This year, we have managed a major milestone, having been chosen to be part of a three-year project under a European Union programme called Erasmus+. The project focuses on ICT-enabled in-service training of teachers to address sustainability in the Asian region. OUM is one of three Malaysian universities chosen for this venture, together with Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. The project also involves universities from Greece, Cyprus, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Erasmus+ is a funding scheme to support activities in the fields of education, training, youth and sports. It provides grants for organisations to collaborate in project partnerships in the fields of academic and vocational training, schools, adult learning and European sports events.

The root concern of the project is environmental damage, most notably showing up as climate-related disasters, which has also been one of the most visible side effects of rapid growth. The project is based on the conviction that economic growth needs to be sustainable and this can be achieved through education.

As one Erasmus+ alumni, Portuguese Minister of Education, Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, says, “Sustainability can only exist if there is good quality education made available for everyone. It’s not only about teaching sustainability. The fact that we promote excellence in education and that good-quality education is made available to all, especially to those in disadvantaged groups, is a way to effectively tackle societal issues and help build a sustainable economy.”

While there is commitment among Asian leaders to education for sustainability under the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals, the project sees teachers in the classroom, not policymakers, as the real change-makers. Thus, it seeks to identify new ways of training and motivating teachers to address the challenges posed by climate change and other environmental threats.

A six-month needs analysis has revealed that professional development for teachers and leaders at all levels, including in-service teachers, school heads and principals, teacher educators and administrative staff at education faculties is of critical importance. They require wider perspectives and innovative skills in teaching and curriculum reconstruction if they are to teach the younger generation about sustainability issues.

The project aims to develop an ICT-enabled capacity-building programme which will enable the teachers to use innovative tools in the teaching-learning process to inculcate the idea of sustainable growth in the minds of their students.

According to Vice President (Academic), Prof Widad Othman, as a member of the project, OUM will be involved in all three phases of the research project: design, development and implementation. The design phase involves a situational and SWOT analysis to identify needs, competencies, subject areas and topics to be prioritised. The development phase will focus on the preparation of training materials based on the ICT-enabled Education for Sustainability Standards framework and the output from the design phase. Meanwhile, implementation will focus on capacity building for teacher educators, school ICT coordinators and subject teachers according to a three-stage training process.

Says Prof Widad, “We are honoured to be a part of this European Union project, as we have always championed lifelong learning and the need for empowerment through education. This project provides OUM the opportunity to contribute to nation building through the capacity building of teachers, specifically in creating awareness of the need for sustainability.”