Scotland’s education policy of Learning for Sustainability, the Anthropocene and learning to resist

Corinne Angier, University of Stirling

The Anthropocene, a term first coined by the biologist Eugene Stoermer and popularised by the chemist Paul Crutzen, is increasingly accepted as a description of the current geological era where human activity is the overriding cause of change to the biosphere. The threat to human survival of climate change and environmental degradation has prompted renewed attempts at global governance through international protocols and by the construction of targets to achieve sustainable development. The Scottish government aspires to Scotland achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. In education this ambition is to be achieved through ‘Learning for sustainability’ (LfS) (Scottish Government 2012) as an entitlement for all children and the responsibility of teachers in every age phase and every subject. LfS in the Scottish curriculum encompasses sustainable development education, global citizenship education and outdoor learning. In this paper, I propose that Scottish educational policy may be thought of as a textual fabric of interwoven discourses and I use an extract from an exemplar document to demonstrate that LfS policy is cut from the same cloth. I argue that the partially devolved responsibility for policy implementation allows schools and teachers some opportunity to decide which of these discourses with which to align. This opens up opportunities to resist schooling for the status quo. New thinking offers the hope that the worst-case scenarios of the Anthropocene might yet be averted. Drawing on a description of LfS as “learning to mind” (Griffiths and Murray 2017), I suggest that the broad affordances and range of interpretations inherent in LfS provide a space within which more critical and emancipatory practices might flourish.

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