Educating for sustainability in Madagascar:  a challenge of the hummingbird by Rojoniaina Rasolonaivo

When people ask me where I am from and hear the word “Madagascar”, they usually associate it with the movie “Madagascar” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madagascar_(2005_film) where there are wild animals living in a beautiful natural habitat, what is shown in the movie setting perfectly pictures Madagascar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2gIooXqmw0  It is a very beautiful island with a rich and unique biodiversity and around 80% of Malagasy species of plants and animals are endemic. However, sadly despite this priceless heritage, the island is gradually losing its natural resources due to non-sustainable human practices such as the bush fire in the rural areas, and important non-eco-friendly behaviours and practices in the urban areas. Poverty and lack of civic and environmental education are the main reasons for such issues. People burn the land to make it more fertile but it becomes useless after few years, then, they move to new lands to do the same practice again and again which eventually leads to the destruction of the forest and considerable natural disasters. In the cities, old vehicles and factories cause great air pollution; poor hygiene and non-respect for the environment cause different infectious diseases and an unfriendly living environment.

Regarding such issues and alongside with Madagascar’s engagement in fulfilling the international agenda https://en.unesco.org/gap  on education for sustainable development (ESD), the Malagasy government developed a new national curriculum for primary and secondary school in 2015. A new school subject about sustainability education which emphasises on environmental and citizenship education has been added. Each class is given one hour and a half a week for this subject and the objective is to enhance student’s critical thinking on what is happening around them, especially in their social and natural environment. Nevertheless, the concept of education for sustainability as it is known in the Sustainable Development Goal for Education (SDG4) http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/education/ is quite new in the Malagasy setting and I believe is not yet clear to many teachers.

Besides, the curriculum mentions this particular subject should be learner-centred whereas Madagascar has adopted a teacher-centred approach for many years, and a large number of teachers did not follow a teacher training where such approach is learned. In this regard, the government is going to provide some training to in-service teachers starting from this year in order to better the quality of Malagasy teachers and to prepare the settlement of the Malagasy Education Sector Plan[i], a new education programme elaborated as part of reaching the SDG4 in Madagascar. Therefore, I wish to integrate educating for sustainability in the in-service teacher training so that teachers will be able to efficiently teach sustainability education. It is also for this purpose that Nolet (2016) wrote his book Educating for sustainability: principles and practices for teachers which I consider as a highly valuable tool for the teacher training.

Firstly, teachers need to understand that they play a huge role in “incorporating the values and ideas associated with sustainability into [their] professional practice as a teacher as well as [their] own day-to-day life” (Nolet 2016 p3) in a way that they become good models of practitioners of sustainable habits. The story of Wangari Maathai and the hummingbird’s empowering message “I am doing the best I can” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mM11v_16-o particularly inspired me in trying to develop what Nolet (2016) refers to as “a sustainable worldview”[ii] into people’s mind. It perfectly translates the work that is awaiting me and everyone willing to promote educating for sustainability in Madagascar but most importantly being able to convey such principle in young Malagasy people’s lives would be a tremendous start in applying sustainability education.

Since the Malagasy government has adopted educating for sustainability as a response to the global education policy, it should not neglect the local level in order to make sustainability education more meaningful to Malagasy people. For me, a real education for sustainability should not only reach children who are going to school, but also all the members of the society. A good example for this is how Wangari Maathai engaged her people into a more sustainable way of living by doing simple actions that changed their lives https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5GX6JktJZg Thus, being both African countries with similar contexts, Madagascar could learn a lot from Kenya where Wangari Maathai fought for creating a better natural environment to “combat desertification, deforestation, water crises, and rural hunger” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wangari_Maathai and inspired numbers of people not only in her country but all around the world.

In my own conviction, inspiring the students is a significant part of the teacher’s job. I am sure we all had this one or these few teachers who made a difference in our lives. https://www.facebook.com/edutopia/videos/10155410393824917/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED

I had this high school teacher who greatly inspired me and made an important impact on my decision to take up Education as the major for my undergraduate studies because I wanted to be as a great inspiring teacher as she was. However, I was wondering why only a few teachers were able to inspire their students. Perhaps it does not rely on the content of what we are teaching to our young people, but mainly on transmitting values to help them become better people, fully responsible for their own achievement. I believe that if Malagasy teachers are given the right tools through the teacher training and made aware they could be great sources of inspiration to change non-sustainable ways of thinking, building a sustainable environment that is meaningful to all Malagasy people could be achieved. Such a view might sound quite utopic and too idealistic but I am planning to do “the best I can” and inspire my fellow teachers to do the same, and I am going to start by writing a dissertation about educating for sustainability in Madagascar to obtain my master’s degree in Educational Leadership.

