Using the SDGs as a catalyst for re-designing higher education in the Anthropocene

Zagreb

Last week (June 13-14, 2017) the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Agriculture hosted an the 2017 ICA-Edu Colloquium “Delivering graduates to meet the challenges of sustainable development goals (SDGs): embedding the development of ethical and sustainable values ​​in the curriculum.” The colloquium was organized in cooperation with ICA (the Association for European Life Science Universities) which is the umbrella network of 54 life science universities in Europe. ICA’s goal is to improve higher education and research in agronomy and related sciences.

I was one of the keynote speakers along with Prof. David A. Knauft (University of Georgia) and  Prof. Georg Gratzer (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna – BOKU). Unfortunately I could not be physically present and I had to resort to using the ‘green room’ in the Social Sciences building of Wageningen University (a studio that is used for recording, among other things, short video’s for MOOCS). The 34 minute talk with the title ‘Using the SDGs as a catalyst for re-designing higher education in the Anthropocene’ can be viewed here: Keynote Zagreb ICA Conference

New: The interplay between social learning and adaptive capacity in climate change adaptation

ClimatChangeVietnamCChangeVietnam2

Pics source: www.knowledgebank.irri.org

One of my PhD students, Le Thi Hong Phuong from Vietnam, just had her review article (with me and Robbert Biesbroek of Wageningen UR as humble co-authors) published in NJAS . In the paper she maintains that successful implementation climate change adaptation depends to a large extent on the capabilities of individuals, organizations, and communities to create and mobilize the adaptive capacity (AC) of their socio-ecological system. In the paper, creating and mobilizing AC is seens as a continuous process that requires social learning (SL). Although rich with empirical cases, the literature theorizing and empirically investigating the relationship between AC and SL is highly fragmented. This paper aims to critically examine the peer-reviewed literature that focusses on SL and AC in the context of climate change adaptation (CCA).

Special attention is paid to the interplay between the two. Understanding this interplay can help improve our understanding of how CCA takes place in practice and advances theoretical debates on CCA. Systematic review methods are used to analyse 43 papers (1997–2016). The findings reveal three perspectives that each play an important role in different contexts: an AC-focused perspective, a SL-focused perspective, and a hybrid perspective. These differences in conceptualizations of the relationship between SL and AC may seem trivial at first, but they have consequences for the design of learning-based interventions aimed at helping communities respond to climate change. It appears that such interventions need to be preceded by an analysis of the climate change context in order to decide whether to emphasize AC, SL or both simultaneously.

You can find the paper here: The interplay between social learning and adaptive capacity in climate change adaptation or request a copy by emailing me at arjen.wals@wur.nl The DOI is: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.njas.2017.05.001

Highlights

  • Social learning (SL) & adaptive capacity (AC) are critical in climate change adaptation.
  • Social learning does not necessarily build adaptive capacity and vice versa.
  • Three interplays between SL and AC emerge: SL-focused, AC-focused and hybrid.
  • The effectiveness of an interplay depends on the climate adaptation context.
  • This has implications for governance to help communities to adapt to climate change.

How to educate in a Changing World? Curriculum Innovation in Tertiary Agricultural Education (TAE)

Cover
Download the book here!

We live in turbulent times, our world is changing at accelerating speed. Information is everywhere, but wisdom appears in short supply when trying to address key interrelated challenges of our time such as; runaway climate change, the loss of biodiversity, the depletion of natural resources, the on-going homogenization of culture, and rising inequity. Living in such times has implications for education and learning.
(Wals, A.E.J. and Corcoran, P.B. (Eds.) (2012). Learning for Sustainability in Times of Accelerating Change, Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Publishers.)

The speed of change, physically, socially and culturally, is accelerating. Continued globalization and digitalization are not only affecting how we think, what we know, who to believe, how we act, they also affect the role of education in society. Higher education, for instance, and the science it produces, is no longer the sole authority of truth, if ever it was. Rather, science oftentimes represents just another point of view or an opinion in the public debate of controversial and ambiguous issues such as; the causes and impacts of climate change, the role of GMOs in food security, the use of biofuels, etc. Scientists can be found on different ends of the ongoing debates, although more might be found at one end than on the other. It is not easy to decide who is right, who is wrong, or who is more right than others, or what the best way to move forward might be.

What do we educate for in such a world when things change so fast and knowledge becomes obsolete before you know it? How do we prepare today’s graduate for the world of tomorrow? And more specifically, what are the implications for tertiary agricultural education (TAE) around the world? Again I would like to offer some thinking and reflection on existing practices that we did in the past that is still relevant today but now easily accessible thanks to open access and the digital age: Wals, A.E.J. (Ed.) (2005). Curriculum Innovations in Higher Agricultural Education. The Hague: Elsevier /Reed Business Information. In this book you will find contributions by Richard Bawden, Fabio Carporali, Paul Pace, Bill Slee and Sri Sriskandarajah. The opening section focusses on principles and stepping stones for curriculum development in a changing world, whereas the second part focusses on newly developed MSc programmes in a number of European Life Science Universities in the area of Integrated Rural Development.

You can download the book by clicking on the link below the book’s cover image above!

Meeting Malawi’s Minister of Environment & Climate Change Management

Earlier this month I had a fascinating week working with colleague Prof. Heila Lotz-Sisitka of Rhodes University (SA) and three SANPAD PhD-students in Malawi (Tich from Zimbabwe, Aristide from Mozambique and Dick from Malawi) on research issues related to the PhD work on Social Learning and Natural Resource Management (See my earlier Blog Post on (Re)Views of Social Learning). In the city of Zomba Prof. Sosten Chioto of Chancellor College took us to a brand new community radio station that has been set up to reach rural area’s in Southern Malawi on issues of climate change and food security. The radio station (104.1 FM ChanCo Community Radio) mixes music and information and is quickly becoming one of the more popular stations in the region. A big part of its success seems to be the fact that listeners, even in some of the remotest of area’s, respond to questions using their cell phones, either by calling in or by sending in text messages.

