Moray House School of Education

As International Education Week 2017 draws to a close, we caught up with Professor Peter Higgins from the University of Edinburgh Moray House School of Education to learn more about learning for sustainability and having a global outlook

What is Learning for Sustainability?

Learning for sustainability is a similar concept to that used internationally by UNESCO – ‘Education for Sustainable Development’.  In addition to ESD it integrates two other important aspects - Global Citizenship Education (GCE) and Outdoor Learning (OL) with an overarching aim to develop: a whole school approach that enables the school and its wider community to build the values, attitudes, knowledge, skills and confidence needed to develop practices and take decisions which are compatible with a sustainable and more equitable future. 

ESD addresses the understanding necessary to consider the long-term future of the planet and the threats posed by dangerous climate change etc. The inclusion of GCE encourages learners to focus on their relationship with others in our global community, and OL on respecting our intimate, interdependent relationship with the natural world. 

Why is Learning for Sustainability important to Scottish learners in today’s world?

Whilst the above definition would appear to be to be ample justification, and indeed an imperative, there are other significant benefits. Prominent amongst these is that to understand and address sustainability requires appreciation of the complex interdependencies of earth systems, the biological world, and the social, political and economic structures we live within. Such an approach demands interdisciplinary thinking, critical awareness, and an action orientation.

How important is it for Scottish learners to have an international outlook?

The modern world is international! Whilst the environmental systems referred to above are undeniably international, so too are the social, political and economic structures that constitute our society.  Global politics, international trade, the reporting (and mis-reporting) of events by the media all have international dimensions. Our awareness and the influence of the global on the local have never been greater. The corollary is evident in the opportunities for young people to develop their understanding, to contribute and indeed to travel, recreate, learn and work in many countries of the word.

If you could give one piece of advice to a Scottish learner, what would it be?

Enjoy your time as a learner in school, and remember that the skills you learn are vital for continuing to learn throughout life. Keep using your critical thinking skills and always ask the big questions. Why are things the way they are? Can we live a more harmonious life – with the planet, with each other? How can I act to make things better? 


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