Infusing sustainability across the curricula
The debate over whether infusion of sustainability into current university curricula or creation of distinct courses better meets the goals and principles of sustainability education has clearly moved towards the infusion applying inter-disciplinarity. If higher education is responsible for developing leaders who are equipped to contribute to building a sustainable society, then students must understand how various disciplines such as in philosophy, history, science, engineering, and every other discipline, can meet together to tackle sustainability issues. This integration across the disciplines helps students think critically about their local environment, fosters problem solving, and prepares students to find solutions to complex sustainability problems. The complexity of issues facing the world today, both locally and globally, demand a cross/trans-disciplinary approach, but such an approach is not easily implemented, unless interdisciplinary becomes an established practice in higher education.
Interdisciplinarity is thus related to the general trend towards infusing sustainability into existing courses rather than creating stand-alone courses designed specifically to address sustainability-related concepts. These include issues related to peace, justice, the reduction of poverty, environmental stewardship, the protection of animal and plant species, biodiversity, energy and water conservation.The RUCAS strategy towards infusion focuses on reviewing existing courses and teaching methods to address issues that are pertinent to education for sustainability. To infuse sustainability into the curriculum means to integrate into the existing curriculum, the knowledge, competences, perspectives, values, skills/actions needed to transform society and to sustain the environmental, social and economic integrity of the planet. To put it simply, sustainability infusion promotes the UNESCO five types of learning as the basis for fostering sustainable development (Figure 1.3). These are:
- Learning to know
- Learning to do
- Learning to live together
- Learning to be
- Learning to transform oneself and society.
Figure 1.3: The five pillars of education for sustainable development
The RUCAS Tempus inititative has developed a framework of generic or interdisciplinary competences in each of these five pillars based on the definitions provided in Table 1. Each of the six RUCAS prioritised disciplines (educational sciences, social sciences, applied sciences, business/economics sciences, technical sciences and health sciences) can be infused by sustainability principles, concepts and methods. To get a deeper knowledge on the interdisciplinary (generic) and the specific (disciplinary) ESD student competences go to the resources.
The strategy assumed in the RUCAS model rests with the commitment of faculty members, who must be willing to work cooperatively to build a plan for infusion and see that the plan is carried out. Sometimes this can be accomplished by university staff working independently of others but often it necessitates team teaching with instructors from two or more content areas working cooperatively.
Table 1.2: The definitions of the five pillars or clusters of education for sustainable development
|Pillar or Cluster||Definition|
|Learning to know||This type of learning concerns all the processes and practices that lead people to experience, construct and transform knowledge for making sustainability a mode of life and being.|
|Learning to live together||This type of learning concerns all the processes and practices that lead to a peaceful and non-discriminatory society and human co-existence with the natural world.|
|Learning to be||This type of learning concerns all the processes and practices that lead to human self-actualisation, self-regulation and cultivating a sense of being versus having.|
|Learning to do||This type of learning concerns all processes and practices that lead to merging knowledge with action for building a sustainable future.|
|Learning to transform oneself and society||This type of learning concerns all the processes and practices to transform their unsustainable values and behaviours and collectively engaged to change society towards sustainability.|