There is a wide consensus that radically different pedagogies are needed to deal with the challenges of our times (Reid &Scott, 2013). Barnett (2012) argues that preparing for the unknown should be a central principal in education. Not only do young people need to independently evaluate highly complex situations that will arise, but they also need to be prepared to take appropriate action, solve major social and environmental problems and organise their own learning throughout the life course (Öhman, 2008; Almers, 2009). School cannot provide a set of ready-made recipes, nor can education be limited to narrow national objectives.
Increased mobility over the life course involves quickly getting our bearings in new surroundings, and learning to cooperate with people who may not share our culture, our language or our values. The challenge that transnational mobility poses to education is even more salient with respect to refugees and displaced populations. With the latest wave of refugees, this has become one of the most pressing questions on the European agenda (European Parliament, 2016). European Commissioner for Education Tibor Navracsics underlined in his speech of 29 September 2015 that education will play a key role in integrating refugees. A future rise in forced migration is a major concern also globally (British Council, 2016). Refugee education may be interrupted or altogether suspended at several points. Education systems differ across national borders, and validation of prior education is very limited. On each step of the journey, requirements and goals will differ. Language-in-education policies constitute a serious obstacle. Importantly also, refugees have a low status in the host countries, and young people are disempowered. Depriving this generation of access to education and preventing them from realising their dreams will have serious consequences.
This paper argues that some of the pedagogies we find in transnational non-formal education networks can help to address these issues, building the competencies and capabilities young people need, more urgently than ever (Nordén & Anderberg, 2012). Such non-formal learning environments also have the potential of complementing formal schooling, which are focused on transmitting an existing body of knowledge, rather than learning to autonomously transform societies and shape the future.
This case study analyses the development of learning processes among international network representatives meeting annually within Caretakers of the Environment International, CEI (Global Forum, 2013). What does it take to enable students to see the planet as one interdependent environment? CEI believes this occur through having students meet and work together. By organizing annual international conferences, making available a periodical for – and by – teachers and students, establishing national branches and organizing regional workshops, CEI tries to establish a worldwide network of actively concerned secondary school teachers and students, willing to prioritise challenging issues through their education and their action-taking. The network intends to be a podium for teachers and students to exchange concerns, ideas, strategies, actions and projects in the field of ESD. Teachers and Mentors have an important role in guiding the students in their project.
Development of capabilities and competences has been researched in general and on the meta-level (Scheunpflug, 2014; Cotton & Winter, 2010; Rauch & Steiner, 2006). Communities of learning across borders considering projects and learning agendas not limited to national interests, but matching the different circumstances people are facing across the globe.
Several characteristics of GLSD could be compared with what Dawe et al (2005) have called sustainability literacy. Nordén, Avery & Anderberg (2012) summarised the characteristics for transition skill competences, stressing that they involved by learners needed critical knowledge capabilities in (1) organising themselves and making decisions independently; (2) developing transnational learning communities and (3) democratic collaborative action.
Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources UsedIt is common in educational research to focus on learning outcomes that are easily measured. By contrast, many of the learning outcomes relevant in Global Learning for Sustainable Development are highly complex (Scheunpflug, 2011), and do not easily lend themselves to measurement. The capability to work with multi-dimensional and changing sustainability challenges is by definition a moving target. Additionally, self-organisation and democratic deliberation (Biesta, 2004; Roth, 2006) are a question of setting goals independently, and outcomes of such projects are not measurable against standardised goal criteria. Similar arguments can be made concerning the ability to effect social change for sustainbility, which includes changing agendas in education systems. Rather than focusing on learning targets specified in advance, we have therefore found it preferable here to look at the possibilities offered by these non-formal learning environments in terms of learning affordances for developing and practicing competencies and capabilities for sustainable futures. The notion of learning affordances (Caldwell, Bilandzic & Foth, 2012) has mostly been used to discuss the opportunities various digital environments provide for learning. We will use it here to describe different characteristics of the transnational network studied in this case study, in terms of providing advanced learning opportunities for young people with different backgrounds. Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or FindingsFindings suggest that the overall challenge in trying to enable this learning of those involved is keeping momentum between network structures and network processes. These informal settings teach awareness about how, not what, to think. The learning continuum advances as youth and their educators attain a sense of community and find their place within the local-global context by engaging in network activities. The results show similarities among examples of activities found in the CEI projects with those suggested by Cotton and Winter (2010), which are; stimulus activities, critical incidents, reflexive accounts, personal development planning, critical reading and writing, debates, group discussions, case studies, role plays and simulations, beside problem based learning. The ability to: think creatively and holistically and to make critical judgements; develop a high level of self-reflection; understand, evaluate and adopt values conducive to sustainability; bridge the gap between theory and practice; in sustainable development, only transformational action counts; participate creatively in inter-disciplinary teams; besides the ability to initiate and manage change. At a global level, there is a growing need to develop competencies and capabilities for transitions towards sustainability. Conflicts and climate change are drastically increasing the number of refugees and displaced people who need proactive preventive strategies, as well as skills that can be used across numerous contexts and in the face of changing circumstances. Increasingly, also young people need to manage their own learning processes in self-directed learning, regardless of where they are physically and where they may move in their lifetimes. As established social structures struggle to address global challenges, people across the planet need to be able to organise themselves and to take initiatives. Against this background, several aspects of the GLSD approaches investigated in this study appear highly relevant. ReferencesAnderberg, E., Nordén, B., and Hansson, B. (2009). Global learning for sustainable development in higher education : recent trends and critique. 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(2013). Identifying Needs in Environmental Education Research. In (Eds) Stevenson, R. B., Brody, M., Dillon, J., and Wals, A. E.J.. International Handbook of Research on Environmental Education, pp. 518-528. New York: Routledge. Scheunpflug, A. (2011). Global Education and Cross-Cultural Learning: A Challenge for a Research-based Approach to International Teacher Education. International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning, 3(3), pp. 29-44. Scheunpflug, A. (2012). Identity and Ethics in Global Education, Becoming a Global Citizen. In: Jasskelained, L., Kaivola, T., O’Loughlin, E., Wegimont, L., (eds.) Proceedings of the International Symposium on Competencies of Global Citizens, Amsterdam, GENE, pp. 31-39. Öhman, Johan (2008): Environmental ethics and democratic responsibility – a pluralistic approach to ESD. In Öhman J. (Ed.) Values and Democracy in Education for Sustainable Development–Contributions from Swedish Research,pp. 17–32. Stockholm: Liber.
sustainabillity, non-formal learning, uncertainty, learning communities, learning affordances, transnational education, refugee education
ECER 2016: Leading Education. University College Dublin, Dublin, 22-26 August