GreenMatter, a public-private initiative championing the development of quality Biodiversity skills, and Rhodes University, today announced a three-year partnership to improve the relevance and quality of environmental learning in schools.
The partnership is centred on the formal establishment of a national Green Teaching Network that will focus on developing knowledgeable teachers in emerging environmental content areas, enhancing curriculum relevance, and improving teaching aids in science related subjects such as biology and geography. Through GreenMatter, Rhodes University will receive R2.4 million as seed funding and access to advisory support over the next three years towards this goal.
The Green Teaching Network is an expansion of a pilot initiative undertaken between 2010 and 2012 supported by GreenMatter, involving Rhodes University, the Department of Environmental Affairs, South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), South African National Parks (SANParks), South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), Wildlife and Environment Society of Southern Africa (WESSA) and the Delta Education Centre, among others.
In the first phase a number of universities also joined the network, including the University of Stellenbosch, University of South Africa, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
"The network aims to expand expertise in environmental education nationally towards appropriately skilling teachers to educate learners in environmental and sustainable development knowledge.”
To achieve this, the Green Teaching Network will partner with more universities and teacher education institutions across South Africa as the programme unfolds and as new materials are produced, states Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka, Project Leader, Director of the Environmental Learning Research Centre and Murray & Roberts Chair of Environment and Sustainability Education at Rhodes University.
Funders such as Murray & Roberts, the Lewis Foundation and the Department of Environmental Affairs, have been instrumental in supporting the pilot initiative and establishing the Green Teaching Network.
In the face of some of the hardest hitting global changes, Dr. Lotz-Sisitka says that South African youth need to have sufficient depth of understanding of environmental issues, regardless of the career path they eventually choose.
This is not just a challenge for South Africa, but education systems around the world are reorientating what they teach to accommodate new challenges and the knowledge necessary for living in the 21st century.
The complex issue of climate change is just one example of an emerging issue that teachers should be able to teach in varying contexts and have the necessary tools at hand to enable learners to grasp dynamic environmental concepts.
The initial network found that the revised Curriculum and Assessment Policy (CAPS) that commenced implementation in 2012 requires teachers from a wide range of subject areas to teach new environmental content knowledge, values and skills.
However, inadequate attention has been given to skilling teachers in this new knowledge area, which is essential for improving the quality and relevance of teaching," commented Dr. Lotz-Sisitka.
To address this, the Network partners have designed a new framework for teacher development that encompasses more than just teacher knowledge of environmental topics and concepts.
It includes methods for teaching (pedagogy) and methods for assessing learning, aligned with the new curriculum. This framework was piloted with teachers from schools in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga during 2012, using modules on climate change and biodiversity, ecosystems and taxonomy.
The evaluation of the pilot clearly showed that teachers knowledge and capacity to teach environment and sustainable development through their respective subjects was improved and that the materials developed are much needed.
Dr. Eureta Rosenberg, Interim Director for GreenMatter says that the Network, when rolled out nationally, will help not only to attract students into much needed green careers, but also help them build the foundational concepts that will allow them entry and success in university studies, thereby improving employability.
The aptitude of our future generations to be successful in and contribute meaningfully to a changing world rests on what our schooling systems and teachers can achieve today," she concludes.
Story and Image Source: The Skills Portal