Another day; another sustainability literacy test

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

The problem is: whenever some dodgy concept – like sustainability literacy – emerges out of the many febrile imaginations tired of day-time TV, inevitably someone decides it has to be measured.  I was alerted to the latest example today by eagle-eyed correspondents.

Here it is.  And it comes with more acronyms attached than you could shake a STICK [1] at.  Just look at them: there's the SAB and the RNEC to start with.  Just bewildering.

The website blurb says this:

The “Sustainability Literacy Test” is a tool for the various initiatives on sustainability lead (sic) by HEIs to assess and verify the sustainability literacy of their students when they graduate.  It assesses the minimum level knowledge in economic, social and environmental responsibility for higher education students, applicable all over the world, in any kind of Higher Education Institution (HEI), in any country, studying any kind of tertiary-level course (Bachelors, Masters, MBAs, PhD).

This is quite a claim.  However, it gets better (or much worse depending on your point of view).

There's a helpful page on how it all works:

All of the questions in this assessment will ensure that future graduates have basic knowledge on sustainable development and both individual and Organisational sustainability and responsibility. For this purpose, the scope of this assessment covers 2 types of question:

  • Questions on challenges facing society and the planet i.e. general knowledge on social, environmental and economic issues, basic understanding of the earth e.g. water and carbon cycles, greenhouse effect etc.
  • Questions on the Organisation’s responsibility in general and on corporate responsibility in particular i.e. questions on practices for integrating social responsibility throughout an Organisation and questions on the responsibility of individuals as employees and citizens.

In order to be easy to use worldwide, a Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) format has been chosen.  
50 MCQs are randomly selected out of among a wide range. Of those questions, 2/3 are related to Supra/International level (global warming for instance) and 1/3 linked to national/regional level (i.e. local regulations and laws, culture and practices). The test takes 30 minutes.

Easy, really.  The first sentence (which I had to read 3 times to make sure it really was saying this) is complete rubbish, unless the organisers see institutions teaching to a test they have no responsibly for.  Maybe they are mutton-headed enough to think this.  If so; they completely misunderstand universities and have no business doing any of this – well, they haven't any business, anyway, whatever their understanding is.

As for the questions (which I cannot access), judging by the bullet points, above, these are going to be the usual tired stuff about how the earth works and what corporate ethics ought to be.  I fear that Oscar Wild's aphorism will apply with force: in examinations, the foolish ask questions that the wise cannot answer.


[1] STICK is the Society for Traducing International Conceptual Knorms.  It is based in Poughkeepsie, VA. [ ]

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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