I spent part of last weekend delving into the Cambridge Primary Review. It's immediately obvious from even a cursory read why the government's attack dogs were let loose on it so quickly, and ministers much have congratulated themselves on having got their retaliation (well, refutation) in first through its own "independent" [Rose] review. I hope all all those interested in primary schools and sustainability will manage to read its comments and proposals. They may be a little uncritical in their view of the effectiveness of Eco-schools, but what they have to say about the aim of promoting interdependence and sustainability, and about their proposed domains of citizenship and ethics, and place and time, deserves close scrutiny – and not just my primary school teachers. It was a wonderful change to read a review with such a sense of history and breadth of view.
Well done to all my colleagues whose research reports contributed to the review. Who's for a Secondary Review ...
Rolf Jucker, of the Swiss Foundation for Environmental Education in Bern, contacted the SHED network recently saying that "a few people here in Switzerland are trying to word a paragraph for the Copenhagen Convention on Climate Change which aims to put education right at the top", and wondered whether anybody else was trying to do the same, and asking people to get in touch.
My response was: I'm sure that there are many such paragraphs. What follows is the one that I use when talking about the relationship between learning and sustainability. This captures, for me, the core role for learning as a collaborative and reflective process, the inter-generational dimension, the imperatives around social justice, and the idea of environmental limits. This may be a text that I use, but it's not, of course, really mine. It owes much (if not everything) to the past and continuing work of John Foster, Steve Gough and Paul Vare, and to other colleagues at Bath and elsewhere.
"The process that we call sustainable development makes no sense other than as a social learning process of improving the human condition that can be continued indefinitely without undermining itself. In this sense, sustainable development doesn’t, instrumentally, depend on learning; rather it’s inherently a learning process of making the emergent future ecologically sound and humanly habitable, as it emerges, through the continuous, responsive learning which is the human species’ most characteristic endowment."
More precisely, fieldwork doesn't pay if you're a lawyer, it seems. Thanks to Nick Jones for spotting this in the Guardian.
A Freedom of Information Act investigation of local authorities by the Countryside Alliance [ CA ] – 138 responded – has found that of the very many individual school trips taken over the past 10 years, 364 ended in legal action. In fewer than half of these [ 156 ] however, were schools found to be culpable, and between 1998 and 2008, the total compensation paid out was £404,952 [ an average of £293.44 per year, per authority ]. Further details of the CA work can be found here.
Arising out of an enquiry carried out for them by the NFER in their Teacher Voice surveys, one of the points made by the Alliance is: "Whilst 85% of young people would like the chance to be able to enjoy activities like fishing, falconry and farm visits through school, only 46% of children actually had been on a trip to the countryside with their school in the past year." Curiously, this thirst for fishing, falconry and farms goes unreported in the Guardian: "A separate poll of 2,127 children aged six to 15 found that while 85% of young people would like more school trips, only 46% of children had been to the countryside with their school in the past year."
To Galway for the 2009 DERN conference: Critical Thinking for Development Education – moving from evaluation to research. Good to be back in Ireland and once more amongst development education types many of whose assumptions and ways of thinking I find can be quite different from my own, and all the more stimulating for that. I think that even managed the beginnings of a glimmer of understanding about what 'global citizenship' might actually mean from a talk that raised the work of Nigel Dower at Aberdeen. His focus (if I understand it at all) on an active social engagement that accepts global responsibility, seems clearly to position GC as a looked-for outcome of education programmes focused on sustainability – although responsibility for what, seems a necessary question.
I was invited there to talk about the 'from evaluation to research' part of the agenda and spoke with a researcher from Nuremberg whose analytic take on the issues complemented my own rather more eclectic approach, drawing on the work that we've done at Bath (particularly Alan Reid and myself). My Galway text is attached.
The annual SDRN conference was held last week at the Welcome Trust. For the first time in its 10 year history there was a slot on the programme for a focus on education (on ESD), and I was happy to be invited to speak in a crowded programme which, once more, left little space for discussion. My theme, stimulated by Chris Gayford's recent research, was that of the benefits of seeing ESD as citizenship education. In a recent paper, my colleague Andy Stables has argued that the prime curriculum focus in schools now should be on the development of skills of critical thinking, dialogue and debate, with environment and sustainability one of many focuses. Andy argues that, whilst openness to the real public debate is crucial, it’s vital to remember that capacities are not outcomes, that they don’t simply precede outcomes, and that, to a large extent, it’s the making of real-life decisions that most fully develops the capacity for exercising responsible citizenship. This seems to me to be a good reason to enable students to begin to practise such real-life, decision-making in schools, and the curriculum niche known as citizenship seems the most appropriate niche (and a – and mainstream one at that) within which schools can pursue ideas around sustainability. Good for ESD; good for citizenship, you might think.
If you'd like to read more, just click SDRN CONFERENCE TEXT.
I went to hear Amartya Sen a few weeks ago and was rather disappointed – not by the great man himself but by how the session was organised (disorganised more like). It was so bad that it was hard to glean very much about his new book: The idea of Justice. Today's THE reminds me what the session might have been like, and impels me to buy the book as soon as possible.