Sustainable development of educational landscapes

After supporting the development of Educational Landscapes for more than 10 years, the Jacobs Foundation is handing over responsibility for the further dissemination of this concept in Switzerland to éducation21. We spoke with Marion Künzler about the future of Educational Landscapes.

Why did éducation21 agree to take over responsibility for Educational Landscapes?

There were several reasons: First, it was an opportunity for us to work with familiar partners, such as schools, non-school institutions, and individuals. Additionally, the concept of Educational Landscapes is closely related to our core topic “education for sustainable development”. In an educational landscape, all involved parties work together toward common goals – and this approach is urgently needed. In addition to the 22 Educational Landscapes the Jacobs Foundation funded, 30 more have been created throughout Switzerland. We also recognized that Educational Landscapes improve the quality of local education systems and are proven to promote equality of opportunity for children and young people, as a study from the University of Teacher Education Zug has demonstrated.

What are your goals?

We assist coordinators and the involved parties in creating and consolidating an educational landscape, as well as in developing it into an “Educational Landscape 21.”

The goal of Educational Landscapes 21 is to help all children and youth acquire the skills they need to participate in shaping a sustainable society, and to ensure access to equitable educational opportunities. This is why we want to spread the idea of Educational Landscapes and help it become more firmly established. We intend to increase our efforts, particularly in Switzerland’s French-speaking region.

“The goal of Educational Landscapes 21 is to help all children and youth acquire the skills they need to participate in shaping a sustainable society…”

Do you see the progression from Educational Landscapes to Educational Landscapes 21 as an opportunity to focus more attention on education for sustainable development?

Definitely. It’s not a matter of changing the focus of Educational Landscapes, but rather of highlighting all the things that have already been accomplished and showing where improvements might be made. In the education for sustainable development, children and adolescents think deeply about the complexity of the world and about developments in the economy, the environment, and society. They gain the knowledge and skills that will enable them to help shape a sustainable future or to address intercultural issues. We offer the opportunity to add the education for a sustainable future, but that is not a requirement.

In 2019, you developed a strategy for the next five years. In that process, what did you find surprising?

I was surprised by the amount of volunteer work that is involved in an educational landscape! While it is crucial to coordinate and connect the participating actors, there is often a lack of financial resources, and thus also a shortage of personnel. We find that everyone involved in the Educational Landscapes is incredibly motivated and committed. I have also been pleasantly surprised by the wealth of excellent ideas and programs that the numerous Educational Landscapes have to offer.

“I have also been pleasantly surprised by the wealth of excellent ideas and programs that the numerous Educational Landscapes have to offer.”

For Educational Landscapes to succeed, schools, policymakers and others active in the field of education need to work together. What can you do to make that happen?

We are working with the Swiss foundation RADIX, which focuses on health. Its expertise in health promotion and prevention at the local level, as well as in early childhood education, makes it an ideal partner for us.

In addition, éducation 21 is a national office and agency of the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK), which enables us to represent the interests of the Educational Landscapes in the relevant political bodies. We also want to work specifically with multipliers, such as Schulnetz21 (School Network 21), open youth work organizations and the Swiss associations of communities and cities.

What are your plans for the future of the Educational Landscapes?

The Jacobs Foundation has ensured that the program is funded until the end of 2021. At that point, we want to secure follow-up financing for at least three additional years. We look forward to exciting network activities and to many new Educational Landscapes!

Marion Künzler, éducation21

Marion Künzler is the project manager for the Educational Landscapes 21 office. She works for the foundation éducation21, which is the national center of excellence and services for education for sustainable development in Switzerland.

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