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Abstract

The instrumentalist view of the purpose of education manifested in recent decades through the influence of neoliberal ideology, and the set of assumptions that accompany this wave of change and reform, are critiqued from an ecological and humanistic viewpoint. A collective blindness to the global systemic issues that are shaping the near human and planetary future is present both in wider society and in educational systems that can, consequently, be deemed maladaptive to this reality. A deep learning response within educational thinking, policymaking, and practice is required based upon an emerging relational or ecological worldview, already burgeoning in diverse civil society movements. This would allow attention to be brought to generating purposes and assumptions in education aligned to, and able to address, the possibilities of systemic breakdown or breakthrough in global and local systems. Such education is supportive of living in more creative, collaborative, and explorative ways that help assure breakthrough trajectories as the century plays out.
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Chapter Title Assuming the Future: Repurposing Education in a Volatile Age
Chapter Sub-Title
Chapter CopyRight - Year The Author(s) 2017
(This will be the copyright line in the final PDF)
Book Name Post-Sustainability and Environmental Education
Corresponding Author Family Name Sterling
Particle
Given Name Stephen
Suffix
Division Centre for Sustainable Futures (CSF)
Organization Plymouth University
Address Plymouth, UK
Email stephen.sterling@plymouth.ac.uk
Abstract The instrumentalist view of the purpose of education manifested in recent decades through the influence of neoliberal
ideology, and the set of assumptions that accompany this wave of change and reform, are critiqued from an ecological
and humanistic viewpoint. A collective blindness to the global systemic issues that are shaping the near human
and planetary future is present both in wider society and in educational systems that can, consequently, be deemed
maladaptive to this reality. A deep learning response within educational thinking, policymaking, and practice is
required based upon an emerging relational or ecological worldview, already burgeoning in diverse civil society
movements. This would allow attention to be brought to generating purposes and assumptions in education aligned
to, and able to address, the possibilities of systemic breakdown or breakthrough in global and local systems. Such
education is supportive of living in more creative, collaborative, and explorative ways that help assure breakthrough
trajectories as the century plays out.
Keywords (separated by '-') Neoliberalism - Purpose of education - Global risk - Anthropocene - Participative reality - Breakthrough
Assuming the Future: Repurposing
Education in a Volatile Age
Stephen Sterling
Abstract The instrumentalist view of the purpose of education manifested
in recent decades through the inuence of neoliberal ideology, and the set
of assumptions that accompany this wave of change and reform, are cri-
tiqued from an ecological and humanistic viewpoint. A collective blindness
to the global systemic issues that are shaping the near human and planetary
future is present both in wider society and in educational systems that can,
consequently, be deemed maladaptive to this reality. A deep learning
response within educational thinking, policymaking, and practice is required
based upon an emerging relational or ecological worldview, already bur-
geoning in diverse civil society movements. This would allow attention to
be brought to generating purposes and assumptions in education aligned
to, and able to address, the possibilities of systemic breakdown or break-
through in global and local systems. Such education is supportive of living
in more creative, collaborative, and explorative ways that help assure break-
through trajectories as the century plays out.
Keywords Neoliberalism Purpose of education
AQ1
Global risk
Anthropocene Participative reality Breakthrough
S. Sterling (*)
Centre for Sustainable Futures (CSF), Plymouth University, Plymouth, UK
e-mail: stephen.sterling@plymouth.ac.uk
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© The Author(s) 2017
B. Jickling, S. Sterling (eds.), Post-Sustainability and Environmental
Education, Palgrave Studies in Education and the Environment,
DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-51322-5_3
It is not possible to work in environmental or sustainability education for
very long before questions arise about the fundamental purpose of educa-
tion, particularly now, when educational policy and practice is being
trammelled by an economically driven instrumentalism across the globe.
After reviewing this trend, the chapter argues for a reimagination of
educational purpose that is appropriate and aligned to the unprecedented
nature of our times and collective futures.
ASKING THE QUESTION
What is the purpose of education?It was a weekday morning at a large
university in the UK, and I stood before some 300 teacher education
students. I was there to lecture, but began by putting a big ?on the a/v
screen, and asked this question. There was a hush in the room. No one
ventured an answerwell, not for some minutesand even then the
answers were tentative, as if I had asked a trick question. These were
students who had just gone through a 3-year degree in educational studies
and were about to enter schools as teachers. I was surprised. Their lecturers,
dotted around the room, looked a little embarrassed. The question could
hardly be more fundamental. Stafford Beer, the systems theorist, put it this
way: the purpose of the system is what it does.And what educational
systems do and are for is obvious, isnt it? ...which renders my question
about purpose surprisingly radicalsubversive even. Some would see it as
superuous. Because we all know, education is about jobs, and supporting
economic competitiveness. Simple. So lets get on with it.
And that is exactly what is happening. Globally, the education industry
is worth around $5.0 trillion, and growing, and there is something like 200
million students in higher education (HE) worldwide and the number is
rising (Verger, Lubienski & Steiner-Khamsi, 2016
AQ2 ). It is big business. And
at the same time, the language of business pervades policymaking and
discourse in HE. In the UK, a recent Government White Paper, Success as
a Knowledge Economy, heralds a restructuring of the HE system to make it
more open to competition including prot-driven providers, to private
funding, and to underline the role of students as consumers. The message
regarding the purpose of HE is clear (DBIS, 2016,p.7):
Our universities have a paramount place in an economy driven by knowl-
edge and ideas. They generate the know-how and skills that fuel our growth
and provide the basis for our nations intellectual and cultural success.
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A counter paper, In Defence of Public Education (Holmwood, Hickey,
Cohen & Wallis, 2016), mounts a critical response arguing that the White
Paper seeks to replace HE with training, and defends the role of univer-
sities as havens of critical knowledge essential to a healthy democratic
society. However, the instrumental view of educational purpose is echoed
in the OECD survey of education trends, where the OECD Secretary-
General states (Gurría, 2014, p. 15):
Education and skills hold the key to future wellbeing and will be critical to
restoring long-term growth, tackling unemployment, promoting competi-
tiveness, and nurturing more inclusive and cohesive societies.
The country statistics reected in this OECD compendium do not reveal
the massive inuence and reach of the Global Education Industry(GEI).
Verger et al. (2016, p. 3) comment on the rise of the GEI, and particularly
the conception of education that is increasingly globalised and managed by
private corporations(my italics). The GEI, they maintain, is shaped and
enabled by public policymaking which, is itself, often inuenced by the
private interests in the GEI as they seek policy agendas, frame policy
problems, and refashion regulatory regimes to their advantage(p. 4).
