that poses significant social, economic, and environmental challenges today. Traditional solutions have not proved to be sufficiently effective; thus, there is a great need to put an interdisciplinary approach at the forefront to develop personal skills such as constantly adapting to new circumstances, creative problem-solving, or systemic thinking. As one of the key socialization factors, education can help students develop behaviours consistent with a “green society,” the right participatory attitude. Developing green skills is also on the agenda of the European Commission: a European competence framework has been set up to develop knowledge, skills, and attitudes towards climate change and sustainable development.
The green economy relies fundamentally on producers of green technologies and innovations. The symbiotic relationship between universities, research institutes, society, and governments can play an extremely important role in supporting the green economy. Higher education institutions are important economic actors as for the large number of people they employ, educate, and often help students to find their first job, traineeships. Universities also partner with local authorities, for-profit and non-profit organizations, and businesses of all sizes and profiles. Thus, higher education institutions are the creators of a green workforce, and higher education institutions can also create green jobs through their knowledge creation related to climate change (technological innovation, behavioural change, governance experiments, etc.).
Central Europe's innovation capacity has not yet reached its full potential and this has been hampered for decades by the education system in which teachers' methodological repositories are relatively small and the most common teaching method is still frontal education, which focuses on memorizing facts and figures rather than discussion, critical thinking, creativity, and other soft skills. Poland and Hungary are connected by many common threads: mostly historical traditions and a similar political, economic, and educational situation. Poland has developed differently in many aspects than the other countries in Central Eastern Europe since the end of the socialist era, and this resulted in differences in the educational results - for example, in the PISA test, Poland has shown outstanding results when compared to the other Visegrad countries (Slovakia, Check Republic, and Hungary) in recent years.
The present study examines the role of green skills in Polish and Hungarian higher education institutions focusing on the environmental engineering bachelor programs. The objective is to provide a comparative analysis of the development of green skills in the selected higher education institutions in the two countries and thus identify the gaps, the barriers that might prevent green skill development to be a fundamental part of the university curricula. Our main research question is whether the development of green skills appears in the requirements and the everyday practice of the environmental engineering undergraduate courses in Poland and Hungary, and how to further support its enhancement. Our study can bring us one step closer to creating an efficient education system that facilitates the transition to a green economy across the whole Central European region.
To prepare the study, the relevant local and international literature on the topic of the green economy and green skills development was reviewed. In our research, we conducted a questionnaire survey among teachers and students of Polish and Hungarian undergraduate courses in environmental engineering as part of a quantitative study. The basic aim of the questionnaire was to examine whether the development of green skills appears in university undergraduate courses, especially undergraduate courses in environmental engineering, and in what form and to what extent. The form of the appearance of green skills and the examination of the main obstacles concerning green skills were also covered in our survey from both teachers’ and students’ perspectives. The questionnaire also covered topics such as the definition of green skills, what skills are considered green, and the needs of integrating green skills more into the curricula. The questionnaire can be considered unique in both countries, as the majority of research to date has focused on the effects of environmental education among students and measures students' environmental awareness. The research and survey were conducted between September 2020 and January 2021, with the participation of teachers and students from a total of seven Hungarian and twelve Polish higher education institutions. For the questionnaire, a base set of closed questions was compiled which was modified differently for teachers and students. A total of 257 people completed the questionnaires, 79 Polish and 109 Hungarian students, and 38 Polish and 31 Hungarian professors from environmental engineering bachelor courses. The respondents covered seven Hungarian and twelve Polish higher education institutions. The questionnaire cannot be considered representative as the list of universities providing environmental engineering training is not fully included in the list of replies from either of the countries.
The results of the research show that the concept of green skills is slowly beginning to spread in university ecosystems. Based on the questionnaire results, it seems that both lecturers and students are open to green skills development, but the current knowledge and application could be further developed. The introduction of good educational practices into university undergraduate education is a complex, systemic challenge, and its solution is multi-layered. In both Poland and Hungary, skills development is required by law in undergraduate environmental engineering courses, but much remains to be done in these areas to promote green skills. The terms green economy and green skills need to be better introduced - their correct meaning and use (not just professional knowledge, practice, and environmental awareness, but also a range of soft skills), and policymakers need to take the necessary steps to harmonize training for sustainable development in terms of both skills and skills development. Green skills can also help to address economic issues, support the transition to a green economy, and encourage students ’personal development. Educational institutions that apply green skills and elements of sustainable development in their initial training form a workforce that can contribute to the long-term preservation of the environment. More research, dissemination materials, and further training would be needed to get more support for the spread of green skills in the undergraduate courses.
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