“Empowering teachers to think and teach differently beyond markets, profits and economic growth”.
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) “empowers (teachers and) learners to take informed decisions and responsible actions for environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society, for present and future generations, while respecting cultural diversity” (UNESCO, 2019). While it is very easy to pursue economic growth without thinking about its impact on the environment, our current reality is that climate change has become a global concern. In view of this challenge, the need to understand the notions of sustainability, green economy and green entrepreneurship, and integrate these into the South African school curriculum is very urgent. The commerce subjects (Accounting, Business Studies and Economics) are viable school subjects in which these notions could be better integrated. Within the South African school contexts, Economic and Management Sciences (EMS) (Grades 7-9) and Business Studies (Grades 10-12) are identified as school subjects that present the opportunity to integrate Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).
Three South African universities (University of Witwatersrand through the Centre for Researching Education and Labour [REAL], North West University (NWU) and Rhodes University through the Environmental Learning Research Centre, ELRC) have collaborated with the Fundisa for Change programme and GreenMatter on a three-year research project to enhance teachers’ capacity to teach Economic and Management Sciences (EMS) (Grades 7-9) and Business Studies (Grades 10-12) in South African schools. Through the collaboration, two exemplars are developed aimed at enhancing teachers’ professional development. The exemplars are aligned with the National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) documents. They are complementary documents for educators to teach notions of sustainability, green economy and green entrepreneurship in South African schools.
The deliverables aimed at in the first year of the project are: (I) the development of two exemplars (the core text focusing on the eight pillars of the project, and that which focuses on integrating sustainability notions with practical teaching and learning examples in the EMS and Business Studies curricula); (II) capacity building and support for one master’s student; (III) the implementation of pilots with a group of 30-40 teachers and/or teacher educators; and, (IV) the development of an online course to be freely used by the teachers in South African schools. Since the inception of the project draft exemplars have been developed, and two pilots have been successfully conducted in the Gauteng Province (on 29 February 2020) and the North West Province (on 14 March 2020). A master’s student has been identified and is fully registered in the School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He has successfully presented his research proposal and currently reviewing for examination.
The two pilots with the teachers in the two provinces focused on drawing on the teachers’ prior knowledge on the notions of sustainability, green work and green entrepreneurship. In addition to this, the core text was presented to them. The two pilots drew on the notions of social transformation, environmental and social justice, and human rights in the CAPS document and how these links up with the core text. Carefully selected videos linking the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus were shared with the teachers. In concluding the pilots, focus group discussions were conducted with the teachers. It was very evident that the teachers found the core text as insightful and valuable. They agreed that the core text had relevance beyond just the subjects of Economic and Management Sciences (EMS) and Business Studies. The educators also felt that it would be relevant in their own contexts to open up discussions about the green economy and green entrepreneurship.
The next phase of the project is a four-day workshop planned for the June 2020 school holiday. This will include academics from the three universities involved in the project, Fundisa for change staff and the educators that have participated in the pilot. The essence of the workshop is to train the teachers in the use of the two exemplars to better understand how to teach the notions of sustainability, green economy and green entrepreneurship in the two curricula: Economic and Management Sciences (EMS) (Grades 7-9) and Business Studies (Grades 10-12) in South African schools.
Article prepared by Dr. Emmanuel Ojo and Ulisha Van Der Merwe
 (UNESCO, 2019). What is Education for Sustainable Development? Accessed online: https://en.unesco.org/themes/education-sustainable-development/what-is-esd
Gauteng teachers engaged in a Focus group with a Wits University lecturer
Teachers in North West together with North West University, Wits University and Rhodes University staff.