New Higher Education Literacies For A Sustainable Future



As the world becomes more interconnected and interdependent, nations face increasing pressure to improve their political, economic, social, technological and environmental infrastructures in order to compete in an increasingly globalised world.

Within this context, perhaps the most fundamental and important component of any nation in the 21st century is its educational system. As societies become more complex – economically, socially, technologically and otherwise – so must their educational systems.

To this end, nations have responded by creating diverse educational systems that now consist of many different types of educational institutions, including trade schools, technical colleges, community colleges, liberal arts colleges and research universities, among others.

In a complex society, a one-size-fits-all approach is unable to address all the varied needs of society. Therefore, a highly diverse educational system is seen by many as one of the keys to the promotion of economic growth and social development.

Creating a smarter and higher quality educational system

However, institutional diversity alone will not address all the problems facing societies around the world. Regardless of the type of institution, new literacies are also needed to address not just the economic demands of society but also the growing complexity of global problems facing the world.

Thus, we must now move from a diverse educational system to a more inclusive and equitable educational system based on democratic and rights-based principles, which is illustrated by the following rights-based educational model.

By moving towards an educational system based on democratic and rights-based principles, societies are more likely to address the complex and wide-scale problems facing the planet, such as global climate change, sustainable development, democratic reforms and universal rights (human, animal and environmental rights).

This approach to education provides a roadmap to help secure a universal right to education at all levels that is inclusive and equitable.

New literacies for the 21st century

As depicted in the rights-based educational model, the ultimate goal is to achieve an inclusive and equitable education system that prepares all people to succeed in the 21st century.

In addition to increasing globalisation, today’s societies are also in the midst of transitioning from a carbon-based economy to a green economy which has huge implications for how students are educated and how societies function.

This transition has become necessary due to global warming, deforestation and desertification, among other factors, which, in turn, have huge impacts on delicate interconnected ecosystems, food chains and overall quality of life.

In addition, new demands for food, water, sanitation and other basic living requirements, brought about by rapid growth in urbanisation and the world’s population, require not only innovative technological solutions but also a new humanistic paradigm and way of thinking that address these problems on a global scale.

Thus, educational institutions must implement new teaching and learning approaches, which are all inter-related and inter-dependent, to more effectively deal with these changes:

  • • Inquiry-based learning (problem-based and research-based learning).

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What do you think?

Written by Arlie Stiner