Legal and Jurisprudential Aspects of Mandatory 'Environmental Literacy' Programmes in Tertiary Education
Warnock, Ceri Ailsa
There is a significant and growing body of literature that considers how Universities might act as a catalyst in fostering sustainability from the perspectives of management and administration, promoting research into sustainability issues and developing curricula that enables students to acquire ‘environmental literacy’ and to explore sustainability values. However, an emergent theme in the international research is that, “Universities, expected to be at the cutting edge of thought and practice, are behind the curve on this trend – far behind”. Focusing upon curriculum development, many Universities around the world have considered how programmes of study might adequately equip students to develop the necessary literacy that would enable them to explore present and future concepts of sustainability in its many guises. In certain forms this has included mandatory requirements; students must take particular papers or must include a set numbers of select papers within their degree structure regardless of the subject of their major. The present paper analyses this approach from within a legal and jurisprudential framework. The first question to be addressed is whether Universities should promote ‘environmental literacy’ to all students. Much of the existing literature automatically assumes that this is invariably ‘a good thing’ but certain factions in society would counter-argue that particular philosophies should not be imposed upon all. In addressing this initial hurdle the paper considers whether ‘environmental literacy’ addressing concepts of sustainability should be afforded privileged treatment in tertiary education. Thereafter, using New Zealand as a case study, consideration is given to the interplay between Universities role as ‘critic and conscience of the nation’ and academic freedom (prescribed by Education Acts) and how various curriculum initiatives fit within these concepts. The concept of academic freedom for students is an important consideration and laws guaranteeing human rights might be pertinent in assessing the validity of mandatory courses or components of programmes. The paper considers whether compulsory courses or programmes transgress academic freedom or flout legal rights.
Conference: ICERI2010 Conference, Madrid, Spain
Keywords: Jurisprudence; Environmental literacy; Sustainability; Academic freedom
Research Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper published in proceedings)