NEOLIBERALISM AND EDUCATION
This tidal wavethat has swamped older conceptions of education as a public
service for the public goodis a relatively recent phenomenon. Over some 30
years, an instrumental view of education has come to dominate, modelled on
economic change and the perceived demands of a globalized economy and
increasingly globalized culture. This change is not peculiar to the eld of
education, but marketizationand modernizationhave inltrated virtually
all areas of public life including sports, health, the penal system, policing, and
local government over a period of years (Marshall & Peters, 1999).
How education is perceived, conceived, and received is being shaped by
a particular view of the world and of people within it. This can be
characterized as technocratic, managerialist, economistic, and vocational-
ist, and is underpinned and energized by an internationally hegemonic
neoliberal ideology. Over time, this wave has subtly but powerfully dis-
placedand is even now drowning outolder (and more educationally
defensible), liberal, holistic, and humanistic philosophies regarding the
nature and purpose of education. The main vehicle of this instrumental
ASSUMING THE FUTURE: REPURPOSING EDUCATION IN A VOLATILE AGE
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thrust is the global testing culture(Smith, 2016) that now envelops not
only students, but teachers, lecturers, and entire institutions. Insidiously,
as the global testing culture spreads, cultural models are internalised by
actors and the underlying assumptions and values are no longer ques-
tioned(Smith, 2016, p. 11). Similarly, more broadly, Martínez-
Rodríguez and Fernández-Herrería (2016, p. 2) argue that a key ideolo-
gical effect of neoliberal thought is to deny the possibility of alternative
ways of organising both societies in general and education in particular.
Smith sees the core assumptions informing the testing culture as positi-
vism and individualismold ghosts reborn for the late modern age.
Associated educational assumptions that shape this platform include the
following:
Education is a key to economic success.
The prime purpose of education is to make students employable and
the economy more competitive.
Students are primarily motivated by better employment prospects.
Students perform best by being tested constantly and being pressed
to achieve.
Quality is assured by competition, metrics, and accountability.
Cognitive knowledge is prime.
Students and parents are consumers.
Values, ethics, emotions, and intuition have little or no place in
education.
The best default pedagogy is deliveryby experts.
Educational institutionsperformance is enhanced through being in
a competitive market.
With such assumptions in place and apparently widely shared, a particular
cluster of policies and practices follow logicallyto the exclusion of alter-
natives, and the marginalization and squeezing of critical and explorative
discourses, and of non-conformist practices. Rather, there appears to be a
rush to be part of this paradigm, which is increasingly accepted as the
obviousnorm. Here, for example, is a commentary by an American
think tank that sets out the old realityagainst the new reality,under
the heading Old assumptions which no longer t(Greer, 2013,p.5):
The primary goal of college is to produce liberally educated graduates,
through a coherent, sequenced curriculum, taught by full-time faculty.
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New reality: The major purpose of college is preparation for the workforce,
global economic competitiveness, and gaining practical skills through asyn-
chronous, modular content delivery, using part-time faculty and technology.
While the laudable goal of providing and acquiring a liberaleducation is
alive, it is not as healthy as it once was, and from the view of many colleges
and students, may be on the way to becoming an anachronism.
What we seem to have here is an unquestioning narrowing, a diminutiona
debasement evenof the meaning and purpose of education, but also, and
more gravely, of what it meansto be human. A critical blog puts it eloquently
(Strauss, 2013):
Over and over again, reformsters suggest that the only real purpose of an
education is to prepare one for work. You get an education so that you can
become useful to your future possible employers. Thats it. Thats all.
Everything that is beautiful and loving and glorious about human life, every-
thing that resonates in our connections to each other and the world around
usnone of that matters in education. The measure of whether a subject
should be taught is simply, Will this help the student get a job?Learning
about everything that is rich and joyful and rewarding in the human experi-
ence, everything about learning to grow and understand and embrace who
you are as a human being and how you make your way in the worldthats all
stuff you can do in your free time, I guess, if you really want to.
A key part of the reformist landscape is standardization, a narrowing of
what counts as curriculum, homogenization and testing, in the name of
accountability and comparison. This is viewed as the only legitimate
measure of qualitythe human consequences of this regime notwith-
standing. In October 2015, a report showed half of all teachers in
English schools were considering leaving the profession citing the com-
bined negative impact of the accountability agenda on teacher workload
and morale (Boffey, 2015). Further, a poll in 2016 (Press Association,
2016) found that 89 per cent of teachers polled claimed that exams and
testing were resulting in increasing level of student stress and self-harm.
Such negative effects of the limited purpose of education in the era of the
late-modernist agenda are not an intended part of the script, but they are
perhaps inevitable in a system which is so narrowly prescribed and relentlessly
driven. Because, for all the common claims for new policies responding to
theneedsofarapidlychangingworld,the model is still one of command
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and control, which as Chapman (2002,p.12)remarksinevitably fails within
complex systems, and alienates people by treating them instrumentally.
We can invoke here the notion of systems failure(Peters, 1999;
Chapman, 2002). According to Peters (1999, p. 124), failure can be
considered to be of four types: objectives not met, undesirable side effects,
designed failures, and inappropriate objectives. Criticism of education
particularly in political debateoften centres on the rst meaning, but the
additional criteria have wider resonance. I have already touched on unde-
sirable side effects of instrumentalism, but there is a more pressing issue
that relates to the last two criteria. This concerns a prevailing and bafing
blindness to the global existential crisis, to the global threats and grand
challengesthat are already affecting, and will increasingly dominate, all
peoples livesparticularly those of the younger generation. Hence the
title of this chapter: Assuming the Future.
The future seems to be regarded by the mainstream as some sort of
constant, assured, and stable, whilst the normal business of educating/
training for jobs and any kind of economic growth proceeds untrammelled
and unbothered by notions of: resource depletion and competition, pov-
erty and growing inequity, marginalization of minorities, spreading funda-
mentalism, extremism and terrorism, the implications of the march of
bioscience and robotics, species loss and plummeting biodiversity, climate
change, food security, wars and civil unrest, the risk of global pandemics,
and so on. The stark reality is that we live in an age of unprecedented
systemic global risk, and this is corroborated by leading academics and
think tanks (see, e.g., Armstrong & Pamlin, 2015; or WEF, 2016). Yet, in
education (as other sections of society) there is a strange ignorance
ignore-anceof context, which is hard to square with the slew of interna-
tional reports in recent years about global challenges, well summarized in
Al Gores(2013 p. xv) assertion:
There is a clear consensus that the future now emerging will be extremely
different from anything we have ever known in the past. ...There is no prior
period of change that remotely resembles what humanity is about to experience.
