Excerpt from an inaugural address, May 2010
We need to turn to alternative forms of education and learning that can help develop the capacities and qualities that individuals, groups and communities need to meet the challenge of sustainability. They
- Consider learning as more than merely knowledge-based,
- Maintain that the quality of interaction with others and of the environment inwhich learning takes place as crucial,
- Focus on existentially relevant or ‘real’ issues essential for engaging learners,
- View learning as inevitably transdisciplinary and even ‘transperspectival’ in that itc annot be captured by a single discipline or by any single perspective,
- Regard indeterminacy a central feature of the learning process in that it is not and cannot be known exactly what will be learnt ahead of time and that learning goals are likely to shift as learning progresses,
- Consider such learning as cross-boundary in nature in that it cannot be confined to the dominant structures and spaces that have shaped education for centuries.
The search for sustainability cannot [thus] be limited to classrooms, the corporate boardroom, a local environmental education center, a regional government authority, etc. Instead, learning in the context of sustainability requires ‘hybridity’ and synergy between multiple actors in society and the blurring of formal, non-formal and informal education. Opportunities for this type of learning expand with an increased permeability between units, disciplines, generations, cultures, institutions, sectors and so on.
Around the world there are many examples of innovations, transitions and ‘next practices’ that do not have a narrow single normative underpinning of (rapid) economic growth, but a broader inclusive agenda of sustainability. Granted, many of these are still at the margins and we often fail to find ways to make them mainstream. In part this is because they cannot be transplanted, transferred or handed over with a ‘how to’ manual. Instead they require a deeper learning process that is grounded in the everyday reality of people, organizations, institutions, businesses and communities. But these examples and ‘next practices’ and their careful analysis can be extremely helpful, not only as a source of inspiration and ‘yes we can!’ feelings but also, and equally important, as stepping stones for improving models, methods, heuristics and other tools. Such tools can help the quality of the learning taking place and its associated sustainability practices. For, as Paulo Freire articulated so well, hope must be rooted in practice, in the struggle. If not, if there is inaction, you get hopelessness and despair (Freire, 1992).
Professor Arjen Wals, iUNESCO Chair, University of Wageningen, Netherlands