Skip to content

Imagine someone who has lost the physical existence of the place where he was born and brought up. As a child, he used to roam around freely in the fields and neighbourhoods of his birthplace, a rural village at the shore of the Bay of Bengal. But those cherished memories now flicker like distant stars in the night sky as the village has vanished, swallowed by the relentless tides of erosion fuelled by climate change. Thus, my childhood memories do not have physical existence. Growing up in a village erased from the map by environmental degradation has left an indelible mark on my heart, identity and the way I work in education and research. It is a scar that fuels my unwavering commitment to climate causes, a commitment to ensure that no other individuals nor communities suffer from the same fate. I believe we need to include climate change mitigation and adaptation approaches as the integral part of our curriculum (Shohel et al., 2021).

In my quest to make a difference, I, along with three colleagues from the Bedford College Group in England, embarked on the BERA BCF Curriculum Investigation project, a curriculum development initiative. This initiative aimed to engage and empower students and teachers in a co-creation process to develop a Level 4 undergraduate module outline to provide knowledge, skills and tools to better understand climate change, social justice and sustainability (Shohel et al., 2023). Through relentless dedication and collaborative effort, we crafted an introductory module titled ‘Introduction to climate change, social justice, and sustainability’. This module is not just a module to transfer knowledge and skills. It is an example of hope, a roadmap for action through active participation and engagement to change the practice in our professions and everyday life (Shohel, 2023). It explores the intricate connections between climate change, social justice and sustainability, illuminating the disparities and injustices perpetuated by environmental degradation as the impact of human greed and inconsiderate behaviours.

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ Margaret Mead

The project has focused on involving students as the co-creators of a sustainability curriculum for the Bedford College Group with the intention of making it available to other educational institutions. Employing participatory methodologies, workshops were convened to solicit the perspectives of both students and educators from the college on climate change, social justice and sustainability, and their implications for future generations. This research initiative empowered participants to actively engage in designing and developing the module content, instructional methods and assessment strategies to align with their unique needs and interests. By fostering collaborative partnerships between students and staff, the project gave ownership to its participants, and highlighted their autonomy and voices in the curriculum development process (Werder & Otis, 2023; Drew et al., 2016; Bovill et al., 2011).

The research outcomes offer invaluable insights into student engagement and involvement in curriculum development. The project introduced practical approaches to address the issues related to climate change, inequalities and sustainability while understanding them from individuals and local communities’ perspectives (McNamara & Buggy, 2016; Fernandes-Jesus et al., 2020). The Bedford College Group envisions the integration of climate change education and sustainable development across its diverse education and training programmes. The module was designed to foster a transformative educational journey for students as they could emerge as proactive contributors to address global challenges.

But beyond awareness, our module development process has cultivated a sense of agency among the participants. It empowers students and teachers to become catalysts for change to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to advocate for a more sustainable and just world. For me, this project is not just an academic or a professional piece of work. It is deeply personal and profoundly embedded in my worldview and life philosophy. It is a testament to the resilience of communities like mine, a tribute to the voices silenced by the rising tides and unfortunate fate. And it is a solemn promise to our future generations that we will not stand idly by as our planet crumbles beneath us. Rather, we will try to address global crisis through local actions.

As I reflect on my journey from loss to action, I am reminded of the words of Margaret Mead: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has’. Together, let us be that small group. Let us stand shoulder to shoulder, united in our commitment to a sustainable and just future, for the fate of our planet – and generations yet to come – hangs in the balance.