Exploring Learning for Sustainability in the GTCS Standards

Dominic Shaikh
EIS Learning Rep, Edinburgh

LfS or ‘Learning for Sustainability’ provides the knowledge, skills and understanding for us to engage with and participate in the rapidly changing and increasingly complex world around us. Put simply, it is about learning to make the world a better place for everyone (and every living thing), now and in the future. What if anything could be of any greater importance to our learning community and wider society? Thankfully this seems rather a rhetorical question as teachers across Scotland and within all sectors have for some time now sought to inspire and lead learning in the three aspects of LfS: Outdoor Learning, Global Citizenship and Sustainable Development Education. Perhaps from the outset it has been clear how well the aims and aspirations of LfS align with those of CfE’s four fundamental capacities where lifelong education and learning equip learners to think critically about, and contribute effectively to the world in which we live.

For me, LfS is simply the just and right thing to do for people and the planet. So I feel a great sense of personal and professional pride in being part of an educational system that values and seeks to place LfS right at the heart of what it means to be a teacher in Scotland. The recognition that LfS is an entitlement for our learners places teachers and educational leaders in a privileged position, in that we have a collective responsibility to meet this expectation in ways that reflect the ethos of LfS in all aspects of school life.

I have studied Sustainability and thought about it a great deal, but in no way am I an expert. It is clear to me that there are many colleagues who have progressed much further on their LfS journey, whilst others are perhaps right at the beginning. The world is not perfect, nor is education, but what is certain is that we are all striving for continual improvements and we all need some support. As a newly appointed EIS Learning Rep in Edinburgh I am in a position to support colleagues in their Professional Learning aspirations, which is why I am delighted to be involved with the GTCS’ Learning for Sustainability Hub that has recently been launched in partnership with Learning for Sustainability Scotland. As you are aware LfS, together with values and leadership are interdependent themes which lie at the heart of our Professional Standards, so the purpose of the LfS Hub is to catalyse engagement and support teachers wherever they may be on their LfS journey. In their recent press release the GTCS explained:

“Through engaging with the resources in the Hub, teachers can increase their understanding of LfS and the way in which it underpins what it means to be a teacher in Scotland. The Hub supports teachers to evaluate their practice and enhance the skills, values and knowledge needed to enact and embed LfS across their day-to-day activity and that of their setting and learning community.”

Within the Hub teachers and leaders will find a progressive series of self-directed Professional Learning modules. The first module entitled ‘Exploring Learning for Sustainability in the Professional Standards for Teachers’ is now available. This “introduces LfS and will help teachers to understand the nature of and context for Learning for Sustainability in Scotland and globally. It will support teachers to explore their values and perspectives in the context of LfS; review teaching and learning approaches that support LfS; and critically consider how to take an LfS approach in their teaching” said the GTCS. This introductory module will be followed this year by two more which aim to support a deeper dive into LfS practice and those leading learning in LfS through a whole setting approach.

As we have come to understand during recent times, restoring and reconnecting with nature and those around us is a well-being issue, whilst looking outwards we are increasingly concerned by biodiversity loss and social injustice. The values underpinning LfS are entirely consistent with the approaches needed to tackle these key challenges of our time, and I believe it is absolutely essential that we successfully equip the leaders of tomorrow by leading learning today.