Although sustainability has been an important policy topic for governments and international organisations for many years, it has become an increasingly significant topic to school aged children more recently. With the likes of Greta Thunberg and others providing the example and inspiring change, children are proactively seeking to lead environmental initiatives that create the necessary impact for a better world.
The international school community, with its global perspective, is highly likely to incorporate sustainability into their core curriculum. In particular, international schools that follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum will place a strong emphasis on sustainability education across a range of subjects as the IB requires schools to demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability in their operations. Reducing energy and water consumption, especially in countries with a high heating/cooling demand or water scarcity, is considered an easy win in terms of initiatives. This need for greater energy and water efficiency has been a primary driver for schools to embrace sustainability – but there are others.
Reasons to teach sustainability:
Global Awareness: International schools proudly boast widely diverse student bodies, with children drawn from many different parts of the world. One of their main roles being to foster global citizens who are aware of the challenges that the world faces and sustainability being a critical issue that affects the planet, international schools have an opportunity to help students understand the impact of their actions on the environment.
Responsibility: In many jurisdictions, international schools are built in and around a large and privileged community. As such, they exert significant influence in the wider community and therefore act as role models for sustainable practices in their community. By practising sustainability, they can lead by example and inspire others to adopt sustainable practices.
Health and well-being: For some international schools, particularly across the sprawling mega-cities of Asia, urban air quality has reached a crisis point. Teaching students to understand the impact of sustainable practice on such issues, is a necessity for their wellbeing.
Future-proofing: With the increasingly clear impact of climate change and environmental degradation, sustainability is becoming a critical issue for the future. By emphasising sustainability, international schools are preparing students for the challenges they may face in the future and equipping them with the knowledge and skills to address them.
Curriculum: Some schools may simply build this into extra or co-curricular activity, whilst for others, sustainability may be a core focus of the school. Green School Bali, for example, paved the way over 10 years ago when they announced their commitment “to create a global community of learners, making our world sustainable”. Since then, more schools have made the subject matter a core part of their mission.
Spotlight on The Arbor School in Dubai:
The Arbor School in Dubai is a example of a school that is focused on sustainability education. The school’s mission is to educate and inspire students to become environmentally responsible and sustainable global citizens.
Sustainability is integrated into all aspects of school life, from the curriculum, to extra-curricular activities and the day to day running of the school. The school has developed its own sustainability framework which is based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and covers topics such as waste reduction, renewable energy and biodiversity conservation.
The Arbor School’s campus is designed to be sustainable as well, with features such as a green roof, bespoke biodomes, solar panels, and a rainwater harvesting system. The school has an organic farm on campus, where students learn to grow and cook food, which allows them to take an active role in the “farm-to-fork” cycle.
Ultimately, eco-literacy, sustainability and environmental justice form the three pillars at the core of the Arbor School vision, “Enough for all, forever.” Eco-literacy is different from earlier trends in environmental education, which viewed humans as a destructive force in nature and pursued education as a path to curb destruction. The aim at Arbor, is to cultivate an ethos of ecological understanding and environmental mindfulness that drives innovative, creative problem-solving for a more sustainable world.
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of sustainability education. Many countries and regions have developed curriculum frameworks that incorporate sustainability, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) initiative. In addition, there are many non-governmental organisations and educational programs that provide resources and training for teachers to integrate sustainability into their lesson plans.
However, sustainability education can take many forms, and some international schools are realising that they need additional resources to deliver their intended environmental curriculum effectively. With that realisation comes the advent of new sustainability-focused roles that work to integrate sustainable practices into the school’s operations and curriculum.
Keep an eye on our vacancy listings to discover the perfect, sustainable role for you.