Activating primary school learners : sustainability education in South Africa
Sammanfattning: Although education is considered as one of the most effective approaches in terms of addressing sustainability challenges and formulating solutions, traditional education methods remain inadequate in this regard. This is because these methods are based on passive and teacher-centred approaches to learning. In this context, the experiential education and active learning framework, grounded in John Dewey’s constructivism and pragmatism, is an alternative to traditional educational approaches, emphasizing student participation and supporting praxis. This qualitative research aims to evaluate the impacts of an experiential and active learning framework on learner’s knowledge of local and global sustainability challenges. This has been undertaken through fieldwork conducted in cooperation with the South African Eco-Schools Programme. The main focus of the study is at the primary school level, primarily Grades 6 – 7. Data has been collected through semi-structured and unstructured interviews with teachers, educators, learners and academics, as well as observations of workshops, learning activities and school grounds. A review of relevant documentation, including school portfolios and Eco-School documents, was also undertaken. Research results demonstrate that the South African education system still experiences major problems in providing a quality education for all learners, due mainly to existing socio-economic problems. It was found that teacher guidance was crucial to the success of education for sustainability, especially in the context of significant social problems such as poverty, HIV/AIDS and resulting high percentage of orphans in schools, as well as limited resources for learning. Therefore, the Deweyan paradigm, which is grounded in learner-centred concepts and considers teachers only as facilitators, might be applicable elsewhere in South African context, however cannot be considered as an efficient approach within the scope of the study. Further, findings indicated that classroom education, which incorporates real-life stories and narratives, followed by active involvement and experiments, give the best education results, in relation with learning local and global sustainability challenges. Significantly, the major contribution of experiential and active learning approaches in South African primary schools is to an improvement in the quality of basic education, especially with regard to basic skills such as literacy and numeracy.
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