THE ANTHROPOCENE,MALADAPTATION,AND RESPONSE
So how about a sober reality check? Every one of us is now living in the age
of (what is increasingly referred to as) the Anthropoceneunprecedented
times when humanity, as the prime agent of planetary change, bears a deep
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moral responsibility to the Earth, to future generations of humans, and to
all other speciesnot least as the stability of planetary systems is now
under real threat. As Johan Rockström (2015) of the Stockholm
Resilience Centre states, a profound new risk can be added to the con-
ventional concerns of dwindling resources and local pollution: human
action could push the Earth system to abrupt and irreversible shifts of
the planetary ecosphere.In response, there is certainly evidence of an
arising, slow-burning, yet accelerating awakening to the need for a funda-
mental shift of the human trajectory. For example, Renner (2015, p. 170)
in a recent Worldwatch Report, argues that:
the challenge for humanity today is no longer anything like what it faced in
the 1960s and 1970s, when developing pollution abatement technologies
and lessening the degree to which resources were wasted provided a more-
or-less adequate answer to the most pressing problems of the day. The world
now needs to adopt solutions that change the entire system of production
and consumption in a fundamental manner, that move societies from con-
ditions of energy and materials surplus to scarcity, and that develop the
foresight needed to recognize still-hidden threats to sustainability.
More radically, the powerful notion of the Great Transition (rst proposed
by the ecological economist Kenneth Boulding in the 1960s) towards a
world of universal human solidarity, well-being, and respect for nature is
gaining traction and attention. This elaborates alternative scenarios indi-
cating both desirable and dystopian pathways into the future and thus
highlights the possibilitywithin a relatively narrow window of timeof
conscious choice (Raskin et al., 2002). There is then, a need for unlearn-
ing, re-learning, and new learning as a necessary response to a deeply
changing reality. Bizarrely, however, the AQ3tasks of radical reassessment and
critical reection this requires hardly gure in mainstream educational
discourse, let alone most political and economic debate. Yet voices for
change are becoming more insistent. For example, Escrigas (2015) appeals
to universities, arguing they should learn to read reality,and under-
stand the wider impacts of their actions and the costs of what they are not
doing at a time when societal transition is urgently needed.
As I have written earlier (Sterling, 2009, p. 19):
The paradox of education is that it is seen as a preparation for the future, but
it grows out of the past. In stable conditions, this socialization and
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replication function of education is sufcient: in volatile conditions where
there is an increasingly shared sense (as well as numerous reports indicating)
that the future will not be anything like a linear extension of the past, it sets
boundaries and barriers to innovation, creativity, and experimentation.
Even something as mainstream as the employment agenda in HE indicates
a shortfall in contextual awareness. This is somewhat ironic, as the whole
area of employability has become a kind of raison detre and expressed
major purpose for HEa justication for marketized, business-facing
education. Yet virtually missing in mainstream education and its employ-
ability debate is recognition of technological unemployment”—the
relentless trend towards automation of jobs across the spectrum, and the
massive implications this may have for society (Avent, 2016). The UK
Government White Paper on HE (introduced above)which is entirely
oriented towards employability and growthmakes no mention of this
vital topic, despite insisting in its Executive Summary (2016, p. 7) that
we must be ready for the challenges of the future.
So we might say that with regard to the specic topic of employment,
or to wider global trends, the education system has grown maladaptive. In
other words, this learning system is not itself learning. It is insufciently
responsive to the profound socio-economic and ecological shifts that
characterize the global systems within which it is embedded. Despite
evidence of an increasing number of initiatives, programmes, and research
projects which really are making a positive difference to the world, on
balance, the assumptions governing most education policies and practices
do not acknowledge, reect, or respond to the highly systemic, risk-laden
and challenge-beset present and future that graduates are entering. So
judged in terms of net benet, the effects of such education may often be
more harmful than remedial. Tom Bentley argues that grand organizing
narrativeswhether, for example, Marxism, Christianity, or indeed the
markethave provided an imposed, denitive, closed account of what
matters and what it means for our lives. He maintains these need to be
replaced with a far more open and exible view, where solutions are not
preordained but generated, based on our capacity to behave intelligently
and to learn(Bentley, 1998, p. 172). This is a plea for adaptive or
second-order learning to be engendered involving all levelsindividuals,
institutions, communities, and indeed educational systems. Such learning
questions redundant, dysfunctional assumptions and values, and rather,
develops values and ways of seeing that are resonant with, appropriate to,
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and able to address the conditions of complexity, difculty, uncertainty,
hopes, and fears that are increasingly the real-world experience for vast
numbers of people.
Evidence of a response that questions the bounds and norms of the
neoliberal paradigm in education is growing. For example, UNESCO
commissioned a report Rethinking Education which argues for a holistic
and humanistic renewal of education globally as a common good
(UNESCO, 2015). This report counters the prevailing commodication
of education as a private good. In fact, UNESCO has been suggesting
the need for a new visionof education for some time. What is often
missing in such calls is rst, a sufcient critique of the dominant cultural
worldview and associated educational policies and practices, and second,
the articulation and elaboration of a necessary alternative which might
convincingly underpin such a vision. We lack a widely shared alternative
paradigm of educational philosophy, policy, and practice which is at once
humanistic and ecological, aligned and responsive to the complex social-
ecological trends and risks now manifest within our Anthropocene times.
Of course, many education for changemovements have attempted to
put alternatives into practice over the past 30 years or so. Among the lists
of adjectival educations,notably environmental and sustainability edu-
cationhowever conceivedhave made worthy progress in carving out
spaces for thought, exchange, and practice of alternatives. Without enter-
ing the choppy and extensive waters of the Education for Sustainable
Development (ESD) debate, I would maintain that the banner of
ESDhas helped precipitate positive work internationally through pro-
viding a kind of legitimized door into the mainstream. However, I also
acknowledge that work presented under this label is often subject to
accommodation and neutering by the same mainstream, particularly
where any more radical notions dare raise their heads. Labels cannot be
avoided, but we should always be aware that they can delimit, divide, and
confuse as much as clarify and communicate.
