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Education for Sustainability in Sri Lanka

Posted: 25 July 2019

Sri Lanka, Alumni, Impact,

Australia Awards alumni, together with industry experts, recently conducted a roundtable discussion in Colombo exploring the current status of Education for Sustainability in Sri Lanka. The roundtable discussion formed part of an Australia Awards-supported project implemented by alumni, entitled Cradle to Cradle: Empowering school children to be catalysts for preserving the environment and tackling climate change in Sri Lanka.

The team of alumni have received support from Australia Awards for this project, starting with an alumni grant leading up to the Australia Awards Regional Alumni Workshop (RAW) in Bhutan last year. The alumni from Sri Lanka— Randika Jayasinghe, Nishadi Liyanage, Pradeepa Jayaratne and Saliya Jayathilake—subsequently received additional funding as second runners-up of the RAW Pitch Competition, enabling them to expand the project.

The roundtable discussion formed part of the climate-friendly project’s second stage, after the first stage identified the need to further explore the topic of Education for Sustainability in a local context. In order to understand the current status of education for sustainability in Sri Lanka, the discussion involved Australia Awards alumni with expertise in the fields of sustainability, sustainable development, environmental management, social work and education.

Thirty participants from different sectors were invited to the roundtable in order to help ensure productive discussion and cross-sector collaboration—components that the alumni team consider to be essential for sustainable development. Participants represented organisations and institutions such as Eco Friendly Volunteers (ECO-V), MAS Holdings, Environmental Foundation Ltd, Shangri La Hambantota, The Sustainable Future Group, National Cleaner Production Centre, National Institute of Education, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, National Human Resource Development Council, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Reforest Sri Lanka and the Disaster Management Centre.

Australia Awards alumni and industry experts at the roundtable discussion held in Colombo to explore the current status of Education for Sustainability in Sri Lanka

The discussion provided a platform for alumni and individuals across multiple disciplinary fields to discuss best practices, challenges and recommendations to further improve education for sustainability in Sri Lanka. Kanchana Weerakoon, a renowned environmentalist in Sri Lanka, and Amanthi Perera, Head of MAS Eco Go Beyond (a corporate social responsibility initiative of MAS Holdings), shared their experience in working with school children on sustainability projects.

Speaking at the event, Australia Awards alumna Dr Randika Jayasinghe said, “All education is environmental education by what is included or excluded, we are teaching the young that they are either part of or apart from the natural world. Therefore, I strongly believe it is important to break down the barriers and get rid of the silo mentality. We need to collaborate and work together to make a real difference. Today, we were able to bring together a very diverse group of people to talk about education for sustainability in Sri Lanka. It gives me hope that change is possible.”

Participants discussed and shared their experiences on how to improve sustainability education at all levels, including early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary education; vocational training; and public awareness education. As a final stage of the project, a roadmap for Education for Sustainability in Sri Lanka and implementation recommendations will be presented to the Ministry of Education and other relevant institutions.