IVEC 2021: Are we preparing our students with the competences and skills to meet the local and global challenges of the 21st century and beyond?

Nov 1, 2021 | 0 comments

The United Nations has issued a global call for a “Decade of Action” to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and stressed that it is essential to think of new ways to accelerate SDGs action. Universities need to educate for change and to prepare students for the future and its coming challenges. This do however require a paradigm shift from a business as usual approach. According to Alsop, Dippo, & Zandvliet, 2007, it is possible for practitioners (in our case university teachers in sustainability) to closely examine their role as change agents and decision-makers through their own problematisation of the teaching and learning proce sses within their work contexts, and through their own reflexive practice (Hong & Lawrence, 2011).

The sustainability challenges of the 21st century is also a challenge for rethinking learning and pedagogy in Higher Education. This leads us to the million-dollar question of our session at IVEC: in what ways are we preparing our students with the competences and skills needed to meet the local and global challenges of the 21st century and beyond? This question is explored by the consortium of the capacity building project VAMOS.

Presenting at IVEC from VAMOS was:

  • Diego Diaz and Zoila Moncada – Francisco Morazán National Pedagogical University, Honduras
  • Roberto Guerra – Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil
  • Fanny Jonsson – Uppsala University, Sweden

 

Introducing VAMOS

VAMOS (Virtual Exchange to Tackle Wicked Problems: Latin American and European Collaboration on Education for Sustainable Development) is two-year capacity-building project within the framework of the Erasmus+ programme running. The project gathers six Latin American universities (Brazil and Honduras), two European universities (Sweden and Italy), and one NGO with leading experts in virtual exchange (UNICollaboration). The aim is to jointly co-create virtual pilots in which students from our partner universities will work with the local/global sustainability issues (i.e. wicked problems).

Change Project Approach

The Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development (SWEDESD) facilitated the reflective assignments in VAMOS on transformative learning, which was based on the Change Project Approach. The purpose with the assignment was to guide the local teacher teams to identify problems that are significant in their contexts and begin to propose and plan activities that lead to transformation of practices in their institutions for education for sustainable development.

Summary of the presentation from the Diego and Zoila at Francisco Morazán National Pedagogical University:

The university is based in Honduras, by embracing the motto “Educar para transformar”( Let´s educate in order to transform) has found the perfect niche within the VAMOS Project and its objectives. Our university has mainstreamed an initiative on environmental awareness for all the undergraduate majors as a graduation requirement meant to be completed through varied activities and projects. This requirement is known as “Earth Chair Dr. Gonzalo Cruz Calderón”.

During the first VAMOS workshops on transformative learning and wicked problems, we went on to openly present the projects students embark on which are built around topics based on the following subjects: Environment conservation, Geology and Earth Sciences, Solid waste management, Vector control activities, Risks management and climate change adaptation, Reforestation and watershed management and Conservation of biodiversity.

In our central campus in Tegucigalpa, in the capital city, activities in which teaching, research and community extension overlap are constantly developing. The pandemic has pushed us to carry on with online activities like seminars, conferences, webinars and environmental workshops. The topics we have addressed range from water conservation, biodiversity protection, reforestation projects across the university’s regional branches, cultivation of plants attractive to pollinators to dengue and zika control and covid -19 prevention.

In our regional campus in Santa Rosa de Copán which is located in the western region of our country and is home to more than 600. Some other activities have also been developed which are relevant to the local context and area, these activities range from fire prevention talks, risks management workshops, green theatre, ecofriendly picnics with children from schools along the local communities, Ethnic biological fairs, school gardens and Home Gardens during the pandemic. Nowadays, we are working on environmental education projects with local ethnic communities.

VAMOS project has also led us to identify current and potential stakeholders. As of now, several activities are carried out with the assistance of strategic alliances with government agencies such as the Environment Ministry, Contingency Permanent Commission (COPECO), Water and Aqueducts National Service (SANAA), The National Conservation and forestry development Institute (ICF), The Regional Inter-institutional Board for Climate Change (MERICC), Santa Rosa´s Civil Society (ADELSAR), and the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ/PROCAMBIO) and private institutions.

The initial workshops on transformative learning also had us thought of the challenges we still have ahead, some of the most salient are the following.

  • Endowing middle, secondary and higher education curriculum with a local and real context for every region in the country
  • Encourage more educational and impactful practices in relation to ESD.
  • Promote more empowerment and involvement of educators and learners in initiatives of transformative learning
  • Engage in collaborative projects with national and international universities
  • Push for more social, economic and environmental resilience in local communities

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