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Education Policies and Systems can shape Resource Efficient Behaviour and Sustainable Livelihoods

Posted in News on March 2, 2017

By 2050 we are expected to be 9.7 billion people on this planet. The latest reports from the WWF Living Planet Index show a 58% decline for global biodiversity between 1970 and 2012, and this decline will continue if no actions are taken. Changing the behaviour of today’s children is essential for the sustainability of our planet. By integrating environmental, social and financial education into primary and secondary school curricula, children can be taught to lead resource efficient lives at an early age. Resources are more than financial capital – water, energy and other materials are all valuable resources that can be leveraged for sustainable livelihoods but these lessons start early!

The Case of Pakistan
In Pakistan, Environmental Studies became an elective subject of the Humanities Group curriculum for children ages 14-15 in 2008. However because of Pakistan’s high dropout rate, only 49% of children continue to lower secondary school (age 11). Behaviour is actually shaped at a much earlier age during primary school education, which is often universally mandated in many countries. Providing primary schools with an adapted and nationally contextualised curriculum that embeds the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), education systems in countries can reach more children.

Watch this video to see how Pakistan integrates the SDGs into education policies and curricula.

UN Environment, through the European Union SWITCH-Asia Programme, has partnered with the Ministry of Climate Change of Pakistan, Aflatoun International, and the Pakistan Institute for Environment-Development Action Research (PIEDAR) to advocate for Pakistan’s environmental education and national curriculum policies to shape resource efficient behaviour and sustainable livelihoods. Pakistan aims to achieve the SDGs in the context of a growing population and natural resource scarcity.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change has made it a priority to work towards achieving the SDGs by strengthening environmental education policies in line with the SDGs and climate change adaptation and mitigation. The Aflatoun curriculum focuses on teaching children how to manage resources more efficiently and lead sustainable enterprises from an early age.

Raising awareness about sustainability issues is not enough. Parents and school teachers hold the keys to enabling children to become agents of change for sustainable behaviour — Ayub Qutub from PIEDAR

The Aflatoun Curriculum is built on the 3 Pillars of Sustainable Development
Aflatoun’s lessons teach children to manage resources, including natural resources, more efficiently and in effect creating sustainable enterprises. It has measurably increased children’s confidence in understanding and providing solutions for environmental challenges such as desertification. It has instilled responsible savings and planning habits, around both financial and natural resources. The environmental topics include reusing and recycling waste and natural resources, tree planting, curbing marine pollution, clean water, and green enterprise, all of which align with the SDGs.

In 2016, Aflatoun’s curriculum was adapted to suit Pakistan’s context. Following a review of existing education policies, the national primary school curriculum was selected for mainstreaming the SDGs and implementing Aflatoun lesson plans. The primary school curriculum was broken into three grade levels to provide adapted lessons for each age group focusing on 1- Managing Natural and Financial Resources, 2- Planning and Budgeting for a Sustainable Future, and 3- Environmental and Financial Enterprises. The first level ‘Managing Natural and Financial Resources’ contains the most critical lessons related to saving, reusing and recycling resources, especially freshwater resources.

The development of green mindsets and skills at a young age is crucial for achieving the SDGs. Educating primary and secondary school children on sustainable economic, environmental and social development will pave the way for green economies in the future as these children will go on to be policy makers, business owners and overall responsible consumers.