By Robbie Guevara, ASPBAE President
On my second day in Rio, I had to go to the location of the official forum, called Riocentro, to register. Buses were provided from every major hotel to shuttle participants. On my way in I sat beside a woman who was attending Rio+20 as part of a delegation from the Episcopal Church. She was an artist who worked closely with young people on environmental concerns through the medium of art. We got talking about the kind of education that currently dominates the formal school system and how it shapes the hearts, minds, and aspirations of young people towards becoming part of, if not promoting, a culture of consumerism. She talked about how the medium of arts is more than just a method but a way of connecting with and releasing the creative side of youngsters to help them re-imagine the future.
The conversation reminded me how on the flight from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, I was seated next to a Japanese lady who was also attending Rio+20 as an interpreter for an exhibition called ‘Seeds of Hope’. It was an initiative that is aimed at emphasising “our interconnectedness with the rest of the community of life and the need to broaden our sphere of compassion and concerns” towards overcoming powerlessness for positive change. She just started a PhD program in New Zealand examining the rise of faith-based NGOs and their role in achieving development. She specifically emphasised that her work was not attached to any particular religious tradition or institution, but recognised the need for learning that develops in the individual a stronger grounding in values and ethics if we are to achieve a just, peaceful, and sustainable future.
Today at the People’s Summit, I found myself talking to an environmental educator from the Philippines whom I had been in communication with a number of times but never actually met in person. She shared her environmental education framework called RICE. This argued that all education must be grounded in Research that helps to generate Information that you are able to Communicate via a process of Education to achieve the goal of transformation. I shared with her how I had recently facilitated an Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) workshop in Japan that focused on using rice as a tool for learning about ESD across an Asian context and thought that this framework would be a good one to share as it encourages local research in on-going development of relevant education practice. So I asked her permission to use her acronym. She agreed as long as I acknowledged her. So thank you to Elizabeth Roxas from Environmental Broadcast Circle, Philippines, for sharing RICE with me.
I generally find it difficult to strike up a conversation with a person I do not know. But aren’t conversations an excellent illustration of mutual learning opportunities? Conversations acknowledge that each person has something interesting to share and that hopefully in the end, both persons will be a little bit more informed or maybe even a little bit more inspired by what was shared. As we strive to re-discover and advocate for the kind of education we need for the future we want , we are guided by key principles of transformative and empowering education that is available, accessible and appropriate. But underlying these principles is the basic belief that we can all learn something from each other.
And so when the dominant approach to teaching and learning stops being a conversation – becoming more of a monologue instead of a dialogue – then we find ourselves in a situation where one particular way of thinking begins to dominate and becomes unchallenged. At that time, I think we all need to begin to contribute to achieving the education we want – one conversation at a time.