Posts from NZAEE (2): Environmental Education in NZ

Posted on February 17, 2008


Barry Law from Canterbury University (ex Christchurch Teacher’s College) gave the first keynote at the New Zealand Association for Environmental Education. Barry is the National In-service Coordinator for Education for Sustainability and is also an education adviser to the Enviroschools Foundation so was well known to the conference crowd.

Barry gave a history of environmental education in New Zealand. I struggled a bit here as he didn’t mention geography at all. It almost seems as though the world started with the creation of Enviroschools in 1993. Important milestones followed: national environmental education guidelines in 1999; professional development of 700 teachers in 2002; Morgan William’s publication of “See Change” in 2004.

Barry is a strong advocate of the need for political involvement in environmental education. He argues strongly that it is foolish to attempt a value-free or politics-free environmental education. He sees political engagement as a critical part of education for sustainability. He, therefore did not shirk from stressing the importance of the Greens/Labour cooperation agreement in establishing Education for Sustainability Advisory teams in 2003.

New Zealand’s response to the UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development got a mention (there is a committee!).

Any subject that argues that it is all pervasive runs into trouble when people start writing curriculum documents. In the attempt to not be pigeon-holed we argue that Education for Sustainability should be integrated across the curriculum. Unfortunately the instantiation of this is to be called a “theme” – in effect, not in the curriculum. This is what happened in the rewrite of the NZ curriculum, and Barry talked about efforts to get EfS better positioned. He is most hopeful about the prospects for cross-curricula achievement standards for sustainability (he says they been recently announced but I can’t find them).