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The Problem with teaching sustainability in schools.

Opinion Piece, School

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March 2, 2020, 4:23 am

The Problem with teaching sustainability in schools

Are children being taught the right way about sustainability, going green, recycling and protecting the planet?

Many schools and even nurseries have included topics on environmental sustainability, recycling, going green, waste reduction and more into their curriculum. Many nurseries have monthly themes that they follow, and all learning and development is based around this theme. As an early years teacher who has worked in quite a few nurseries in Dubai, I have noticed that almost all preschools and schools follow a theme or topic that runs about 4 to 6 weeks, and which is based on planting, deforestation, going green and recycling.

This is great, as children can be exposed to the importance of these concepts from a very early age. However, the big question is, is this approach sufficient and effective enough for the child’s learning? Can the child carry on and apply these concepts to real and practical life, even after the topic or theme in the curriculum has been introduced? Is sustainability a concept that the child can feel like they not only understand but is a part of their daily lives?

In my opinion, the answer is a big no. Environmental sustainability is more than just a concept that is introduced as a topic, that will run for 4 weeks and then ends. Schools and nurseries need to do much more than provide recycling bins in the classroom, do planting activities, build water irrigation systems and then move on to another topic after 4 weeks.

The school can never be aware of what goes on in a child’s home. They can however develop programs and sensitization approaches to ensure that the parents are aware of the importance of sustainability all year round. Recycling bins should be in classrooms all year-round. Gardening, farm visits, harvesting should be part of the children’s daily activities in school. Schools can develop a sustainability factor into every topic. Teachers are very creative. There are so many ideas and approaches that teachers could plan to make environmental sustainability become a daily life practice for the children. Teachers can have children share pictures of their recycling home set-up weekly. They can have small-sized allotments in the school gardening patch so children can plant their own seeds, nurture their plants, harvest and cook the produce.

Sustainability can no longer be a one-time affair.

A few schools in Dubai like The Arbor School and King’s School have biodomes or eco-clubs in the school premises, which is fantastic as the children can learn and practice sustainability on a daily basis. But more Dubai schools and preschools need to get onboard. More so, parental collaboration needs to be implemented into the schools’ sustainability programme. Workshops for parents need to be planned to help sensitize them about this issue.

Our children deserve a holistic and all-round learning process as regards environmental sustainability.


Fola Harold

Early Years Teacher

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