PARTICIPATIVE REALITY,EDUCATION,AND SOCIETAL
BREAKTHROUGH
What is of critical importance is the nature of the assumptions and values
that inform educational thinking, policies, and practicesalthough the
tricky issue of terminology is ever present. We have an urgent and vital
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task: to develop a sane and robust alternative to the neo-liberal view of
education. But this must clearly arise from a very different starting point as
regards an informing worldview. In my own work, the environment has
always been a starting point and grounding, inviting identication and
sensibility beyond the self to a far greater reality, and this has underpinned
my vocation in environmental and sustainability education. Yet the word
environmentis problematic. I was struck years ago, by an idea in a book
by Kenneth Boulding (1978, p. 31):
We must look at the world as a whole ...as a total system of interacting
parts. There is no such thing as an environmentif by this we mean a
surrounding system that is independent of what goes on inside it.
The very idea of the environment as some sort of separate reality is
delusional, and stems from a sense of disassociation deep within our
psyche relating to the potent and ingrained Western intellectual legacies
of mechanism, dualism, objectivism, reductionism, and so on. In my view,
it is this myopic cultural and perceptual orientation that lies at the heart of
the global existential crisis. As psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist states, the
kind of attention we pay actually alters the world: we are, literally, partners
in creation. This means we have a grave responsibility ...(authors
italics) (2009, p. 5). Far from being detached and unaffected observers,
we areunavoidablyparticipants within a greater whole, a participative
reality that necessitates an essentially relational worldview and episteme.
For me, this means that environmental and sustainability education have
never been, and cannot be, ends in themselves, contained and complete.
Rather, they imply and act as outriders or a vanguard for a necessary
deeper shift in educational culture. They point to a need for an ecological
educational paradigm appropriate to the world we inhabit, and the critical
conditions we have created (see Sterling, 2001).
How do we pay fuller attention to the more-than-human world, to its
wonder, its beauty, its suffering, and to the dignity, needs, and wholeness
of every person? How do we maintain openness, value emergence, crea-
tivity, and explorative learning as we create a saner, more liveable future in
conditions of volatility and contingency? How do we become more mind-
ful of our own thinking, assumptions, and behaviour that can move us
towards a deeper self-knowing? Mainstream educational thinking and
practice, where it has become narrower and shallower under the inuence
of the neoliberal agenda, is deleterious to this necessary journey of
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awareness and transition. Any educational paradigm worthy of the name
needs to support a remedial movement in three interrelated areas of
human knowing and experience to transcend dysfunctional worldviews
and help heal our world. This can be summed up as: a broadening of
perception (the affective dimension), a shift towards relational thinking or
conception (the cognitive dimension), and manifestation of integrative
practice (the intentional dimension) towards well-being. In sum, an
extended, inclusive and participatory epistemology, a relational ontology,
and an integrative praxis can nurture a deep ecological sense of what it is to
be human at this most challenging of times, through changed educational
thinking, policy, and practice.
Reliable futures scanning and scientic reports indicate the possibilityand
some, the probabilityof global breakdowns or collapse scenarios in this
current century through a variety of stresses including economic meltdown,
technological vulnerability, social upheaval and mass refugee movements,
disease pandemics, food and energy shortfalls, disruption of ecosystems,
climate change, and so on. But these are not some far-off scenarios. Already,
global media coverage of localized manifestations of such phenomena carries
an uneasy sense of immediacy to otherwise comfortable audiences.
Homer-Dixon (2006) makes an important distinction between societal
breakdown and collapse. Whilst both produce a radical reduction of com-
plexity in a system, and thereby reduce future options, collapse is poten-
tially catastrophic. Breakdown, however, allows potential for recreation of
social and other human systems. He argues that the fundamental challenge
the world faces is to anticipate and allow for breakdown in a way that does
not lead to collapse, but to renewal. And thereby to breakthrough.We
have a choice: our challenge isnt to preserve the status quo but rather to
adapt to, thrive in, and shape for the better, a world of constant change
(Homer-Dixon, 2006, p. 266). Again, there is a clear message for those
that purport to educate for the future (and surely all education is about the
future?). I made this necessary point some 20 years ago, and it is worth
repeating here (Sterling, 1996, p. 26):
Whether the future holds breakdown or breakthrough scenarios ...people
will require exibility, resilience, creativity, participative skills, competence,
material restraint and a sense of responsibility and transpersonal ethics to
handle transition and provide mutual support. Indeed, an education
oriented towards nurturing these qualities would help determine a positive
and hopeful breakthrough future.
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And so we come back to the purpose of education. Changing the purpose
or goals of a system has the power to effect systemic change, secondary
only to paradigm shift (Meadows, 2009). After decades of arguing for a
change of the dominant educational paradigm towards something more
holistic, systemic, humanistic, and ecological (Sterling, 2003), I fully
understand that the realization and internalization of different educational
paradigms by individuals, institutions, and educational communities is
extraordinarily challenging. But a change of purposeor embrace of addi-
tional purpose in the rst instanceis possible at micro, meso, and macro
levels. This can be a harbinger of a deeper cultural shift, especially when
aligned with, and connected to, growing progressive and reconstructive
movements in civil society (Martínez-Rodríguez & Fernández-Herrería,
2016) inspired by values reecting ecological integrity, social justice, and
ethicssuch as are represented by the Earth Charter.
CONCLUSION
There is overwhelming scientic evidence that the planetary and human
future involves grave risks in this century. As Rockström (2015) states,
Our historical condition does, whether we like it or not, change every-
thing.Indeed. Everythingexcept, it would seem, the very system that is
supposed to prepare people for life and their individual and collective
futures. Whilst, encouragingly, there are a growing number of laudable
exceptions in policy and practice around the world, for the most part
educational systemsalmost perverselypay insufcient heed to the
deep challenges that face us all collectively. The role and purpose of
education can no longer be preparation for an assumed stable future and
business as usual,but a nurturing of individual and collective potential
to live well and skilfully in an already complex and volatile world, towards
human and planetary betterment.
Many years ago, I heard the distinguished British environmental edu-
cator, and gentle anarchist,Colin Ward speak. One line stuck with me:
What matters is the quality of your assumptions,he said. Let us assert
educational thinking and practice built on a keen and renewed sense of
purpose and assumptions that arise from our common humanity and
commitment to a safer, kinder, and ourishing world and planet. A
reimagined education appropriate for this volatile age is not constrained,
prescribed, and judgmentalbut supportive, inclusive, developmental,
trust-building, explorative, critical, creative, experimental, holistic,
S. STERLING
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transformative, and diverse according to local and individual need and
potential. Let it ourish wherever it may: in this vital endeavour, environ-
mental and sustainability education continue to have crucial roles as
pathnders and pathmakers.
