We are the Future

Updated: Aug 27

IFE Guiding Question



How is the German educational system preparing the next generation for the sustainability needs of our world?


As we peruse the many varied issues impacting our world today we are inundated with a multiplicity of connections that are impacted by and can impact upon how our educational systems respond. As such these issues become the fomenters of change across many sectors of society.

As an educator I have been keenly aware of the repercussions of the need for new and better ways to educate our students in order that they may be well prepared to face the ever changing realities of our present, immediate, and long term futures. Education for Sustainability is one such area that has been and will continue to be at the forefront of the educational spectrum across the globe. When considering what it takes to be Globally Competent we must certainly include the need for our Global Citizenry to be aware of, educated about, and proactive toward the sustainability needs of our world.

The German educational establishment has been engaging with this particular area of education since the 1990’s at the very least. As with any major shift in paradigm change occurs in progressive increments and often rather slowly.

In 2013 the German Federal Association for Sustainability through various collaborations in Germany and abroad began to develop concepts for sustainable development in education. Currently 15 experts from different educational sectors are working on the project group externally and internally…”1

The association for sustainable development has been exploring inclusion of education for sustainability throughout the German Education system from early childhood through university as well as on a cultural level. A major push to develop the necessary programs was created by the creation of the Sustainable Develop Goals of the United Nations.

Creating the necessary cultural, structural, and paradigm changes required to develop the desired goals requires influences from various strata of society, government, and citizens to come together in collaborative mode in order to make real change a reality. One immediate hurdle is the decentralized bureaucratic structure of the German educational system.

In Germany, schools in different states are slowly starting to incorporate the subject of sustainability into their syllabus. But, there are problems in standardizing common goals.”3

In Germany schools are managed by each of the individual 16 states. As a result each state is implementing education for sustainability in its own way. There are currently successful program models being put in place but there is no common format throughout the country. One resounding commonality that appears to have taken hold in education on a global scale is that we need to make a change in the way we educate.

“In Germany, there is a saying from the philosopher Christoph Lichtenberg: ‘If you make something different, it may not become better, but if you want to make something better, you have to make it differently.’” 4

Educational systems throughout the world are adapting to dramatic changes in our physical, cultural, and sociopolitical environments. These changes are rapidly impacting how we do everything in all aspects of our daily lives. Educators, Students, Parents,Governments, and society at large are responding to these changes.

During my travels in Germany I encountered several students who are pursuing education for sustainability. They engaged in conversations about projects they were currently involved in regarding sustainability. One such conversation evolved around a project to address local pollution and solutions to problems regarding alleviating such pollution. These students were conducting their work in their own communities but also collaborating with students in Italy and Greece. They were able to do via virtual collaboration online as well as through visits to the respective countries and their collaborating partners. This was made available through a grant that supported their sustainability projects and travel.

Germany is making inroads into the development and implementation of Education for Sustainability. They have in fact made good progress although as with many countries much is still needed to be done. If we have learned anything in the last several years it is that we make greater progress when we collaborate and share knowledge. Visiting Germany helped me to see what they are doing and we can be doing as well.



Works Cited

  1. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) - German Federal Association for Sustainability, https://nachhaltigkeit.bvng.org/en/education-for-sustainable-development-esd/. Accessed 20 August 2022.

  2. “How a German School Educates for Sustainable Development.” The Earth and I | Washington DC, 22 February 2022, https://www.theearthandi.org/post/how-a-german-school-educates-for-sustainable-development. Accessed 20 August 2022.

  3. “Sustainability education picks up in Germany | DW Learn German.” Learn German, https://learngerman.dw.com/en/sustainability-education-picks-up-in-germany/a-17087861. Accessed 20 August 2022.




Bibliography

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) - German Federal Association for Sustainability, https://nachhaltigkeit.bvng.org/en/education-for-sustainable-development-esd/. Accessed 20 August 2022.

“File:Sustainable Development Goals.jpg.” Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sustainable_Development_Goals.jpg. Accessed 20 August 2022.

“How a German School Educates for Sustainable Development.” The Earth and I | Washington DC, 22 February 2022, https://www.theearthandi.org/post/how-a-german-school-educates-for-sustainable-development. Accessed 20 August 2022.

“Sustainability education picks up in Germany | DW Learn German.” Learn German, https://learngerman.dw.com/en/sustainability-education-picks-up-in-germany/a-17087861. Accessed 20 August 2022.


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