Reiner Mathar works for the Hessian Ministry of Education and is the president of ‘Environment & School Initiatives,’ a network working on education for sustainable development. He has very kindly come to speak with the group for three days on the topic for this week, the Whole School Approach.
The week opened with a look back on what was learnt last week, and a look forward to what is expected from this week, with organisational issues also covered. With three days of a guest lecturer, and a field trip on Thursday to the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, this promises to be an interesting and stimulating week of learning.
Reiner Mathar opened his discussion with a look at how Education fits into a sustainable future. He explained that Sustainable Development wants to transform our society into a sustainable one, and that education and schools are the ‘stepping stone’ – the way to do this. Schools can act as a role model, showing children and their families the logic behind better actions, and how the future can be improved by sustainability.
Reiner brought with him examples of notable curriculums in Europe, namely Norway and Finland. The group, the majority of whom have come from careers in education, were pleasantly surprised by the approach these countries had taken. Norway’s curriculum amounts to only 44 pages, and each page is brightened by colourful pictures and simple explanations of what benefits children should gain from their education. Finland, too, measures the success of their endeavours not by written examinations, but by whether children can cook using regional ingredients, and at an older level, whether the child knows the benefits behind this.
The participants broke off into cross country groups, in order to reflect on the education situation in their own countries. For example, what teaching & learning equipment is available, what cooperation & partnerships are in place, and what learning resources are in place in the locality? The feedback from these groups prompted interesting discussions, such as the value of cultural knowledge, what constitutes a school, and what educational level should be reached before someone can become a teacher.
After lunch, other aspects of the whole school approach were discussed. The idea of sponsoring education provided a base for a heated debate. The fear that corporations would control education and children’s futures was challenged by the argument that basic needs would be filled by such substantial contributions. Reiner gave a presentation on the current education situation in Germany, including how to introduce environmental concepts into the classroom e.g. by calculating students carbon footprints, and how this can be built up throughout the years e.g. by Grade 10, looking at energy and the impact on climate.
The groups discuss the educational backgrounds they come from