Youth of today can sustain the future

Ann MacGarry

Over the last 18 months, I have played a small part in the most exciting educational initiative I have seen in 24 years in the field.

Nearly two years ago, I sat in a room in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the World Summit, listening to a group of young people from Wales telling first minister Rhodri Morgan what they thought should be done about sustainable development.

As well as having ideas about transport and energy, they wanted to be educated differently. They asked for a youth forum so they could share their ideas and feed them to the Assembly.

And so the Welsh youth forum on sustainable development was born. The forum had a major input to the network of regional governments for sustainable development conference in Cardiff this March.

Thirty young people made a short presentation to the whole conference and ran a workshop for more than 100 adult delegates. The theme was youth empowerment and their aim was to show what young people believed and what they were capable of. They achieved this beyond their wildest expectations.

Delegates remarked on how brilliant it was.

The Cardiff conference was a springboard for the forum, sparking a whirlwind of activity, despite A-levels, GCSEs, Sats, homework and parents.

At a meeting with Jane Davidson, the education and lifelong learning minister, they raised their concerns about how they are taught about sustainable development.

They said they were not taught in a co-ordinated way across the curriculum, were often given inaccurate information by teachers, not inspired or given an opportunity to take action, not encouraged to connect their everyday lives with their impact on the planet, and often taught just about environmental issues, rather than the big picture of sustainability.

As a result, the forum now has a place on the education for sustainable development and global citizenship panel and is contributing to an Assembly consultation on a curriculum-mapping exercise.

The forum has attracted young people from a homeless project and pupils with an out-of-school curriculum. It has been a huge learning experience about issues, presentations, lifestyles within Wales, and how to get on when working together so intensively.

Make sure you spread the word.

Ann MacGarry is an education officer at the Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth.Forum website:

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Ann MacGarry

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