Educating for Sustainability - CC EfS
Established in 1996, the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi(EAD) is committed to protect and enhance the air quality, groundwater as well as the biodiversity of our desert and marine ecosystems. By partnering with other government entities, the private sector, NGOs and global environmental agencies, the Agency embraces international best practices, innovation and hard work to institute effective policy measures. It seeks to raise environmental awareness, facilitate sustainable development and ensure that environmental issues remain one of the top priorities of its national agenda.
Promoting environmental information and shared responsibility is one of the stated priorities for the Agency. One of the actions undertaken by the Agency to address this priority is to design and develop innovative educational programmes that reach out to all schools and institutions of higher education. The Sustainable Schools Initiative, launched by the Agency in 2009, is one such programme. The main goal of this initiative is to capacity build school communities to address their own environmental impacts and roll the Agency's sustained environment education and awareness activities for the whole school community.
To help fulfill this goal, the Agency offers a wide range of support such as provision of guiding manuals, books, workshops and training programmes for all the participating schools. The Agency strongly believes that Educating for Sustainability requires teachers to go beyond their individual subject specializations or expertise and use innovative approaches and methodologies to achieve transformative learning for a more sustainable world.
Since 2009, over 2000 teachers have been trained on a variety of environmental issues of local and global importance. Many of these trained teachers have become mentors and facilitators for new teachers entering the fold of this initiative. Many participating schools have also effectively integrated approaches learnt from these training programmes with their curricula.
The objectives of these training programmes have been:
- to enhance the teachers' understanding of 'educating for sustainability'
- to augment their comprehension of local specific and emerging environmental issues
- to share and update skills and techniques that could effectively help communicate concepts of sustainability to students
- to engage students in action oriented learning and enquiry that they can best relate and respond to
Ideally, the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi would like to support every teacher in Abu Dhabi through its hands on interactive and participatory teacher training programmes. However, the reality is that while face-to-face training programmes are highly effective, they are also often bound by time, space and resource requirements. Two factors have clearly affected the number of teachers participating in the training programmes offered by the Agency so far-distance and timing. Schools in Abu Dhabi are dispersed far and wide in the Emirate and sometimes distances inhibit teachers from attending training programmes offered by the Agency. Being a multicultural country, schools in the UAE also follow various curricula with differing school and examination schedules. The EAD wishes to employ eLearning technology to overcome the challenges of access and also because it believes that teachers can easily gain a lot from the interactive and communicative features of technology. “Technology, when combined with effective pedagogy and reflective teaching, will transform capacity building." Technology not only provides the opportunities for scaling but also “has the potential to transform the educational transaction towards a Community of Practice". (D.R Garrison and Terry Anderson, E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework for Research and Practice, 2003)
Sustainable Schools Initiative (SSI)
Initiated in 2009, the Sustainable Schools Initiative or Al Madaris Al Mustadama is a 'whole school' initiative that involves students, parents, teachers, administrative and non-teaching staff. It is also one of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi's flagship projects in its quest to promote environmental sustainability.
Sustainable Campus Initiative (SCI)
Initiated in 2014 for university students, staff and facility managers, the SCI is about working together on and around the campus to understand sustainability. In particular, it aims to strengthen and build leadership capacity amongst the Emirate’s youth to address issues of environmental sustainability and become the main agents of change in working towards shaping sustainable communities.