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Stephen Sterling is professor of Sustainability Education, Centre for Sustainable
Futures (CSF) at Plymouth University, UK. His research interests lie in the interrela-
tionships between ecological thinking, systemic change, and learning at individual and
institutional scales to help meet the challenge of accelerating the educational response
to the sustainability agenda. He has argued for some years that the global crises of
sustainability require a matching response from the educational community, together
with a shift of culture towards educational policy and practice that is holistic, humanis-
tic, and ecological. A former Senior Advisor to the UK Higher Education Academy on
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and current National Teaching Fellow
(NTF), he has worked in environmental and sustainability education in the academic
and NGO elds nationally and internationally for over three decades. He was a member
of the UNESCO International Reference Group for the UN Decade on Education for
Sustainable Development (20052014), and he is currently co-chair of the
International Jury for the UNESCO-Japan Prize on ESD. Widely published, his rst
book (co-edited with John Huckle) was Education for Sustainability (Earthscan,
1996), and this was followed by the inuential Schumacher Brieng Sustainable
EducationRe-visioning Learning and Change (Green Books 2001). He also co-
founded the rst masters course in the UK on sustainability education (at London
South Bank University), and led the WWF-UK project on systems thinking Linking
Thinkingnew perspectives on thinking and learning for sustainability.
His work at Plymouth involves developing strategies to support whole institutional
change towards sustainability. Other books include (with David Selby and Paula Jones,
2010) Sustainability Education: Perspectives and Practice across Higher Education and
(with Larch Maxey and Heather Luna) The Sustainable UniversityProcess and
Prospects, published by Routledge in 2013.
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Assuming the Future: Repurposing Education in a
Volatile Age
Number Query
AQ1 Please conrm the afliation details for Stephen Sterling.
AQ2 Please clarify whether this is Verger et al. 2016 a or b.
AQ3 Please check the sentence Bizarrely, however, the ...for clarity.
SPB-419709 3 December 30, 2016 Time: 21:17 Proof 1
... Even if the aims of schooling place humans at their centre, as they often do, their outcomes are hardly rational, reasonable, productive (at least in the long term) and certainly not just, democratic or sustainable if they are based on the idea of human exceptionalism. Holistic consideration of the purpose of education has long been one of the cornerstones of environmental or sustainability education (Munkebye et al. 2020;Jordan and Kristjánsson 2017;Sterling 2017;Stevenson 2007), and in line with the European focus on Bildung, namely, the process where knowledge, values, morals and politics come together to foster 'being and becoming a human being; the interplay between the individual and the society (world); and the practices by which pedagogical influence is organized in order to enhance the self-formation and development of a rational subject' (Hardy, Salo, and Rönnerman 2015, 384; see also Biesta 2020; Breznika 2017). So, we do not aim to reinvent the wheel, but we argue that the current crises have brought new urgency and hope to tackle this issue. ...
... Crises reveal that we need to change our existing understandings, modes of action, and ways of relating to others and the world. We need to unlearn, re-learn and learn anew (Sterling 2017). On this view, a rational response to the crises would be to encourage people and governments to enter a phase of reconstruction in some ways like the reconstruction that occurred after the Second World War, when the social welfare systems of many countries were extended in the interests of all. ...
... We are not alone in proposing that drastic, global changes in education are needed to address the crises of today. Stephen Sterling (2017) argues the state of the world requires that we transcend our dysfunctional worldview by broadening perceptions (the affective dimensions), shift towards relational thinking or conception (the cognitive dimension) and manifest integrative practice (the intentional dimension). Crises such as those caused by the Coronavirus or the ecocatastrophe are typical wicked problems (Block, Goeminne, and Poeck 2018;Churchman 1967); they are difficult to solve because they are difficult to define; there is no single solution to the problems; and they are so complex that they have no determinable stopping point. ...
Article
The ongoing ecological crisis and the more recent Coronavirus crisis challenge the grand narrative of Enlightenment that human beings are ‘masters of nature’. For millennia, human social learning has allowed Homo sapiens to outpace most of our competitor creatures and live a comfortable life, but this competitive success has resulted in cataclysmic failure for the ecosystem. However, people’s unique ability to learn gives us hope that we can overcome the nested crises, or learn to live with them. What is required is not more knowledge, but instead, collective learning to change practices, institutionalized in educational processes. Drawing on the theory of practice architectures, this paper discusses how education can help to form a new generation of children, young people, and adults equipped for the new post-Corona world, and equipped to respond appropriately to the eco-crisis. This requires significant changes to existing arrangements of education systems. What is needed is new practice architectures – new conditions of possibility – under which human beings can learn to live sustainably within the community of life on Earth.
... 452 The education sector has become governed by neoliberalism, as some state, 453-455 with a global "education industry" of $5.0 trillion and its main purpose to deploy a certain workforce. 455 In the neoliberal context, "the default pedagogy is "delivery" by experts (and) values, ethics, emotions, and intuition have little or no place in education". 455 Sustainability concepts are difficult to comprehend at present and will most likely evolve over time, 454 rendering it impossible for educators to decide on the "one" ...
... 455 In the neoliberal context, "the default pedagogy is "delivery" by experts (and) values, ethics, emotions, and intuition have little or no place in education". 455 Sustainability concepts are difficult to comprehend at present and will most likely evolve over time, 454 rendering it impossible for educators to decide on the "one" ...
Thesis
One of the largest challenges in the 21st century is the transition towards sustainable practices. In chemical engineering, the choice of feedstock, i.e. fossil or renewable, greatly influences the sustainability of chemical processing routes. At present, 90% of feedstocks in the chemical industry are non-renewable, thus, large-scale supply chain changes are urgently required. To enable this transition, it is of utmost importance that novel, yet competitive, processes based on renewable feedstocks are identified. Systematic early-stage sustainability assessment can cover large regions of chemical space and provide well-reasoned rankings of most promising reaction pathways. In this thesis, the hypothesis that networks are essential to support sustainability assessment of reaction pathways from big data is posed and answered. This thesis identifies three main areas for development: data, metrics, and decision-making, and investigates the use of networks within the areas. Networks provide an interlinked framework for reaction information (data), are key to assess flows of mass and energy (metrics), and form the basis of optimisation algorithms (decision-making). This work represents the chemical space by reaction networks assembled on large-scale data from Reaxys database. A methodology to identify the key molecules within the chemical supply chain, e.g. strategic molecules, is presented. Molecules are described by features based on their position within the network and an isolation forest outlier detection algorithm is employed to identify the key molecules. To assess pathways within network structures, chemical heuristics with following network optimisation are presented. This work introduces Petri net optimisation for reaction networks and compares the event-discrete modelling approach with the steady-state formalism used in reaction network flux analysis. This work explores a case study of reaction pathway identification from β-pinene to citral within chemical big data. Pathways are modelled in circular interaction with the supply network based on material availabilities and demands and an exergetic description of each reaction pathway is presented. The methodological pipeline automates early-stage sustainability assessment for large data sets. Last but not least, this thesis introduces a teaching approach to familiarize non-experts with network science and the complexity of sustainability problems.
