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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Children, their world, their education

Children, their World, their Education
I went to this seminar in Birmingham last week.
The stimulating and inspiring presentations by Professor Robin Alexander of the Cambridge Primary Review and Cathryn Gathercole, Director of Tide gave me much food for thought.

I was asked to feed back my impressions at the seminar and my notes are being published as a “Think Piece” by Tide.
Here is my “Think Piece”.
Many of us have spent the past 15 - 25 years lobbying, cajoling and entreating national government of all political hues to regard education for sustainability and global citizenship as being essential for our young people in the 21st Century.
Faced with inaction from national governments around the world to the impending and growing crises of climate change, conflicts over oil, land and religion and global inequalities who do we turn to in order to ensure that our children, the citizens of the future receive the education that  need in order to face the challenges of the future.
As National Governments are not fit for purpose, who might our allies be?  Who should we be engaging with?
The media?  All too often the understanding of journalists, broadcasters and their editors is superficial and their interest short-lived. The BBC in their concern for balance, give equal airtime to Climate Change deniers as they do to reputable scientists.
Industry and commerce? Traditionally regarded as the antithesis of a sustainable future, some leading Industries are starting to recognise and acknowledge the importance of environmental and social sustainability as well as economic sustainability and some far-sighted CEOs realise that the future may not lie in continued growth and globalisation. 
Local communities? Local groups such as Transition Towns can support schools in developing the 30% of their curriculum that should be locally relevant and arguably gives young people their best chance of becoming active and empowered global citizens.
Meanwhile, teachers can provide role models for their pupils not only by living sustainably themselves but by modelling the practices of a sustainable and just society in the way they teach, in the ways they interact with their pupils and in the ways in which schools conduct themselves. The General Teaching Council for Scotland have embedded Learning for Sustainability throughout the professional Standards for Teachers to support teachers in actively embracing and promoting principles and practices of sustainability in all aspects of their work. Now we have no English GTC teachers in England will need to give themselves permission to adopt the same principles as their colleagues in Scotland for no one else will!  Perhaps time to re-visit the Schumacher briefing paper of 2001 by Stephen Sterling “Sustainable Education – Re-visioning learning and change”.
Some of what Robin Alexander said, gave me hope that earth education still has much to offer schools despite a lacklustre National Curriculum.

 Excerpts from Robin Alexander's presentation. 
• Human influence on the climate system is clear. Recent greenhouse gas emissions are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have already had widespread human and natural impact.
• Continuing greenhouse gas emissions will increase likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and systems.
• Climate change threatens sustainable development.
• Limiting climate change will require substantial reductions in emissions which, together with adaptations, can limit climate change risks.
• Adaptation and mitigation are key and complementary strategies for reducing and managing the risks of climate change.
• No single option is sufficient by itself. What is required is policies and co-operation across multiple scales: international, regional, national and local
‘Educated citizens have a greater ability to make informed decisions on how to use resources and preserve ecosystems.’

“Pessimism turned to hope when witnesses felt they had the power to act. The children who were most confident that climate change would not overwhelm them were those whose schools had replaced unfocussed fear by factual information and practical strategies for sustainability.”

Children, their World, their Education: final report of the Cambridge Primary Review

John Rhymer

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