By Laurence Myers,
Sustainability & Service Learning Coordinator
International School of Kuala Lumpur
Since my position was created at the International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) – first as “Environmental Coordinator” and now as “Sustainability & Service Learning Coordinator” – the number of similar positions around the region – Asia – and across the world seems to be increasing by leaps and bounds. This is presumably a sign of the times, so to speak. I have always been fond of the environment and all things that call it home (including humanity, despite our knack of being somewhat destructive) but the real “wow” moment came with the viewing of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. I still remember him getting on that contraption to get up to where he needed to be to point out the rising temperatures. Certainly that was a gimmick, but it worked on me. I remember more recently John Hardy, the founder of the Green School in Bali, playfully blaming Al Gore for “ruining my life” on TED.com for making the movie and for pushing him to do just that: Creating a school were the environment stands at the forefront of what we teach and learn. How cool!
Then came a host of other similar information. I remember also trying to find more information and now it seems its left, right and center. No problem finding information to study these days. Prior to Mr. Gore’s movie the UN had declared 2005-2014 the “Decade of Education for Sustainable Development” and at ISKL we used this as the starting point of our newly developed Standards & Benchmarks. My predecessor, Angus Carmichael, who now works at the International of Aberdeen, is a very intelligent chap. He took the UN Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) concepts and created a new set of standards which now, nearly four years later, we are reviewing and refining. I suspect that process will never end.
It’s this review and refinement that has brought me to the crossroads of “best practices” when it comes to sustainability education. What is the “best method”? What are the “best set of standards”? How can we be sure that we are doing it in an exceptional way as our school’s mission claims? The answer, of course, is complex and has no completely right or wrong solutions. But there are starting points. We reviewed a number of options, most notably the resources of The Cloud Institute, the Australian Association of Environmental Education, The North American Association of Environmental Education, the Compass School model, Oxfam and, of course, UNESCO.
We are still working on what direction we want to go, but leaning toward continuing our journey with the UNESCO ESD format (though admittedly our own self-directed version of it). I’m pretty sure, though, that when all is said and done, we will have shown a substantial growth largely due to our expose to these models , to the thinking of others and to the recognition that we’re all in this together, no matter what we call it and no matter what the final version of our own ESD model looks like. After all, that is how the world becomes a better place. No one is an island, they say. I have an itching suspicion that with sustainability that we would truer than with most topics.
This blog is currently being updated by Laurence Myers, K-12 Service Learning Coordinator at the American School of Dubai. We are hoping the blog becomes a compilation of posts from a variety of people in the region and around the world. Want to add something? Send it along!