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It's time to get sustainability into further education

Thursday 05-11-2015 - 09:15

We hear a lot about how we embed sustainability into higher education, but what about FE? After all, it's what students want...

Earlier this year, we spoke to a thousand people in further education to ask them what they thought about sustainability. We found that there was a huge demand for sustainable development to be embedded into their experience of education – maybe even stronger than there is in HE.

An incredible 85 per cent of students in further education said that they thought sustainable development should be an incorporated by their institution, and just under 70 per cent want to learn more about it.

We also found that over 70 per cent of students would take a grand less than average a year if they worked for a company with a strong social and environmental record. Over half would take a cut of three grand. This goes to show how strong the demand is for sustainability among students in FE, and how they want it to shape their wider lives even after they leave their time in education.

Our education system has a massive influence on creating our future leaders, across communities, businesses and politics. Embedding sustainable development into our schools, colleges and universities is key to embedding it across the whole of society.

We do this by getting skills, knowledge and attributes for sustainability into the curriculum of every student. Every student. I’m not talking about a lecture on climate change in a Geography course. I’m talking about making sure that every student realises how sustainability is relevant to them – teaching them ideas about global citizenship, critical thinking and problem solving.

Further education is especially vital to creating a sustainable future. It’s providing the vocational skills we badly need in the transition to a low-carbon society.

Just look at housing. We need massive improvements in improving the energy efficiency of our homes– and a properly funded roll out would provide thousands and thousands of jobs. Or look at catering. Our current food system isn’t going to last forever – and we need to reshape the sector so it’s more aligned with local, seasonal food, not the wasteful and energy intensive business as usual. And of course, there’s engineers and construction. We need to develop and deploy a huge amount of renewable energy infrastructure – and there’s still breakthroughs to come in making this technology more resilient and powerful.

Our education system should be creating world leaders on this agenda. I want further education to be shaping students who can accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, whatever they end up doing for work. We can’t just leave it to university graduates. We need everyone.

This new research shows that students in FE get the importance of sustainability, and want to see more of it in their time in education. Now we need to shape a further education sector which gets it too.

Read the full findings.

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