EDUINFO Interview: Greg Selinger, Premier of Manitoba
“We believe ESD will help us move towards our goal of being one of the most sustainable places to live on earth.”
A panelist at the UNESCO side-event “Educating for a Sustainable Future” at Rio+20, Greg Selinger, Premier of Manitoba, is a prominent champion of education for sustainable development (ESD).
In Canada, legal responsibility for education is granted to the provinces. Manitoba is currently the only province in Canada which has sustainable development as part of the Education Department’s mission and vision statement. This has a direct impact on over 200,000 students and their families. The Manitoba ESD initiative is linked to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD), which UNESCO leads.
What is the ultimate goal of Manitoba’s ESD strategy?
We aim to provide a relevant, engaging, and high quality education that prepares young people for lifelong learning and citizenship in a democratic, socially just, and sustainable society. It’s about ensuring that education in Manitoba supports students learning about what it means to live sustainably and sharing that knowledge with their friends and families.
When did Manitoba first engage with sustainable development?
It began with the establishment of The Sustainable Development Act in 1997. We then developed an Education for Sustainability Action Plan between 2004 and 2008 that directed the first steps in fostering teaching and learning for sustainability in elementary and secondary classrooms.
How is Manitoba supporting ESD today?
We have identified ESD as one of our priority action areas, and have embedded sustainability in our Education Department’s mission statement.
For us, it means integrating sustainable development concepts into curriculum, supporting educators in teaching sustainability, and supporting schools in embedding sustainability within operations and management. It also means providing funding dedicated to ESD to schools and school divisions. This ensures that government policy supports the development of sustainability practices, principles, programs and partnerships.
We have just released Manitoba’s Green Plan called Tomorrow Now, which sets out an eight-year strategic action plan for mobilizing Manitobans to work together to protect the environment while ensuring a prosperous and environmentally-conscious economy. The action plan includes ESD initiatives in formal education, public awareness and training.
Nationally, Manitoba is leading the ESD priority area for the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. Internationally, our Deputy Minister of Education is the chair of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s ESD Steering Committee.
How is ESD integrated into the curriculum and being taught in Manitoba?
In Manitoba, we are starting early by educating our children to become personally engaged with the challenge of helping to bring about sustainability. Manitoba has made a commitment in our new Green Plan to promote every child’s right to fundamental experiences in nature.
ESD is integrated in the K-12 curriculum with specific learning outcomes established in science, social studies, health and physical education. The work on identifying learning outcomes was key to communicating with schools about ESD.
In September 2012, we will be phasing in our new Grade 12 Global Issues: Citizenship and Sustainability course. Students will research the social, environmental, and economic impact of contemporary and emerging global issues. The intent of the course is to empower students as agents of change for a sustainable and equitable future.
What impact has the ESD initiative had in Manitoba?
“Green schools” are under construction using the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. School divisions are planning and creating sustainable development action plans and educators are participating in ESD training programmes. Schools are engaging in naturalization initiatives and greening their operations, such as energy and water efficiency initiatives, waste reduction or offering more sustainable transport. Teachers are integrating sustainability into their classrooms and use their schools and communities as a teaching tool.
More schools are applying for the Eco-Globe schools program, introduced in 2008, which recognizes schools for their sustainability efforts.
Students are developing more sustainable behaviors in their classrooms, schools and communities and are becoming empowered to analyse and propose solutions to sustainability challenges.
How important are partnerships?
Manitoba has partnered with NGOs, the private sector, post-secondary institutions, schools and school divisions to strengthen and expand our reach and effectiveness.
Examples include our partnership with Manitoba Hydro which provides funding for sustainability projects related to school gardening, outdoor classrooms, compost recycling and energy reduction, among other projects. For the 2012-2013 school year, we awarded 16 schools grants of up to $2000 each.
Another partner, the Manitoba ESD Working Group (MESDWG), provides a forum for business, industry, NGOs and educators to work collaboratively on ESD. The MESDWG was established through collaboration between Learning for a Sustainable Future (NGO), Environment Canada (Federal Government) and the province of Manitoba.
The International Institute for Sustainable Development helps us to ensure our work is backed by research and we are measuring our progress.
Lastly, the Education for Sustainability Leadership Council, made up of education experts, is advising on the development of a new three-year action plan on sustainability for formal education and to guide a whole-system approach toward education for sustainability in Manitoba.
Does technical and vocational education have a role to play?
Manitoba’s Technical Vocational Initiative plays a critical role in ESD, since it directly affects skill development for new technologies, awareness of new and emerging energy sources, and the green economy jobs. We need to ensure our tradespeople of tomorrow have the skills they need to participate in the green economy.
How do you see the Manitoba ESD initiative evolve after the UN Decade ends in 2014?
ESD is a long-term endeavour which will continue far beyond the end of the UN Decade for ESD. For the remainder of the decade and beyond, our focus is on sustaining the culture of ESD that has built up over the decade and on creating a flourishing Manitoba where people have developed the knowledge, skills and values to live more sustainable lives. We believe ESD will help us move towards our goal of being one of the most sustainable places to live on earth.”