... First, and overarching the five subsequent qualities, is that a meaningful educational response to climate change needs to offer, and be open to, alternative visions of the future and alternative approaches to education. Such visions are unwedded to perpetual economic growth (be that at individual, organisational, national or global scale) and, instead, promote living that achieves equity and sufficiency among humans and all species on the planet (Sterling, 2017). ...
... A meaningful educational response to climate change would involve revisiting and transforming the relationship between humans and the more-than-human world, that is, with all other species on Earth. Young people would be given opportunities to recognise the rights of other species, and the importance of such recognition for their own and future generations' survival (Sterling, 2017). ...
Article
Full-text available
Recent civil action has called for 'more!' climate change education but 'more' of what and why isn't there already 'more' in our schools today? Climate change education is guided by policies that are formed, and influenced, by a range of people working across multiple organisations. 'Policy influencers' are therefore important as their views, and the views of their organisations, shape education. This article discusses views of policy influencers in England on what climate change education is or should be. Considering these perspectives alongside current policy and the research literature enables policy shortfalls to be identified and alternative approaches to climate change education to be explored.
... It has been moulded to fit many intentions without much concrete commitment to back up such a claim. The energy, fashion, aviation, steel and cement industry among others have been using the term liberally to boost their development without committing to major carbon cuts capable of capping the warming at 1.5 0 C. Additionally, although the term is strongly related to the environment and green agenda, the fact that "environment"-which is central to the discussion-has been rendered open to various interpretation and legitimization due to its malleability and ambiguity (Luke, 2001;Sterling, 2017) is disconcerting. For the convenience of mankind, the term environment has been associated with wilderness far from civilisation, the green space mostly untouched by development (Sterling, 2017). ...
... The energy, fashion, aviation, steel and cement industry among others have been using the term liberally to boost their development without committing to major carbon cuts capable of capping the warming at 1.5 0 C. Additionally, although the term is strongly related to the environment and green agenda, the fact that "environment"-which is central to the discussion-has been rendered open to various interpretation and legitimization due to its malleability and ambiguity (Luke, 2001;Sterling, 2017) is disconcerting. For the convenience of mankind, the term environment has been associated with wilderness far from civilisation, the green space mostly untouched by development (Sterling, 2017). The immediate surrounding around us, such as the clogged drain and the odd grass patches, were excluded in our schemata of it. ...
Article
Full-text available
This theoretical piece explores the frame of mind required for a Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (STEM) education in an uncertain time. Predominantly argued from an epistemic standpoint, this paper analyses the relationship between environment, anthropomorphism, the essence of education, and our presumed mastery of nature. In the attempt to envision and realise a form of STEM education with sustainability as a frame of mind that would befit Malaysia, National Wildlife Foundation’s Green STEM; Bybee’s STEM Literacy; and Bonnett’s idea of sustainability were explored. Through the exploration, a possible frame of mind for Green STEM that could facilitate learning and challenge the status quo of being emerges. Ultimately a STEM education with sustainability as a frame of mind is meant to encourage discussion and exploration of issues as it arises rather than being prescriptive. It is hoped that through such an educational approach, we will eventually arrive at a more harmonious way of being.
... Instrumental learning, on the other hand, regards education as "a means to an end" (Nolet, 2016, p. 87). Thus, in the case of most Western IHLs, students go to college to get a job (Sterling, 2017). Yet, without knowing which types of jobs will exist in 20-30 years, much vocational training provided by IHLs today is likely to become irrelevant. ...
Article
Full-text available
Although the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) was a period of rapid pedagogical revitalization and innovation, much sustainability education today is still delivered using transmissive and instrumental pedagogies common across higher education. Now that the field has integrated many of the insights from the decade, students and facilitators should continue innovating along themes consistent with the goals of sustainability: transformation and emancipation. Yet, more clarity is needed about pedagogical approaches that will transform and emancipate students, allowing them to become innovators that change existing structures and systems. This paper presents a framework combining four interacting (i.e., complementary) pedagogies (transmissive, transformative, instrumental, and emancipatory) in sustainability education, helping to reify pedagogical concepts, rebel against outdated curricula, and orient facilitators/learners on their journey toward transformative and emancipatory learning. The authors begin by reviewing the evolution of sustainability education and transformative learning theory prior to introducing the framework. The paper concludes with a vision of sustainability education that incorporates contemplative pedagogies as essential methods in a field in need of cultivating hope, resilience, and emergence.
... By and large, higher education remains maladapted to the global conditions that are now determining the future (Assadourian, 2017). Our learning system is not itself learning (Sterling, 2009(Sterling, , 2017. ...
Article
Full-text available
Discussion of the role of universities in relation to broad issues of sustainability has been current for some decades, although predominantly at the margins of debate and policy. Yet a recent rapid rise of concern—catalyzed by mounting evidence of climate crisis, biodiversity loss, pandemic disease and further systemic issues -is focusing renewed attention on the adequacy of the response of higher education to unprecedented times of urgency, uncertainty and threat. Whilst it is now widely acknowledged that the fate of the planet and of humanity hangs in the balance, there still remains an astonishing disconnect between pressing signs of global change, and the relatively closed world of higher education. A trend toward greening universities' operations is positive, but fails to engage or galvanize the cultural and value shift toward a holistic and ecological zeitgeist that is now necessary to generate widespread institutional systemic change. This paper delves into deep causal factors that have historically impeded the ability of universities to respond fully and effectively to present and probable future realities, pointing to the foundations of Western thought such as reductionism, objectivism, dualism, individualism, anthropocentrism, rationalism, instrumentalism and technocentrism that shape mainstream education policy and practice, overlain and reinforced in more recent times by neo-liberal conceptions of the purpose of universities in a modern economy. It is argued that these elements of our culturally shared worldview constrain our ability to perceive and respond deeply, fully and wisely to the global predicament, but also maintain destructive patterns of development. Whilst there is increasing acceptance that education must “transform” in order to—in turn—be transformative in effect, there is less clarity about the guiding assumptions and ideas that inform mainstream policy and practice, and about the philosophic value bases that can facilitate transformative educational thinking, policy and practice. A framework of three broad and complementary components of paradigm—Concern, Conception, and Consequence—is employed to outline the shape of the systemic paradigmatic shift that universities need to urgently navigate in order to maximize their ability to respond fully to contemporary socio-economic and ecological conditions and trajectories.
