Education for sustainability in certificate and vocational education at a New Zealand polytechnic

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Sharma, Rashika
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Education
Unitec Institute of Technology
Panko, Mary
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
vocational education
environmental sustainability
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Sharma, R. (2009). Education for sustainability in certificate and vocational education at a New Zealand polytechnic. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from
The years 2005-2014 have been declared by the United Nations as the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (United Nations, 2002) in the hope that all levels of education around the world will work towards making changes in the curriculum to reflect concepts of sustainability (Parliamentary Commission for the Environment (PCE), 2004). Literature reviewed on the topic has revealed that the concept of sustainability is inconsistently incorporated into education. Although sustainability concepts might be included in degree level studies at tertiary institutes (Stone & Baldoni, 2006), little progress was made towards implementing curricula change to reflect sustainability concepts into certificate and vocational education. As a result of this finding it was important to understand why the progress towards education for sustainability (EfS) was taking so long in the rapidly expanding fields of certificate and vocational education. This research therefore set out to gain perspectives about education for sustainability from some of the main key players in the vocational and trade education sector: academics, industry personnel and students. A qualitative research method was selected and a case study was used as the method of inquiry which collected data through interviews conducted with academics and industry personnel and questionnaires distributed to students. The analysis indicated that academics and industry personnel saw sustainability as being irrelevant to certificate and vocational education and also indicated that their awareness level about the concept is relatively low. Students on the other hand were more optimistic about the concept of sustainability and understood its relevance. The practice of sustainability was also perceived as being an expensive process by all the three researched groups. There seemed to be immense negativity towards integrating sustainability concepts into certificate and vocational education by academics and industry personnel but greater enthusiasm from students. This research establishes that the slow progress of education for sustainability into the vocational and trade curriculum is basically a result of lack of awareness in the industry and among academics. This thesis concludes with recommendations for addressing this problem.
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