London-Africa link through LSBU Masters students on the MSc Education for Sustainability (EFS)
Posted December 4, 2013on:
By Professor Ros Wade
These African scholars are all recipients of UK Commonwealth Scholarship awards, who were selected both for their academic ability and for their leadership abilities in relation to their potential development impact in their countries. The scholarships, which are funded by DfiD, are extremely competitive and the fifteen successful new scholars this year were chosen from over 250 applicants. The scholars have a wide range of work contexts including education ministries, NGO development programmes, British council, HIV and AIDS training, wildlife conservation, environmental journalism, emergency programmes for refugees and university teaching. But they all share a commitment to promoting sustainability for people and planet. This year, for the first time, a few self paying UK based students on the EFS masters programme at London South Bank University (LSBU) joined the group and found it very inspiring and energising to be part of such an active international learning community for EFS.
Three different programmes are run concurrently for the 3 cohorts of masters scholars, using an active learning approach which encourages student engagement through team teaching from tutors. The first years focus on Module One, an introduction to Education for Sustainability and they learn to interrogate this complex and contested subject and to explore it within a range of different ideological parameters. The second years focus on Module 4, Theories and Perspectives in Environment and Development, and they explore hegemonic and counter hegemonic views and the role of social movements for sustainability. EFS requires a paradigm shift in current non sustainable ways of thinking, learning and acting so it presents a huge challenge to people who are trying to become effective agents for change. The third years focus on the research they are planning to do for their dissertation and they are required to critique a range of research approaches and to develop a comprehensive research plan. The third years also take on a role as mentors to the first and second years and encourage and support them throughout the week and for the following year.
Because this is a distance learning programme, scholars are able to apply their learning to their work context and so have an immediate impact. For example, one scholar Chiko from Uganda said that ‘I have worked with over 500 teachers in the area of global citizenship in the past year and EFS has proved invaluable to how I deliver these training programmes.’ Another scholar, Tabitha from Ghana, has been ‘ training members of parliament on advocacy skills that can guarantee quick wins in increasing the family planning budget lines in our national budget’.
The EFS scholars always find the intercultural elements of the residential of great importance as they get an opportunity (often for the very first time) to meet colleagues from different African countries and exchange ideas and learn about their different cultures and traditions. The EFS academic team also benefit hugely from this exposure and as always the learning process is a mutual and collaborative one, which helps to build an active learning community of EFS scholars across the globe. As always, despite the hard work and 8 hour work days, tutors found this an inspiring event, not least because of the very impressive work that these scholars are doing, many of them in difficult circumstances and with limited resources. Their commitment and dedication certainly lends hope to the possibility of more sustainable future world.