... They highlight the flawed rationalities of proposing seemingly apolitical technological and market-based solutions to socio-political problems, solutions that are indeed the cause of the current economic and environmental crises. Where the benefits of global economic growth are left unchallenged, and systems are designed to support this goal, alternative visions for the future and alternative approaches to education are denied (Kopnina 2020;Sauvé, Berryman, and Brunelle 2007;Selby and Kagawa 2010;Sterling 2017). In the Clean Growth Strategy, for instance, evidence of the devastating effect of perpetual economic growth on the natural environment is swept aside in the Prime Ministerial Foreword: "This Government is determined to leave our natural environment in better condition than we found it . . . ...
Article
Full-text available
Environmental and climate change education remains on the margins of education and climate change policy. This paper draws on Foucauldian theoretical resources to examine England’s climate change education policy landscape and understand the causes of this marginalisation. Informed by policy historiography, we examine key events and shifts in climate change, education and environmental education since the turn of the millennium. Using policy archaeology, we ‘excavate’ the contemporary policy landscape and identify that: i) policy is lacking; ii) responding to the climate crisis is overlooked in education; iii) pro-environmental ambition is absent; and, iv) economic values dominate. In a global context where activists have called for ‘more!’ climate change education, the analyses reveal the complexity of the problem. A ‘web of conditions’ governing climate change education policy is illuminated. Foucault-informed analytical tools offer insights on how this web may be rebuilt.
... Today's global challenges [16] such as climate change or inequality require long-term, globally oriented programs that train PhD candidates and future leaders to address global challenges with a critical mind. These programs must also help to build evidence-informed consensus and develop solution-oriented approaches, particularly by cooperating closely with stakeholders from outside academia [17][18][19][20]. Proponents of education for sustainable development (ESD) increasingly emphasize the need for tertiary education focused on development of specific competences including skills in systems thinking, anticipatory methods, normative issues, strategic approaches, and interpersonally [21] as well as the application of sustainability knowledge in future job settings [22]. ...
Article
Full-text available
This article spans issues of international student mobility, inequalities in higher education, and spaces for transformative learning for sustainable development. We tracked PhD alumni of an international Swiss research program in 2012 and 2017 and found that students from the global South experienced a significant, immediate career boost; most graduates decided to remain in or return to their country of origin after graduation (brain circulation). Career advancement among global North students took longer to develop. In-depth interviews with selected graduates gave students a voice: they felt empowered by networks, new friendships, and working relationships across disciplinary boundaries. The "safe spaces" or "Third Spaces" created in the program-encompassing inter-and transdisciplinary approaches, institutional and cultural diversity, and a real-world focus-were key for transformative learning, supported by an unconventional teaching and research strategy. To support disruptive learning leading to changes in mindsets and to reduce inequality in higher education, Western universities must question their own privileged position.
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For more than six decades, scientists have warned us of the catastrophic effects of the escalating climate crisis on the planet and people. The United Nations (UN) member states have met annually since the mid-1990s at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings, setting goals and delivering metrics, making promises and offering hope, but failing to enforce policy action. The recent UN COP 26 in Glasgow fell short of keeping the goal of 1.5°C global heating alive as measured against its own objectives. Despite booming policy declarations and deafening science alarms, we have yet to see the radical change in the existing systems and institutions, lifestyles and behaviors, and mindsets and hearts. Perhaps by their very objectivity, the words and numbers distance us from the searing heat of a wildfire or the smell of fear and despair as animals and humans watch the floods wash away their homes and witness the fires burn their habitats. They also reduce the complexity of intertwined webs of life by fragmenting our common planetary home into isolated ‘problems’ to be managed and fixed without addressing a much larger challenge of dismantling unjust systems and reconfiguring our relationships with each other and the planet. Building on the scientific evidence and keeping in focus policy promises made over the decades, this report mobilizes the power of socially engaged art to bring together visions and voices of youth from across the globe in a collective effort to address the root causes of the climate crisis. It starts with the premise that education is directly implicated in the climate crisis and our failure to imagine alternatives. But it can also be the catalyst for radical change. Aiming to shift and shuffle the dominant knowledge systems and categories with the cards from the Turn It Around! deck, this report urges you to turn toward the reality of the climate crisis by capturing its devastating impacts from youth perspectives in a way statistical data might not. It challenges existing education policies, practices, and patterns as no longer possible, tolerable, or even thinkable. With the powerful imagination and creativity of youth, the report activates a series of turning points — intergenerational, decolonial, methodological, and pedagogical — in order to turn around the environmental catastrophe, while reconfiguring the role of education toward ecologically just and sustainable futures. Recognizing that most of the human-induced damages on earth are irreversible, we invite you to follow these turns in order to unlearn harmful patterns and begin relearning how to be a part of the Earth’s ecological community. The invitation to Turn it Around! is more than an urgent call to action — it is now the responsibility of every reader to re-imagine education and work out new ways of living with the Earth.
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The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) employ a global indicator framework to detail each Goal and monitor its implementation. This article focuses on three targets from the indicator framework, which call for mainstreaming education for global citizenship, sustainable development, and climate change into national curricula. By investigating the practicalities of meeting these targets from an educator's perspective, this article proceeds with: arguing for a need to shift the central purpose of education; examining what is meant by education ‘for’ the three key areas included in the global indicator framework; exploring curricular opportunities offered by the SDGs; and presenting inquiry-based learning as a pedagogical approach for critically interrogating the SDGs with learners. If the SDGs are used to drive a pragmatic definition of global citizenship, then trends in education such as inquiry- and problem-based learning come to life with a clear and urgent purpose.
