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Circular Economy

What does primary and secondary education do?

In primary and secondary education, teaching about sustainability is seen as an important part of future oriented education. Primary schools do this by developing special lesson materials about sustainability. In secondary education sustainability is often integrated in the core curriculum, instead of projects separate from the regular curriculum.

Dutch Policy

In the Netherlands, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) is responsible for education policy. Teachers, school leaders and schools are currently working on a future-oriented curriculum for primary and secondary education. Between 2014 and 2017, the entire education sector has thought about this new curriculum. The final report ‘Our Education 2032‘ (Ons Onderwijs 2032) was published in January 2016. As a building block for this process, various organisations have submitted a white paper on Nature, Environment, Sustainability and Education. This curriculum review was approved by the Lower House of Parliament on 20 April 2017.

Against this background, approximately 150 teachers and school leaders work on the formulation of the curriculum in nine development teams. One of these development teams is Mens en Maatschappij. At the third consultation round, circularity was not yet explicitly included in this subject. Various civil society organisations have indicated that they would like to see this subject reflected in the curriculum (Leren voor Morgen, 2018). At the end of 2019, the development teams will submit their proposals to the Minister for Basic and Secondary Education. These proposals will form the basis for the development of new teaching materials, teacher training and curriculum revisions at school. Organisations such as Leren voor Morgen will support schools in this process (Leren voor Morgen, 2019).

More information and news about the development of this curriculum can be found at Curriculum.nu (in Dutch).

Our Education 2032

The advisory report ‘Our Education 2032‘ defines a few essential elements of future oriented education. For example, element 3 “Freedom, responsibilty and broad horizons” is described as follows:

“Education will encourage students to exercise personal responsibility in various aspects of their daily lives: health, finances or care for the environment, for example. It will introduce the international perspective, whereby students appreciate their role as ‘global citizens’ and are able to look beyond the boundaries of their own city or country.” (p. 23)

The report also contains a call for an interdisciplinary approach, where examples like climate change and the environment are mentioned.

GreenDeal Schools

Aside from including sustainability in their curriculum, schools are also stimulated to have more sustainable policy. The GreenDeal Schools is designed to support this. Schools can receive subsidies to make green changes to their school, such as their school building. This could involve green energy, better air quality and isolation.

More information can be found on their website (in Dutch).

Primary education

Sustainability in primary education mainly focuses on raising children’s awareness about sustainability. Lesson material specifically about sustainability, but also about nature in general, stimulate students to develop their own vision about sustainability, and to look at their environment from a new perspective. The goal is to teach children that sustainability is easy, fun and obvious. Not only because it is about their own future, but also because it is important to share information about circular economy in these formative years. The idea is that that which inspires you at a young age will motivate you when you are older.

Many organsations develop extra lession materials for primary education. Because these lesson materials are mostly multi-disciplinary they can be used in many different places in primary education. Some examples are listed below.

  • Following in the footsteps of ‘Our Education 2032’ the network Sustainable PABO (Dutch teacher’s education) has published a book with lesson materials about sustainability. The book ‘32 Lessons For the Future‘ (32 Lessen voor de Toekomst) is inspired on the core goals for education and the UN development goals. The lessons involve students with the national discussion about sustainability in a practical and optimistic way;
  • In 2017, the two-year programme Afval op School (Waste at School) was launched. This programme brings together all knowledge and experience in the field of waste separation and prevention, behavioural change and education. Waste at school is carried out under the direction of SME.
  • The Green Coatrack is an example of a local initiative surrounding sustainable education, involving schools in Haarlemmermeer. The organisation stimulates schools to integrate sustainability in the three C’s: Campus, Curriculum and Community. In other words: choose sustainable measures in and around the school, connect lessons to it and involve parents, people from the neighbourhood, businesses and other relations;
  • 7 Days Circular, an initiative of Warenhuisje, is a lesson programme about the circular economy, where a group of students deal with the theme of responsible consumption and production. Children are taught what they can do to contribute to a circular world through a circular use of goods, materials and resources;
  • A class in their last year of primary school has collaborated with the Nova College (an institution for technical pre-vocational secondary education) on a project in The Valley in Hoofddorp. They were taught about windenergy in relation to the circular economy.

Secondary education

Sustainability in secondary education is often integrated into the subjects in the curriculum. This means that lessons about sustainability are directly related to subjects such as geography, biology or social studies. This has advantages to project-based education, because students will be confronted with sustainability thinking throughout their education. On the other hand, the sectoral arrangement in different subjects can apprehend an integral approach to sustainability.

There are a few organisations actively stimulating and supporting sustainable education in secondary education. A few notable examples are listed below.

  • Stichting O3 is a foundation with the goal of founding a sustainable school in Utrecht where students are taught to be future-oriented, entrepreneurial and situationally aware world citizens.
  • The Sustainable Chain Gang is a network around sustainability in secondary education. The network connects education, NGO’s, businesses and governments. They communicatie about sustainability in secondary education and share knowledge about sustainability and how to integrate this into education;
  • IK circuLEER aims to make pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) more sustainability-oriented by offering teaching situations that match the student’s experiences and the exam requirements. They develop lesson materials, organise meetings sucha s guest lessons and teach-the-teacher workshops;
  • GroenGelinkt offers lesson materials for secondary education.

More lesson materials

  • GroenGelinkt (Green Linked) offers a menu with a variation of lesson materials for primary education;
  • Greenpeace has developed a lot of lesson materials, about subjects such as pollution-free clothing and saving paper;
  • Learning for Tomorrow (Leren voor morgen) collects lesson materials and actions surrounding sustainability on their website for primary education;
  • The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (webpage in Dutch) provides an overview of lesson plans about energy and sustainable buildings, among others;
  • Energieeducatie.nl (Energy Education) also collects lesson plans about sustainability;
  • Docentenplein (Teacher’s Square) also offers ideas about lessons.