While at the station for a recording session we had the opportunity to speak with the Honorable Halima Daud, Malawi’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Management who later that week would open the annual congress of the Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa in Lilongwe where I was asked to give a keynote on “Environmental Education and the Green Economy – opportunities and pitfalls”

Meeting Halima Daud

Ms. Daud made it clear that the addition of ‘Climate Change Management’ to her job title was crucial to emphasize the severe challenges climate change poses on food security issues in the country. Particularly the shifting of the rain patterns is affecting seeding and harvesting cycles and is extending the dry season while the current systems are not set up for harvesting the intensified rains that do fall periodically in the wet season. This is negatively affecting productivity which, near the lake area’s is increasing the pressure on fisheries (where stocks are under pressure and declining rapidly). The latter is an issue that Dick’s thesis “Organizing Multi-stakeholder social learning to foster sustainable fishing” is seeking to address.

Both the conversation with Ms. Daud and the presentations and discussions at the EEASA conference confirmed that we live in times of accelerating changes that require creative, routine braking responses, from the world of business, governance, science but, indeed, also from education.

As an introduction to this I am including the Introductory chapter to “Learning for Sustainability in Times of Accelerating Change” (Wals & Corcoran, 2012) here: Introductory ChapterIntroduction – Wals & Corcoran, 2012

If you are interested in Food Security in relation to Sustainable Development you may want to have a look at the newly formed Centre for Sustainable development & Food Security at Wageningen University at:http://www.wageningenur.nl/en/Expertise-Services/Research-Institutes/centre-for-development-innovation/CSDFS.htm

Back-alley sustainability and the role of environmental education

Source: www.celsias.com  - careers in urban agriculture

Source: http://www.celsias.com – careers in urban agriculture

Here’s another ‘old’ paper that resonates more today than it did when it appeared in the very first Volume of a very valuable journal “Local Environment” in 1996. What is interesting to note is that the neighborhoods in Detroit where the action research reported on took place have been transformed quite a bit: abandoned houses – often crack houses back then – have been torn down and the vacant lots have, in some instances, been ‘reclaimed’ by nature or converted into productive land for fruit and vegetables (see “Detroit Agriculture”). Perhaps, in a very modest way, educational initiatives like the one described in this paper have contributed to this transformation, although a question today is to what extend the Detroit schools take part in this transformation and whether schools are able to ‘localize’ their curriculum and educational processes to allow for this. Below you find the abstract of the paper which can be obtained in full by clicking on the reference at the end.

Abstract:

Environmental education can be a catalyst for sustainable development in local communities as long as it is recognised that communities have different challenges and needs. From a perspective of social change and sustainable development, environmental education can be broadly defined as the process that enables students and teachers to participate in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of educational activities aimed at resolving an environmental issue that they themselves have identified. What an ‘environmental issue’ is, then, depends on the perceptions and earlier experiences of the learner as well as the context in which education takes place. An illustration of such a participatory approach to environmental education is provided by the case of Pistons Middle School in Detroit, Michigan where teachers, students and outside facilitators combined action research and community problem solving.

Source: Wals, A.E.J. (1996). BackAlleySustainabilityWals 1996
Back-alley sustainability and the role of environmental education. Local Environment, 1 (3), 299-316.

How to educate in a changing world? Towards competence-based tertiary agricultural education

Please find below the introduction to an article that appeared earlier this week on the CTA website that I co-authored with two of my colleagues. The full paper contains some useful links and can be found here in English and here in French.  Some of the resources referred to are available via the Share Box of this blog.

How to educate in a changing world? Towards competence-based tertiary agricultural education

Authors: Arjen Wals, Martin Mulder and Natalia Eernstmann,  Education & Competence Studies, Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands

Introduction:

Continued globalization and digitalization are not only affecting how we think, what we know, who to believe and how we act, they also affect the role of education in society’. In this regard, they attempt to answer ‘what do we educate for in such a world when things change so fast and knowledge becomes obsolete before you know it?’ For example, Wageningen University started changing their identity by positioning themselves as life science universities, which aspire to contribute to a better world and improved quality of life. Is that the way to go for agricultural universities?

Jimma-University-College-of-Agriculture-and-Veterinary-Medicine-JUCAVM_contentfront

Photo:  Jimma University Agricultural College (JUCAVM); source: https://plus.google.com/107229457994018982305/photos?hl=en

In this feature article we provide a brief review of some trends in Tertiary Agricultural Education (TAE) within Europe and examines the world-wide shift from traditional transmissive to emerging transformative development of more dynamic competencies in a real-world setting. A number of new competencies are required including: interdisciplinary problem-solving, addressing multiple stakeholder interests, participatory approaches in innovation, interactive methods in conflict resolution, responsive actions regarding community needs, critical media literacy, and social responsibility in entrepreneurship, to name a few, along with those that still connect to specific content areas (e.g. animal science, plant science, environmental science and agro-technology).

This overarching innovation taking place in tertiary agricultural education in Europe is referred to as Competence-based Education and Training (CBET). A synthesis of the requirements for new graduates as defined by the public and the related competencies that are considered relevant is presented. A case study of the ten-step re-design of the MSc curriculum in horticulture at the Jimma University Agricultural College (JUCAVM) in Ethiopia is showcased.

Go here for the full article!