Education fit for the future 

Classroom
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The environment has to be the centre of our education system.

At COP 26 in Glasgow, we need a parallel conference of educational leaders and pedagogy from universities, colleges, and schools of the world.

The current educational system was designed to meet the needs of the Industrial Age - the age of mass production, mass consumption and unlimited economic growth.

Young people were trained in whatever skills were required by the market. This was education for jobs rather than education for life. Any of the jobs for which the students were trained led to the demise in biodiversity and the increase of carbon emissions which cause climate catastrophe. 

We are entering a new era, an era of the environment. So we need a new system of education which can respond to our times and can help to develop a regenerative culture.

Economy

World leaders will meet at the COP26 summit in Glasgow later this year. They will want to find ways and means to halt carbon emissions and safeguard biodiversity and environmental integrity.

They will speak about a change in government policies, a change in business practices and a need for new technologies to address the urgency of climate breakdown. These are good intentions and good aspirations. 

But the new policies and new technologies government and industry are planning to implement can only go so far unless we change education and learn a new way of living with ourselves, with one another and with our planet.

This can only happen if we revolutionise our educational system and put values and a new way of living and of putting nature at the heart of educational institutions. 

The present educational system looks at nature and sees it as a resource for the economy. Thus, nature becomes a means to an end. The end of economic growth. Human beings are also considered a resource for the economy. We call them “human resources”. Thus, people become a means to an end.

Integrity

By 2050, we need to create a new generation of young graduates for whom the economy is the means to support the wellbeing of people and sustainability of the planet Earth.

At COP 26 in Glasgow, we need a parallel conference of educational leaders and pedagogy from universities, colleges, and schools of the world.

In such a new education, nature will not be seen as a resource for the economy. Rather, nature will be recognised as the source of life itself. Such a shift in education will lead to zero waste, zero pollution and zero carbon emission by 2050. 

In order to establish a climate friendly economy and nature friendly politics, we need nature friendly education: education as if people and planet matter.

We need to engage in the study and understanding of the intricate web of life and ask: “What is a healthy and regenerative relationship between humans and nature?” 

Maintaining and sustaining the integrity of the planet Earth has to be at the centre of any new educational curriculum. For example, an experience like that currently provided through the Duke of Edinburgh Award should be available to all young people in every school and university.

Worldview

The knowledge of ecology and of our human dependence on nature have been exiled from the mainstream educational process. As a result, ecology and economy have been separated. Education of this kind is detrimental to social cohesion and disconnects people from the natural world. This is a great tragedy. Education, as it is practiced in the world, is not fit for the future. 

At COP 26 in Glasgow, we need a parallel conference of educational leaders and pedagogy from universities, colleges, and schools of the world.

At such a gathering it should be possible to ask, how will the educational system respond to the challenge of climate change? And also, how do we reset the economy so that it is in harmony with the natural world?

To address the challenge of climate change new technologies are not enough, we need new thinking, a new mindset, new economical values, a new worldview and an Earth friendly educational system. The occasion of COP 26 is the right time to address this vital dimension.

This Author

Satish Kumar is the founder of Schumacher College, which has launched an essay competition on the theme of 'education as if people and planet matter'. The first prize is £5,000. Mr Kumar is the founder of the Resurgence Trust, owner and publisher of The Ecologist.

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