Improving skills related to sustainable development is essential for us all if we want to cope with the huge challenges brought by the climate change, increasing consumption of nature resources, decreasing of biodiversity, social problems, and development issues in many countries of the world. Schools and educational establishments have an important mission in supporting the growth of their students as environmentally and socially responsible and skilled citizens who are able to consider the aspects of sustainable development in their work and everyday lives. In Finland, the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Education have elaborated national strategies of education for sustainable development (2006). According to the targets of these strategies, all schools and educational establishments have sustainable development programmes by 2010, and 15% of schools and educational establishments have been certified for their sustainability work by 2014. Sustainable development is also incorporated as a comprehensive, subject crossing theme in the national core curricula of general and vocational education. Year 2000, Trade Union of Education in Finland OAJ took the initiative in preparing environmental criteria to help schools and educational establishments in their work for sustainable development. Environmental criteria and a certification system were developed in the Life Environment project Envedu (2001-2004), which received financial support from the European Commission and the Finnish Ministry of the Environment. The participants in the project were the Trade Union of Education in Finland OAJ, the OKKA Foundation, National Board of Education, Hyvinkää-Riihimäki Vocational Adult Education Centre, SYKLI Environmental School of Finland, University of Oulu, University of Joensuu and Cooperative Eco-One. From 2004 onwards, the OKKA Foundation has been responsible for the management of the certification system. During 2010, the environmental criteria and certification system were updated to cover the environmental, economic, social and cultural aspects of sustainability. The criteria apply to the basic education and general and vocational upper secondary education. The new criteria and related self-evaluation tools are based on the principle of quality circle (plan, do, check, act), and are applicable with quality systems. They provide a systematic tool for the planning of teaching and constructing sustainable development programmes. The criteria include sustainability themes such as responsible procurements, recycling and prevention of waste, energy and water, nutrition and health, safety, wellbeing of staff and students, cultural environment and cultural diversity. The idea is that the school selects annually one or more themes which are implemented in teaching and school culture. Before a school can apply for the Sustainable Development Certificate, it has to carry out a self-assessment. Furthermore, an independent, external auditor carries out an audit in the school. The school applies for the Environmental Certificate from the OKKA Foundation. The certificate is free of charge, but the school compensates the auditor for the costs due to the planning and implementation of the external audit. The certificate is valid for a three-year period at a time. By May 2011, the environmental/sustainable development certificate has been awarded to 33 educational establishments. The OKKA Foundation is responsible for maintaining and developing of the certification system which contains - criteria for integrating sustainability issues in the management, teaching and maintenance activities of educational establishments, - wide supporting material for the sustainable development work of educational institutions available on the certification website, - nation-wide auditor network which implements evaluation and development of the operation of schools and educational establishments, - teacher training courses supporting the construction of sustainable development programs, qualification and supplementary courses for auditors, - possibility for external evaluation and certification. The OKKA Foundation has a wide cooperation network to promote certification and sustainable development work in schools and educational establishments. Implementation and development of the certification system is done with support from the Ministry of Education. OKKA operates in projects and provides teacher training on sustainable development issues together with several partners. Close cooperation is also done with the Eco-Schools programme which is managed by the Finnish Association for Environmental Education. Sustainable Development Certification is not designed as a rival but a complementary system for the Eco-Schools programme.
Level of Education: Preschool, School
Lead Organisation: The OKKA Foundation for Teaching, Education and Personal Development