Rethinking education for resilience and sustainability

David Weingartner /CC BY 2.0

If the video I posted comparing the food industry to drug dealers got you despairing of our children's futures, and you are worried about oil money corrupting our children's education, it might be fore a reason.

Our current educational paradigm was developed for the Industrial Revolution. The result has been an over emphasis on rote learning; obedience; respect for authority; an ability to follow instructions; and a mechanistic world view.

In a world that's increasingly collaborative, and where the challenges we face require complex, interdisciplinary thinking, is there room for something better?

Take the Avalon Sustainable Summer School, for example, an international initiative aimed at teaching sustainability, resilience and international cooperation. Heloise Buckland, editor of Education and Sustainability magazine and co-founder of the sustainable education social enterprise Barcelonya, explains the motivation:

"...in many countries the compulsory education system dislocates people from their natural talents, forcing people to choose between arts or sciences, business or engineering, restricting creativity to the confines of mono-disciplines and theoretical exercises. The difficulty with this type of education is that doesn´t feed our spirit, energy or passion. As a result many people simply opt out and end up doing whatever comes their way. Take Spain as an example where 28% of teenagers drop out of school, with other countries not far behind."

Avalon offers an alternative approach, says Buckland, focusing on transformative educational experiences in nature. The camps are held in a protected wilderness area in Spain, and attract attendees from across Europe and as far afield as Jamaica - learning wilderness skills, natural building techniques, permaculture and a whole host of other skills.

Another program with similarly transformative goals is Youth and Elders, a project promoting the intergenerational exchange of knowledge which combines online conversations with a week’s long physical journey on a tall ship in the Baltic Sea to explore a goal of "cultural maturity and stewardship of the planet".

And these are just two of a whole host of groups which are actively rethinking how education should work, says Buckland. From Knowmads in the Netherlands to Kaospilots in Denmark, we're not short of initiatives pushing to shift the educational paradigm beyond its stagnant status quo. Throughout each of these projects, it seems collaboration, hands-on experiential learning and an encouragement to engage with the big, challenging questions of our time - from climate change to resource depletion to economic crisis - are all parts of the puzzle.

The question is, can such a paradigm shift permeate the mainstream?

We'd love to hear about other sustainable education initiatives from across the globe.

Tags: Activism | Education | resilience | Spain

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