Caring for Life first officially accredited NGO curriculum for higher education in the world

After two years of preparation, ACTAsia’s Caring for Life course has been recognised as an official component of teacher training at Suzhou University of Science and Technology (SUST).

Suzhou University of Science and Technology in China has brought Caring for Life (CFL) to the foundations of education by adding two new modules for student teachers. This is a world-first for any educational institution in the world, and builds on the trust nurtured over several years between SUST and ACTAsia.

The development is fundamental to integrating CFL with mainstream education, ensuring newly qualified teachers learn the padagogy and importance of a holistic approach to whole-child development. More than 60 young influencers have already taken part in the course, and once qualified will launch their careers and become ambassadors for human responsiblity of the natural environment. These students will be the future teachers of China’s Moral Education syllabus, equivalent to the UK’s PHSE (Personal, Social, Health, Economic education).

The course was developed by ACTAsia’s education experts in consultation with SUST’s course director, Dr Ma, and will be delivered by both partners. It focuses on the interconnection between people, animals and the environment, taking the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as guidance for direction.

 

 

Lessons are based on five subject areas identified by ACTAsia, and used to structure the curriculum for primary children, and reflect UNESCO’s Four Pillars of Learning: Learning to Know, Learning to Do, Learning to Live Together, Learning to Be:

  1. The Web of Life
  2. Sentient Beings
  3. Care and Respect
  4. Interacting with Others
  5. Emotional Intelligence

These five subjects address the disconnect between people and nature which is problematic in Asian societies today, and contributes towards climate change and habitat destruction. Scientific evaluation of CFL for children has recently demonstrated how environmental behaviours improve after a course in CFL, while past research shows increased kindness towards peers and family. The results inspire optimism for the influence of CFL in future, and give the course the credibility necessary for this new academic platform.

“We reflect on the harmful effects of today’s consumerism, and focused on choosing the best teaching methods to cultivate empahty and critical thinking among the class of children,” said one student teacher.

Due to the current pandemic, all lessons this year have so far been delivered online, but once restrictions are lifted, face-to-face teaching with university and ACTAsia staff will begin.

Now that ACTAsia and SUST partners have delivered the first part of the course, the students are fulfilling their coursework, designing their own lesson plans for students, reflecting on what they have learnt, assessing the effectiveness of the lessons and reporting on their own teaching experience. As guest-lecturers for the course, ACTAsia staff will be marking this coursework.

“We are delighted that Caring for Life is now part of essential learning for student teachers,” said ACTAsia’s China Director of Education, Isobel Zhang. “The course has been so well received, and students have enjoyed the discussion around civic responsibility for living sustainably. My hope is that we will be able to roll-out our CFL modules to many universities across China in the coming years.”

SUST’s student teachers will help children respect and connect with nature.

Children will learn beyond the classroom from qualified teachers.

Growing produce in the school garden helps children to understand the interconnectedness of people and nature.