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<<Biblioteca Digital del Portal<<La Educación<<La Educación (120) I, 1995 <<Artículo
La Educación
Número: (120) I
Año: 1995

Education for a Sustainable Economy and Society

Education involves the development of the knowledge base and general abilities of the population of a country through several agencies: schools, media, families and communities. Formal and informal channels of education provide effective means whereby policy-makers and activists can encourage the population to undertake sustainable development activities. Since sustainable development involves the relationship between socio-economic development and the physical environment, education should provide “comprehensive knowledge encompassing and cutting across the social and natural sciences and the humanities, thus providing insights on the interaction betweennatural and human resources, between development and environment” (Cox and Embree 1990, 29). An important requirement of the educational system is the provision of the necessary knowledge and skills to enable the population to contribute meaningfully to the sustainable development effort.

In the area of curriculum development, there is a need to incorporate environmental education more integrally into other disciplines of the formal education curriculum so that students can observe the linkage between social and natural processes as well as help monitor and protect the environment. Students must be able to see the link between soil, water and air pollution, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and natural resource depletion and socio-economic processes. Greater interdisciplinary teaching and learning are needed in the formal and informal educational system. Edwards (1993, 249) has outlined a set of guidelines which can be used in formulating environmentally relevant curricula:

i) materials should be more practical and less theoretical;
ii) the approach should link the immediate local view of the world to macro ecosystems and social systems;
iii) inductive reasoning techniques should be emphasized thus allowing the student to interpret problems and formulate solutions to them;
iv) learning should be more recreational and should enable a student to set free time productively and constructively;
v) learning should promote communication among all members of the educational community, such that the teacher ceases to be the sole dominant figure in the process;
vi) subject matter should be closely related to the knowledge requirements of everyday life;
vii) the current time lapse between the production of scientific knowledge and its incorporation into the curriculum should be minimized; and
viii) organizational skills should be emphasized in order to enable students to initiate concrete responses to local environmental concerns on their own.

Environmental education should therefore be practical, relevant, community-based and interactive. Attempts should be made to involve practitioners (field workers) in curriculum design and teaching. Educational policy should therefore be geared towards meeting this new challenge of environmental base curriculum development.

Since school teachers are key persons in the delivery of education, attention must be paid to teacher training and the provision of teaching aids to assist in the delivery of environmental education. Teachers must first become aware of the environmental issues facing the country and the region and then develop specific ways of incorporating these issues creatively into the curriculum (eg, essay compositions, science projects). Special classes should be organized by the Teachers’ Training College, teachers’ unions and schools of continuing studies to expose teachers and other personnel to ways in which environmental/sustainable development issues can be incorporated into traditional curricula. New developments in information technology (eg, computer-assisted learning) can be used to assist the learning and teaching process. Parent-teacher associations and other educational groups should also be encouraged to develop environmental programs in order to reinforce formal school teaching and learning within the household and wider community. Nature visits, the use of natural products and practical exercises (eg, visits to Graeme Hall Swamp, Scotland District, the coastline) must be an integral part of the educational process. Issues of environmental protection, conservation, recycling and preservation must be emphasized as ways of achieving sustainable development.

As a means of judging the extent to which the educational system has been able to influence the path of sustainable development, indicators must be developed by planners and policy makers (eg, number of changes in curriculum and course content; quality and quantity of environmental data produced; investment in environmental research and development). Such indicators must be published on a regular basis so that the population would become as familiar with environmental issues as with economic and social issues. These indicators must be analyzed periodically so that the population can see the link between social and natural processes.

It is important that a commitment to educating the population about sustainable development issues be given by the highest administrative level of the education system (ministries, education officers, leaders of teachers’ unions and other organizations) as well as members of the teaching profession and parent-teacher associations. Given the fragile nature of a small island such as Barbados, there is a dire need to educate the population about the inter-relationship between socio-economic development and the physical environment. Sustainable development must not be seen as a fad in the development literature but a serious long-term goal which a country must always keep in focus. Education must be viewed as integral to the achievement of sustainable development, that is, keeping a balance between socio-economic and natural/ecological processes. Sustainable development will be on the future development agenda for Barbados. Education policy-makers and planners must therefore prepare the educational system to meet the challenges of sustainable development by seeking to develop interdisciplinary programs for schools and colleges, exposing teachers to sustainable development issues and providing the resources/training aids to effectively and efficiently convey the message of sustainable development to the student population.