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Blog post Part of series: Embedding sustainability education in practice

Developing a sustainable Wales & beyond

Mathew Jones, Open University in Wales / Cymbrogi Futures

With ink barely dry on the Curriculum for Wales, which was universally accepted in Wales on 10 March 2021, the purpose-driven curriculum that Graham Donaldson (2015) outlined has set out a clear direction for the future of Wales. The Welsh government (2020) states that this curriculum will contribute to the Well-being of Future Generations Act and aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The curriculum – seen by many as the opportunity for teachers to be empowered and creative, and to provide a localised relevant vehicle for learners through clearly defined areas of learning and experience – has much potential to engage young people in Wales in becoming ethical, informed global citizens.

However, vision and delivery can often be difficult to achieve, especially on such an ambitious and extensive scale as the reforms currently under way in Wales. Many other countries are looking at Wales with envious eyes during this journey (Welsh government, 2019, p. 3; Wallace, 2018, p. 73), yet how can we ensure that both practitioners and learners are ready to develop an understanding of sustainability in their curriculum?

Awareness & agency

To enable the necessary agency to maintain Welsh education’s commitment to sustainability and the global goals, it is important to better inform and prepare practitioners to develop this commitment with their learners. Climate change, recycling, waste and pollution often provide the focus for lessons, themes or school initiatives. Examples include the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification’s Global Citizenship Challenge, Eco-Schools, Forest Schools and Beach Schools, and other concepts such as the circular economy, which is based on sustainability and keeping products and materials in use while designing out waste and pollution, which are perhaps lesser known in primary and secondary education. These need to be embedded into the delivery of the Curriculum for Wales, to support education in Wales to achieve its purposes of ambitious, capable learners, who are enterprising and creative, and ethical informed citizens who are healthy and confident and ready to lead fulfilling lives (Donaldson, 2015, p. 29).

‘By teaching a generation of children and teenagers, another generation will also be influenced to engage in sustainable environmental behaviours. Implementing a nationwide climate change education programme will act as a way to promote environmentally-friendly behaviours amongst all citizens.’
(World Economic Forum, 2020)

Creativity, problem-solving & sustainability

Immersion in an environment that provides opportunities to problem-solve and collaborate creatively can authenticate the way to truly understand what has an impact on the future of the planet. Consequently, such immersion can make understanding both meaningful and transferable to the future lives and lifestyle choices of teachers and learners. Cymbrogi Futures is a social enterprise that delivers educational programmes through a unique learning ecosystem aimed at empowering learners to shape a sustainable world. The integration of a residential experience for both teachers and learners, in Pembrokeshire, along with online blended learning experiences, introduces teachers and learners to the four core pillars it believes are essential for developing an understanding of sustainability:

  • sustainable and circular futures
  • owning your wellbeing
  • creativity and the curriculum
  • learning to collaborate, collaborating to learn.

Figure 1: Cymbrogi Futures: Our vision

Source: cymbrogi.org.uk/

The connection between these four pillars is seen as key to developing not only learners’ understanding of sustainability and the circular economy, but also to enabling learners to discover their potential to develop creative solutions for many of the challenges the world currently faces, such as climate change. Creativity with a focus is needed to both empower and transform the future through learners.

Wales & beyond

Empowering and educating practitioners to both understand, embed and apply the ideas raised in this article in their teaching, classrooms and schools, will provide learners with experiences that deliver a deep understanding of sustainability. More importantly such actions could contribute to ensuring that the future generations of Wales have ownership over how to provide creative solutions to the climate challenge, which is precisely how the Curriculum for Wales intended: with learners succeeding in becoming ambitious and capable; enterprising, creative contributors; healthy, confident individuals; and ethical informed citizens of Wales and the world. Potentially, immersion in an environment that provides creative collaboration and problem-solving opportunities could pave the way for other education systems to integrate the agency required for climate challenges and sustainability into their curriculum.


References

Donaldson, G. (2015). Successful futures: Independent review of curriculum and assessment arrangements in Wales. https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2018-03/successful-futures.pdf

Wallace, J. (2018). Wales: Wellbeing as sustainable development. In J. Wallace (ed.) Wellbeing and devolution: Reframing the role of government in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, (pp. 73–101). Palgrave Pigot.

Welsh Government. (2019). Wales and the Sustainable Development Goals. https://www.futuregenerations.wales/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Wales-_-SDGs-_-VNR-_-Supplementary-Report-for-Wales-_-Version-10.1-Final-w-cover-ENG.pdf

Welsh Government. (2020). Introduction to Curriculum for Wales guidance. https://hwb.gov.wales/curriculum-for-wales/introduction

World Economic Forum. (2020, May 8). The importance of climate education in a COVID-19 world. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/the-importance-of-climate-education-in-a-covid-19-world/