Abu Dhabi: The UAE is among the top five countries in the world in sustainability education, inspiring students to take part in advanced sustainability coursework and sophisticated green practices, a leading educationist said on Wednesday.

“The UAE is among the top five countries to take a leadership role in education for sustainable development with a view to creating sustainability citizens,” said Ann Finlayson, former UK Commissioner for Education for the Sustainable Development Commission. The other four countries are Finland, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

Finlayson, who represented the UK in the mid-Decade World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development in Bonn in 2009, added the UAE can take its experience at the beginning of the sustainability education journey to the world stage in November at the Unesco World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development-Learning Today for a Sustainable Future to be held in Tokyo on the occasion of the end of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD.)

The conference will carry out a stocktaking exercise of the implementation of the DESD and celebrate the decade’s achievements.

The conference will showcase initiatives, networks and ideas that were stimulated by the DESD. Examples of good practice from all over the world will play an important role in identifying viable approaches to sustainability education development, as well as key areas for future action.

Running from 2005 to 2014, the aim of the DESD was to promote and improve the integration of education for sustainable development into the educational strategies and action plans at all levels and sectors of education in all countries.

Finlayson said the UAE can showcase its green practices as part of an ongoing process to keep developing a sustainable education that is relevant to the UAE.

She was speaking after Shaikh Sultan Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, Managing Director of the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development and Humaid Mohammad Obaid Al Qutami, Minister of Education, signed a memorandum of understanding on integrating education for sustainable development into the UAE national curricula.

The scheme aims to embed sustainability into the UAE’s education system and curriculum for K-12 pupils of schools across the country, said Maitha Al Habsi, Chief Programmes Officer at the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development.

Ongoing process

She added integrating this was not a one-off activity but an ongoing process of understanding local and global, social, environmental, cultural and economic trends and translating those into meaningful data and competencies for young people.

“It is a unique initiative that contributes to promoting awareness of sustainability among young Emiratis and creating leaders capable of shaping a sustainable future,” Maitha said.

She added that the scheme will create sustainability citizens who accept that they have a responsibility both as individuals and as members of society to act in a way that acknowledges the rights of future generations; be able to explain why wasteful production and disposal is harmful to the environment and why they cannot continue indefinitely; be able to assess the sustainability of their own lifestyle; understand the principles of sustainable living and the ways in which they can make a contribution.

The role of education for sustainable development is to help people develop the attitudes, skills, and knowledge to make informed decisions for the benefit of themselves and others, now and for the future, and to act upon those decisions.

Education sustainability development is an approach to teaching and learning based on the ideals and principles that underlie sustainability — human rights, poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods, peace, environmental protection, democracy, health, biological and landscape diversity, climate change, gender equality, and protection of indigenous cultures.