Reference

Nolet, V., 2016. Educating for sustainability : principles and practices for teachers, New York : Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

[i] Education Sector Plan (ESP): a Developing Country Partner’s national comprehensive education sector plan, endorsed by the Development Partner Group http://www.globalpartnership.org/

[ii] sustainable worldview: a thoughtful and skilful way of being in the world that is positive, life affirming, future-oriented, and solution focused (Nolet 2016).

Equity in Higher Education and Sustainable Development in China by Minhui Chen

 

In this blog post, I aim to explore the issue of equity in higher education in mainland China from the perspective of sustainable development. The reason why I want to discuss this topic is that equity has become a worldwide concern in higher education system. Recent years, China has made stable progress in higher education conforming to the trend of the world. So far China has already achieved mass access in the higher education (W. John Morgan& Bin Wu, 2011). However, there are still existing some problems. When I read a journal about educational injustice between the rural areas and the urban areas in China, I realised that the social justice is a crucial factor of higher education and sustainable development. And this essay will also use the educational unfairness in the urban and rural areas as the example to analyse the equity of higher education. Thus, the existing unfair problems in higher education are calling for the reform of the policy. This blog might provide the policy makers like you with some reflections.

As for the perspective of sustainable development, I think that improving equity in higher education could promote social justice and sustainable development. On the one hand, higher education could be the preparation for the social life. Students could learn not only general knowledge but also cooperation, the new ways of thinking and many other skills through education (Victor Nolet, 2016). If students experience the equitable higher education, it will make them engage in various challenges in the society confidently and contribute to the social development; on the other hand, improving the equity to higher education could narrow the gap and promote sustainability. Because if the students accept unfair education, they will gain the different level of academic and living skills. In the future, the gaps between these students will exist in nearly all aspects of social life such as income and lifestyle. In this way, the social contradiction will occur. And it could be conducive to the sustainable development of society.

As an essential issue of equity in higher education in China, the imbalance of rural area and urban area has become a serious concern. In China, the access to higher education institutions is the uniform National College Entrance Examination (hereafter referred to as NCEE). However, refer to the research of Xu Yang (2010), the rate of participating the NCCE in urban areas is as much as 98.4% and the rate in the rural areas is much lower at 79%. Thus, the students from the urban areas usually get higher scores than students from the rural areas. In this way, the access to the higher education is injustice between the urban and rural areas. Because of different opportunities to attend the universities, the social justice could not achieve. Furthermore, the result of the disparity of access to higher education in urban and rural does not conform to the requirements of sustainable development.

The reasons for the unfairness in the education between urban and rural areas are multi-faceted. On the one hand, the unfair educational recourses distribution leads to the injustice study opportunities. Students in the urban areas enjoy the advanced educational recourses. Schools in the urban areas usually equipped with adequate and modern facilities; advanced teaching ideas; scientific management. On the contrary, many schools in the rural areas even lack basic teaching equipment (W. John Morgan& Bin Wu, 2011). Also, according to Xu Yang’s research, the proportion of qualified teachers in the urban areas is higher than that in the rural areas. In this way, students from the urban areas and the rural areas have inequitable chance to access the higher education. On the other hand, the economic problem is also the obstacle to achieving the equity in education. The rural and urban income gap has widened due to the economic growth in China. Unlike the students from the urban areas, some of the rural students are from the low-income families. They can’t even afford the tuition fee. In this way, the opportunities to access to higher education are different.

The case of educational unfairness between the urban and rural areas in China reflects the policies towards equity of higher education are not perfect. Policy reform is necessary for improving the equity in higher education and enhance sustainable development in China. Here are some recommendations. Firstly, the policy towards education recourses distribution should be improved. As for the teaching equipment, the government should increase educational investment in the rural area make sure to improve the quality of education. As for the teachers, the government should reform the construction of the professional teachers in rural areas. The government could also attract professional teachers to work in rural by high salary and welfare policy. Secondly, as for the economic problem, the policy towards financial aid should also be reformed and improved. The successful experience of the America could be a reference. The America has the complete system of financial support, such as student loans, scholarships, tuition waiver and so on (Xu Yang, 2010). If Chinese government could improve this kind of policy, the poor students who cannot afford the tuition fees could access to the higher education institutions.

To sum up, the policy reform is necessary for improving the equity in higher education in China. Furthermore, the achievement of this kind of equity could contribute to the social justice and sustainable development.

References

Morgan, W. J., & Wu, B. (2011). Higher education reform in China: Beyond the expansion. Taylor & Francis.

Nolet, V. (2016). Educating for Sustainability: Principles and practices for teachers. Routledge.

Yang, X. (2010). Access to higher education for rural-poor students in China. Educational Research for Policy and Practice9(3), 193-209.