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Piloting Nordic sustainability education


How to raise awareness and engage the Nordic population in the need for sustainable development?

A cross sectoral network, with participants from different levels of education and different adult education institutions, has for several years worked with the Nordic Network for Adult Learning (NVL) to answer this question.

The NVL is a body that enables co-operation in the adult education sector in the Nordic region. The objectives of the NVL strive towards promoting lifelong learning by focusing on cross-sectoral cooperation in the priority areas defined by the Nordic Council of Ministers. NVL transmits competence and experiences between the five Nordic countries Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and the three autonomous areas: Greenland, Åland Islands and Faroe Islands. The task of the network is to deepen Nordic competence and foster mutual learning.

In this article we present an example of Nordic cross sectoral further adult education in education for sustainable development. We will start by defining sustainable development and outline how education for sustainable development has developed, globally and in Nordic adult education. After that we continue by presenting the background to the example course, its aims, target group, quality assurance, content and future prospects.

Skærmbillede 2015-12-09 kl. 00.57.00

Sustainable development and the Nordic tradition of civic formation

Adult education has a central role for sustainable development. The pilot course we present in this article leans on the tradition of the Nordic tradition of civic formation “folkeopplysning”. Both in former and present Nordic strategies for sustainable development formal and non-formal education is emphasized as one of the important ways to succeed with the transition needed towards a sustainable society, understood as “A good life in a sustainable Norden (Nordic countries)” (Nordic Council of Ministers, 2013).

The Nordic tradition for civic formation plays an important role in this process of transition. The roots go back to the Danish priest N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783 – 1872). Since the early 1800s, democratic formation and empowerment have been central goals of the pedagogy. Grundtvig saw dialogue between equals as the basic principle of civic education: “Not telling people what to think, but stimulating them to creative reflection about life and thus qualifying them to become real participants in democracy” (Læssøe, 2007). Grundtvig’s concept of ”civic formation” addresses the deep connection between formation of the individual and formation of the community; the pedagogic platform therefore embraces formation as an individual, as a member of society and as world citizen. It would be hard to find an approach better suited to addressing today’s goals for a sustainable world – from individual life quality to sustainable local communities to global and intergenerational equity.

Norden today is at a crossroads as regards sustainable development; ranking very high internationally in terms of economic growth, welfare and education, yet far less impressive in terms of our very high ecological footprint. Global equity will require drastic changes in consumption in the rich countries. This will need real, open democratic debate about what we mean by good life quality and action to make the changes needed. In this process civic formation has an important role (Paaby, 2012).

The pilot course 2014-2015

The pilot course of the educational programme emphasises learning geared towards theoretical knowledge combined with practical action. The aim is to build bridges between formal education institutions, local administrations and civil society organizations; assisting both formal and informal learning arenas to learn from the inspiring local examples.

The target group is teachers working with adults, for example at a folk high school, in a study organisation or representing an NGO with education for sustainable development on its agenda. The education course is free, but the participants have to pay the travelling costs, study material as well as the time invested in the studies.

The education will last one year, organized as four sessions taking place in four different Nordic countries and together with own studies it will constitute 15 credits (ECTS). During the year each of the 19 participants also works with a practical project for their employee. The first session was organized September 10th- 12th in Oslo in Norway. The other sessions will be organized in Samsø/Denmark, Gothenburg/Sweden and Porvoo-Borgå/Finland during the academic year 2014-2015.

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