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The present Conservative Government, like the Coalition Government that preceded it, has an ideological predisposition towards the market and its supposed benefits to consumers, but appears to have no vision of Higher Education and its benefits to students and to the whole of society. These wider societal benefits can be summarised under three aspects: * educating the next generation of the population * carrying out research to address social and scientific challenges * maintaining an independent platform for research into society and science to facilitate democratic debate. The last of these, sometimes drawn under the umbrella of ‘academic freedom’, is the basis of the historic contract between Universities and the State. We contend, following the UNESCO Recommendation (1997), that academic freedom must be sufficient to guarantee the independence of scientific inquiry, commentary and teaching. Pressures from funding agencies and the state are usually cited as the principal threats to academic independence. The last decade has seen the rise of a third threat, namely an increasing managerial interference in academic life deriving from the introduction of market imperatives. These three societal benefits are interconnected. Without independent research there can be no scientific independence and no cutting-edge teaching. Without a focus on critique and challenge, students may see ‘education’ as a mere process of accumulating ‘facts’ to meet test criteria. A narrow focus on the acquisition of qualifications undermines the education process itself. Employers have criticised graduate recruits for insufficient creativity, of being rote-taught and thus un-adaptable to a modern business subject to rapid technological change. Importantly, critical skills are necessary to meet the challenge of business and for inclusive democratic engagement. The idea of a University that unites these three aspects is undermined by a new model of Higher Education Institution that sees the investment in human capital only as a private benefit. The Government’s White Paper, Success as a Knowledge Economy, and associated legislative programme, consolidate a fee-loan (or debt-finance) model of funding which puts the costs of higher education onto new graduates and future taxpayers, while reducing taxes for current taxpayers – many of whom directly benefit from publicly-supported higher education, or from its wider public benefits. The Government suggests that it is merely replacing direct public funding with one that places the ‘student at the heart of the system’. But it proposes that public funding should be directed towards the realisation of the private benefits of higher education, and it fails to acknowledge the wider public benefits that higher education affords. In truth, the proposals place the market at the heart of the system and subordinate the student as a consumer of higher education, with loans functioning as a voucher to present at a university of choice (providing that the student has the grades required). It is our view that this new funding model is wrong in principle and deficient in practice. The regulatory framework that is being introduced in its wake will undermine the declared aims to improve teaching quality, to enhance social mobility, and to improve access and achievement. The extension of university title to for-profit providers will also threaten the wider public benefits of higher education, by allowing them to compete as single-function institutions, and giving them access to publicly-supported loans for their students without a guarantee of their longer term stability. This will intensify existing competition and encourage a ‘race to the bottom’. Our defence of an alternative vision of Higher Education takes place in the context of a dismal lack of leadership by the various mission groups representing universities in the sector – for example, Universities UK and the Russell Group – and other bodies responsible for the sector. Their willing advocacy of a fee-loan model of funding (to avoid possible cuts) has abdicated their leadership role in a proper debate on the values of public higher education. This failure to defend the values of the very public higher education they are chartered to provide is in marked contrast to representations made by another group. Lobbyists on behalf of for-profit providers are seeking a supposed ‘level-playing field’ in undergraduate degree provision, despite having no track record of success in the UK, a disastrous record in the USA, and no desire to provide any wider public benefit of their existence. The Government’s position is also in marked contrast to public attitudes. The British Social Attitudes Survey (NatCen) has, before and since the introduction of tuition fee changes, regularly asked questions about public attitudes to higher education and inequality. The majority of the population has consistently opposed high levels of student debt, believed that education has a value beyond simply providing the means to a better job, and maintained that inequality in Britain is an obstacle to the fulfillment of opportunities. Perhaps surprisingly, this commitment to the values of publicly-funded higher education is especially marked among those without graduate-level qualifications. Politicians who argue that the latter resent paying taxes to finance education for ‘middle-class people’ should seek evidence for this assertion. But the ‘debate’ among politicians, members of the BIS secretariat and corporate lobbyists over the issue has been remarkable for its superficial, un-evidenced character. It has also been remarkable for the absence of full public debate (Leach 2016). This Alternative White Paper aims to correct this imbalance. We need a proper debate about the future of UK Higher Education.
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Education and knowledge resources are more available today than ever before. However, humanity’s two main conflicts—coexistence with nature and coexistence with each other—remain unresolved. We need a new conception of human progress that recognizes the interdependence of the economic, social, political, and environmental spheres. To achieve this goal in theory and in practice, higher education institutions, now mainstays of the prevailing economic system, must become agents of progressive social change. This requires rethinking the mission and practice of higher education, from curricula to research, as well as how higher education institutions interact with society, from the local to the global level.
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The past thirty years have seen a rapid expansion of testing, exposing students worldwide to tests that are now, more than ever, standardized and linked to high-stakes outcomes. The use of testing as a policy tool has been legitimized within international educational development to measure education quality in the vast majority of countries worldwide. The embedded nature and normative power of high-stakes standardized testing across national contexts can be understood as a global testing culture. The global testing culture permeates all aspects of education, from financing, to parental involvement, to teacher and student beliefs and practices. The Global Testing Culture: Shaping Education Policy, Perceptions, and Practice problematizes this culture by providing critical perspectives that challenge the assumptions of the culture and describe how the culture manifests in national contexts. The volume makes it clear that testing, per se, is not the problem. Instead it is the how tests are administered, used or misused, and linked to accountability, that provide the global testing culture with its powerful ability to shape schools and society and lead to its unintended, undesirable consequences.
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How far does the neoliberal system pervade social and educational fields in its attempt to colonise the world of life? Neoliberalism is increasingly penetrating every aspect of human existence. From this context, this paper presents a set of alternative socio-educational experiences which are subtly constructing new latent revolutionary subjectivities. Critical educators, as transformative intellectuals, should use this crisis as an opportunity to social transformation by joining theory and praxis. Many people are now building ways of dialogic learning, new social relationships, commitment and collaborative ventures. This makes citizens more aware and critical, proving them with experiences of empowerment and cooperative work. ARTICLE HISTORY
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On September 21, 2014, an estimated 400,000 people marched in New York City to demand that government leaders assembling in that city for a “climate summit” finally move from rhetoric to action. It was the largest of more than 2,600 protest events worldwide. The marches were the culmination of decades of growing climate activism that got its start soon after Dr. James Hansen put climate change on the political map. On a fittingly sweltering day in June 1988, Hansen—then the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies—testified before the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee that global warming was not a natural phenomenon, but rather was caused by human activities that triggered a buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.