Zimbabwe’s Better Environmental Science Teaching Programme: A step towards education for sustainable development
This paper appraises Zimbabwe’s Better Environmental Science Teaching (BEST) programme within the context of education for sustainable development (ESD). The first part of the paper briefly reviews developments in environmental education in southern Africa within the broader scope and goals of ESD and draws some parallels with the theoretical foundations of the BEST programme. The second part uses ESD lenses to reflect critically on a study conducted in 2005 to assess the practical implementation of BEST in a rural setting in Zimbabwe. The paper concludes that BEST advocates for a kind of education that has attributes for education for sustainable development. However, the practical implementation of BEST does not appear to match these intentions. Teachers, and their supervisors, are still tied to neoclassical methodologies in which teachers know and pupils don’t. The examination-driven curriculum prohibits the required re-orientation of education towards an education system that provides communities with skills, perspectives, values and knowledge to live in a sustainable manner. Communities themselves appear to find it difficult to conceptualise their role in the schooling of children in a community context. This research points to the often-quoted rhetoric-reality gap between idealistic policies (such as those being put forward in international ESD discourses) and practice, particularly in structured institutional settings such as formal education systems. The paper argues that for this rhetoric-reality gap to be ‘closed’ there is a need for a reorientation of educational philosophy in Zimbabwe, as well as for closer relationships between schools and communities in the learning process.
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