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Sustainability in our Schools: How Education will support the Year of Sustainability

Sustainability in our Schools: How Education will support the Year of Sustainability

The UAE President H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nayhan announced that 2023 will be the ‘Year of Sustainability’.

The ‘Year of Sustainability’, aims to showcase the UAE’s commitment towards fostering a global collaboration in seeking innovative solutions to challenges, such as energy, climate change and other pressing issues related to sustainability. The country is also going to host the 28th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 28) to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) from November 30, 2023 to December 12, 2023.

In addition to this, the entire region has an extensive commitment towards greener policies particularly in investing in renewable energies with large projects such as MASDAR in the UAE and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, both of which target creating international renewable energy clusters within the GCC.

The education community will of course not be left behind when it comes to sustainability initiatives, with teaching sustainability in the classroom being the foremost way that the whole ecosystem can contribute to both local and global efforts to promote it. According to The English Classroom, “Sustainable Teaching is the practice of giving students the skills they need for life-long learning outside of the classroom. [This is done] through teaching issues of sustainability as well as soft skills such as critical thinking, research, collaboration, and presentation skills.”

For Anju De Alwis, Managing Director of Ultimate Access, “education that promotes environmental stewardship can help students develop into responsible global citizens who are able to make decisions that consider the long-term consequences of their actions. Teaching sustainability helps students learn the importance of protecting the natural environment and natural resources for future generations.”

“Sustainability education also helps to promote personal and societal wellness as [it encourages] students to investigate the role they play in the community and develop the knowledge, skills, and mindset needed to promote self-sufficiency. It also forwards the cause of social justice as sustainable education can help students understand and address issues of social and environmental justice, such as the unequal distribution of environmental burdens and benefits. Sustainable practices can also lead to cost savings and greater efficiency in areas such as energy, water, and waste, benefiting the larger community and society as a whole,” she adds.

For Rasha Al Najjar, Assistant Principal of Al Hekma International School Bahrain, Sustainable Teaching starts with the exercise of upskilling educators and providing them the tools to be equipped in passing on the information, and equally the values to their students. “Sustainable Teaching is a way to support teachers in their own professional growth, which in turn improves the education they provide. It also means to teach in a way that protects the natural resources of the planet.”

“Sustainable Teaching a long-term solution in order to improve both the education we provide and our world as a whole. It is the practice of giving students the skills they need for life-long learning outside of the classroom. The top sustainable trends that every educator need this year are done through teaching issues of sustainability as well as soft skills such as critical and STEM thinking, research, collaboration, and presentation skills. Students are expected to be able to navigate the information available to them and keep their skills up-to-date in an ever-changing world. As one of the UNESCO schools Al Hekma International School Bahrain (AHIS) focuses on Sustainable Teaching, students learn the ability to make informed decisions and analyse the credibility of information they are exposed to. They learn to work in collaboration with others, using effective communication skills to express ideas. In short, Sustainable Teaching prepares students for the modern world,” she continues.

As much as making lessons “green” an important step towards Sustainable Education, improving critical thinking will be paramount. In an age where information is readily accessible but not all sources provide the most accurate materials and companies use advertising to promote their own agenda, fact-checking and research will be crucial for students to learn to form their own opinions. With the pace of technological advancement, staying up-to-date with the latest facts surrounding key topics is also a foundational habit to be instilled. Embedding the values of caring for this issue must be taken so students consciously continue their commitments beyond their years in school.

Assimilating governmental policies to the classroom will ensure both students and teachers are aware of the steps they need to take that are aligned with active community policies and efforts in place. “All individuals, teachers and administrators alike, play a role in working towards a sustainable school. The values of all 17 UN SDGs, UAE’s “Year of Sustainability” vision, Bahrain’s “Let’s make it Sustainable” vision along with all GCC counties sustainable 2030 visions should be built into every lesson. This means that students and their wider communities are introduced to sustainable concepts and solutions early, with the hope that they grow into empowered global citizens,” states Al Najjar. What other steps can we make in order to contribute towards building more long-term efforts for an informed, conscious and active community for the Year of Sustainability and beyond?