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Why Sustainable Education Is Crucial for the Next Generation

sustainable education

Education is crucial for climate action because it has the exceptional power to evolve mindsets and behaviours in the long run.Because education can change minds, it can change the world.” – Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, UNESCO

Today, the world is increasingly reeling under the consequences of climate change, pollution and dwindling resources. In this situation, education plays a vital role in shaping the future generation’s perspective on sustainability.

Education for Sustainability makes children and future adults aware of the need and builds the knowledge, skills, attitude and values required to make informed choices for a better world.

In this blog, we will look at the reasons why sustainable education is becoming crucial for the next generation.

Also Read: What is Sustainable Development? Why is it important?

Understanding Sustainable Education

As defined by the United Nations, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) aims to “empower learners to make informed decisions and responsible actions for environmental integrity, economic viability, and a just society, for present and future generations, while respecting cultural diversity” (UNESCO, 2020).

The goal is to sustainably address environmental issues.

Also Read: Why is Education Important and What is the Purpose of Education

Why is Sustainability Education Crucial?

There are multiple reasons why sustainability education is vital for the next generation.

1) Environmental awareness

Sustainable education is much more than just information about the environment. It helps students develop a deeper understanding of the environmental challenges being faced by nations globally. It fosters awareness about climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, resource depletion, food and water scarcity and other challenges and builds knowledge, enabling the next generation to devise sustainable solutions.

The knowledge that sustainable education aims to develop consists of building an understanding of:

  • The principles of sustainable development,
  • How they can be implemented,
  • The values involved, and
  • The ramifications of their implementation.

According to UNESCO, there are four areas in which building environmental awareness in students helps:

  • To make them more conscious and mindful of the environmental problems
  • To boost their interest in caring for and improving the environment
  • Enhance their ability to learn about their surroundings
  • To broaden their ecological knowledge in subjects such as energy, landscapes, air, water, natural resources and wildlife.

2) Enhances critical and creative thinking skills

Today’s children will be tomorrow’s leaders, key decision-makers and policymakers. With big issues like global warming and water scarcity ahead, it’s really important to help people learn how to investigate and understand why these things happen. They must learn to make their own decisions about complex environmental issues.

By enhancing critical and innovative thinking skills, we can foster a new generation of informed consumers, and policy or decision-makers.

Sustainability issues are multifaceted and require the ability to understand the challenges from varying socio-economic and ecological perspectives. Sustainability education helps students look at the bigger picture and develop these skills along with a system thinking approach in students.

3) Builds sustainable life skills

Sustainable education drives sustainable thinking which influences the way children feel and behave towards the environment and its challenges. Sustainable education builds the following skills in students:

  • The ability to communicate effectively both orally and in writing
  • The ability to think about systems and processes
  • The ability to think in terms of time – to forecast, to think ahead, and to plan
  • The ability to think critically
  • The ability to use multiple perspectives to understand another person’s viewpoint
  • The ability to analyse values underlying differing positions
  • The capacity to move from awareness to knowledge to action
  • The ability to work cooperatively with other people
  • The capacity to lead, establish visions, and act ethically.

Here we need to understand that sustainable education is not merely about integrating ‘green’ lessons into the curriculum; it is about empowering the next generation with the right skills, tools, and perspectives that will help them navigate, engage with, and transform the world towards a more sustainable path.

4) Helps understand human-nature relationship values and principles

Striving for an environmentally sustainable world requires one to understand the values upon which the relationship between human beings and nature thrives. Values from the Earth Charter include:

  • Respect the Earth and life in all its diversity.
  • Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love.
  • Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful.
  • Secure the Earth’s bounty and beauty for present and future generations.
  • Eradicate poverty as an ethical, social, and environmental imperative.
  • Affirm gender equality and equity.
  • Uphold the rights of all, without discrimination.
  • Treat all living beings with respect and consideration.
  • Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace.

The Rio Declaration contains 28 principles of sustainable development including:

  • People are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature
  • Eradicating poverty and reducing disparities in living standards is essential
  • Warfare is inherently destructive to sustainable development

These values and principles lay the foundation of any sustainable education. It helps keep the focus on two key aspects:

  • The importance of the relationship with nature and knowledge of nature
  • Respect for nature, i.e., becoming aware of how it all fits together.

These values and principles are crucial for students to imbibe to start understanding sustainability and becoming agents of change in the future.

5) Prepares for the future

Sustainability encompasses environmental, socio-economic, and political problems that communities face around the world. Early sustainable education in school teaches students how to analyse issues and untangle the complexities of sustainability issues that will plague their communities in the future.

Students learn to create a wide range of environmental, social, and economic solutions that are locally viable while also looking at the bigger picture (e.g. cleaning up local pollution without shipping toxic and hazardous waste to another country).

Also Read: The Role of Technology in Education – Advantages and Disadvantages

At EuroSchool, we believe and emphasise the fact that sustainable education is the foundation for creating an informed, responsible, and proactive citizen. It empowers the next generation with the necessary tools to spearhead a sustainable, equitable, and resilient society and with the right approach it can go a long way in shaping their attitudes and behaviours towards building a sustainable future.

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