'Fundisa for Change' - Enhancing transformative environmental learning through teacher education

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Fundisa for Changeis a collaborative programme formed specifically to enhance transformative environmental learning through teacher education.  Established as a partnership programme involving all of South Africa’s environmental organizations (state, parastatal and NGO) who have an interest in teacher education, the Fundisa for Change programme aims to combine sector efforts to strengthen systemic impact. Its core objective is to strengthen teaching of environmental concepts and transformative environmental learning in schools. It does this through focusing on strengthening capacity in South Africa's 21 teacher education institutions, and major partners involved in teacher development, as these are 'catalytic institutions' with potential long-term impact on the education and training of South African teachers.

The  programme   started   with   piloting   a  new  approach  to environmental  education  teacher  development  in  which  'know your subject’, 'improve your practice' and 'improve assessments' form   the   core  of  the   approach. Teachers   were   exposed   to important foundational concepts of biodiversity such as biomes, taxonomy and diversity, and were exposed to exciting methods of teaching these concepts, and also strategies to assess this learning successfully. The results of the 2012 pilot programmes in KwaZulu­ Natal and in Mpumalanga showed clearly that there is a need to strengthen the quality of teachers' environmental knowledge and enhance their ability to teach and assess that knowledge in the subjects they teach.

The programme has since expanded. With support from the SANBI/Lewis Foundation GreenMatter, in 2013 a co-ordination 'hub' was established in the Environmental Learning Research Centre at Rhodes University.  With support from Murray & Roberts, the first sets of materials have been produced, and with support of GIZ and WESSA's Eco-Schools programme, the first Training of Trainers programmes have been run. Later this year, the Department of Environmental Affairs will support a National Environmental Education Teacher Education Conference as their ongoing contribution to Fundisa for Change. They have been instrumental in supporting teacher education institutions to contribute to the initial planning of the initiative, which formerly colloquially known as the 'Teacher Education Network'.

Other  objectives  of   the  programme  are  to   seek  long-term integration  into  the  national systems of  teacher development spearheaded by the Department of  Basic Education, the South African Council of  Educators, and  the  Education and  Training Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority. In the meantime, it is encouraging to note that those teachers who have been involved in the programme so far report improved quality of teaching, and more enthusiasm amongst their learners for  the  environment,  biodiversity  knowledge  and  biodiversity careers! These are, ultimately, the real longer-term aims of the programme.

For more information please contact Nonyameko Zintle Songqwaru <zeezie2002@yahoo.com>

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