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Wednesday 25 November 2015

Education for Sustainable Development from the Swiss point of view

Training | No comments

by Bernard Gasser | 07.12.11

Sustainable development is included in various ways in the subjects that are already taught to pupils, and at various levels depending on countries. In Switzerland, various resources have been made available to teachers to help them, through very concrete situations, take into account this new notion. Here is a presentation of a few projects that have been set up in Fribourg secondary schools, in Switzerland.


Bernard Gasser

Sustainable Development (SD) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) have been part for a few years of the study plan for career advice to pupils between 12 and 16 years old in the canton of Fribourg, in Switzerland. For the past few months, the new French-speaking Study Plan (PER), the result of a compromise between the various French-speaking cantons, has been using these two notions as a basis for work. It implements the article 2 of our Constitution, which states that “The Swiss Confederation promotes the country’s common prosperity, sustainable development, internal cohesion and cultural diversity.
It remains to make these generous ideas become a reality day after day within the school framework. To do so, a group of teachers created various resources, made available to their colleagues through the websites fristoria, a collaborative website made by History and Geography teachers from the canton, and friportail, the new educational website from Fribourg.

Initially, very concrete situations are presented to pupils. “You are participating, together with three pals, in a competition organised by a travel agency. A few days later, here is the good news: “You are the winners of the competition.” Thrilled, you contact your three pals to organise the trip. The agency is offering four destinations: Davos, Berlin, Corsica or the island of Jerba. What a dilemma!
Most of the time, pupils choose the island of Jerba. Sun, beach… real holidays, like on catalogues.

Is it then the teacher’s role to cast doubt?
Let us take a look at the past: Bhopal, Chernobyl, the Amoco Cadix, Seveso. We have a worldwide issue requiring global solutions and local actions. But how can we reflect on action so that we can keep on living today without penalising those who will be here tomorrow? Pupils are shown a tool: a responsible choice should be economically efficient, socially fair and ecologically sustainable. It is based on ethics of responsibility and solidarity through space and time, while respecting human rights.
In concrete terms, during History, Geography, Economics, Science, Home Economics, Civic Education and Ethics classes, pupils enrich their toolboxes, which will enable them to reflect on complex issues: that fair trade freshly squeezed orange juice is too expensive for my budget! This one is cheap but tasteless and poor in vitamins. Why not drink the locally produced apple juice? If I want the seaside, why not go to Corsica by train and boat rather than take a plane to Jerba? But sir! Have you thought of those who make a living out of tourism in Tunisia? We always end up talking about values: responsibility, sharing, equity, pleasure.
In the end Jerba generally loses to the benefit of Corsica, which has a more sustainable carbon footprint.
After two days spent making research, pupils have to write an essay: do they confirm or invalidate their first choice? It does not really matter: this time their choice must be justified, taking into account the various aspects of sustainable development.
The thousand and one problems encountered every day at school can be used as starters for ESD. To tackle these issues, a five-point method (launch, define, act, assess and make durable) is made available to teachers through the Ecole 21 website, which offers examples of issues that can be tackled within the school framework. A forum is opened to those who wish to share their resources and experiences.

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