Leave only footprints

Is Our Education System Failing Our Planet?

As leaders in education, it is our responsibility to be role models and if we don't make eco-friendly decisions ourselves, then we leave the next generation no choice but to follow our footsteps.

My 12 years old daughter didn’t know what a sustainable house is as she called me from her room asking me to help her with school homework. My daughter had no clue, imagination, or a solid idea what sustainable meant. What adds insult to injury, she had no idea why she was supposed to do this in the first place.

With a lot going on in the world, from climate change to wars to poverty...etc., sustainability is a topic of concern. Educational organizations as well as big industries, corporations and individuals are placing focus on the development of sustainable practices.

From an educator perspective, I once worked in a school that used to spend around 60000aed annually, with an annual paper consumption that can reach up to 360,000 sheets on average. At the same time, we used to annually celebrate earth day and lead awareness campaigns to go green. Does it add up? In my mind, it doesn’t. I felt that our education system failed our students. I failed them as I was part of a system that confused them.  The message is not translated right. In fact, I feel that we send those kids a loud message of living double standard.  It’s as if we’re telling them, it’s okay not to walk the talk. Yes, we may have taught kids in school to save energy, make them aware of alternative sources of energy, and we may have taught and led campaigns to have a more environmentally friendly living. Yes, we may have done all of that, but have we done enough?  Learning about sustainability is not an activity or an event, it is rather a lifestyle, it is more of a daily practice. It is a core knowledge to be integrated into our curriculums. I would argue that sustainable development goals should be the base of school challenges to push students to think critically at the world’s around and then allow them to become creative leaders of the future.

In my teaching and advising practices, I have always seen the cross-curriculum links essential. These are powerful elements of teaching where we connect our kids to higher learning experience when making eco-friendly choices and conserve earth’s resources.

As leaders of education, it is our responsibility to be the role models, and if we don’t make eco-friendly decisions ourselves, then we leave the next generation with no choice but to follow our footsteps and ruin what is left of what we call now home. Our goal as leaders of education is to inspire and help the young generation make better lifestyle choices to reduce their footprint in the world as well as to become better leaders of the future while living an eco-friendly lifestyle in turn.

Sustainability can be our students drive to learn. It’s important to ingrain eco-friendly practices that can be as simple as turning the lights off, or trash segregation, going paperless, live plastic free, etc. specially at a young age. One effective practice would be to get our students familiar with big industries like the fashion industries that went green and sustainable. In my organization, we were able to put together a massive sustainability fashion show that was based on students’ research on what materials can be upcycled to have more eco-friendly options out there for others to consider. Students modeled their amazing designs made from recycled or upcycled products. The dialogue around the environment and the creative thinking and innovation was amazing! Let’s keep the conversations going. Only then, education will empower our students with knowledge, skills, and drive to live in dignity and contribute to the well-being of their societies.

I still remember what I told my daughter that day. I answered her “Why” with: “Earth is like our precious home, if we don’t clean it, and keep it maintained, then we will no longer have a good home and we might have to leave and find another one. So, if we don’t care for Earth and its resources, then earth will force us to find another home. …to Mars? Now that’s another topic for another time.