UNESCO World Teachers’ Day prize-winner brings teachers and conservation together
A Malaysian project that has brought teachers out of the classroom and closer to nature is one of two winners of the 2016 UNESCO-Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers.
The University of Malaya, Malaysia was awarded for its “Environmental Citizenship Education Malaysia 2005-2015” programme launched in 2005 to raise awareness of environmental issues and sustainability among teachers, students, teacher trainers and communities they live and work in.
The $300,000 award, which is given every two years and is supported by H.E. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates, forms part of UNESCO’s celebrations for World Teachers’ Day 2016. This year the other prize goes to See Beyond Borders, Cambodia.
University of Malaya Faculty of Education Professor Dr Esther Gnanamalar Sarojini Daniel said: “Theory is important but theory can be delivered experientially pre- and in-service. Teachers are best motivated by real life, real time situations so for projects like this about nature or ESD, they need to get out of the classroom.”
The University of Malaya was a principal research investigator and partner for the project aimed to bridge the gap between the Malaysian Formal Education System with related communities and conservation efforts. It worked by developing modules which were made available to all schools in the country.
Building a knowledgeable citizenry
The project’s long-term vision was to build a Malaysian citizenry knowledgeable about the environment and related problems and motivated to change its behaviour and work towards finding solutions and creating a sustainable society.
Dr Daniel said the university, which was teamed with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature Malay (WWFNM), began by taking stock of the level of environmental engagement in Malaya. They trained teachers at rural and urban schools providing relevant and modern source materials and followed up with an evaluation carried out with 12-15 year olds.
“We then conducted a project in the beautiful mountain ranges of the Malaysian highlands. We produced educational modules for teachers and government officers to educate them about the ecosystems of the highlands.”
They also undertook the Eco-Schools International programme with the Foundation of Environmental Education Denmark to train teachers and students in the 7 step Eco-Schools principles. Following this, the Eco-Institute programme unique to Malaysia was begun with the Teacher Training Institutes of Malaysia.
“We work with 27 teacher training colleges in 13 states and rely on the multiplier effect,2 said Dr Daniel.
She said the prize money would be invested in furthering the University of Malaya – WWF-M to set up a Living Planet Centre at the University of Malaya which would act as a hub for environmental citizenship studies.
A second project would unite religion, conservation and youth touching on Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism to reflect the diversity of beliefs in Malaysia
This year World Teachers’ Day is celebrated at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris and around the world under the theme “Valuing teachers, Improving their Status” and will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. As well as the laureates’ ceremony, the event in Paris includes panel discussions and a poster exhibition.
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