Sustainability

Overview

The Australian Curriculum places emphasis on Sustainability as a priority for study that connects and relates relevant aspects of content across learning areas and subjects.

Cross-curriculum learning is fundamental to:

  • understanding the ways social, economic and environmental systems interact to support and maintain human life
  • appreciating and respecting the diversity of views and values that influence sustainable development
  • participating critically and acting creatively in determining more sustainable ways of living.

Through the priority of Sustainability, students develop the knowledge, skills, values and world views necessary to contribute to more sustainable patterns of living.

The Sustainability cross-curriculum priority

Sustainability addresses the ongoing capacity of Earth to maintain all life.

Sustainable patterns of living meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Actions to improve sustainability are individual and collective endeavours shared across local and global communities. They necessitate a renewed and balanced approach to the way humans interact with each other and the environment.

Education for sustainability develops the knowledge, skills, values and world views necessary for people to act in ways that contribute to more sustainable patterns of living. It enables individuals and communities to reflect on ways of interpreting and engaging with the world. Sustainability education is futures-oriented, focusing on protecting environments and creating a more ecologically and socially just world through informed action. Actions that support more sustainable patterns of living require consideration of environmental, social, cultural and economic systems and their interdependence.

Key ideas

Key concepts

The Sustainability priority has been developed around the three key concepts of systems, world views and futures.

The first key concept explores the interdependent and dynamic nature of systems that support all life on Earth and our collective wellbeing.

The second concept enables a diversity of world views on ecosystems, values and social justice to be discussed and recognised when determining individual and community actions for sustainability.

The third concept is aimed at building capacities for thinking and acting in ways that are necessary to create a more sustainable future. The concept seeks to promote reflective thinking processes in young people and empower them to design action that will lead to more a more equitable and sustainable future. 

Organising ideas

Code Organising ideas
Systems
OI.1 The biosphere is a dynamic system providing conditions that sustain life on Earth.
OI.2 All life forms, including human life, are connected through ecosystems on which they depend for their wellbeing and survival.
OI.3 Sustainable patterns of living rely on the interdependence of healthy social, economic and ecological systems.
World views
OI.4 World views that recognise the dependence of living things on healthy ecosystems, and value diversity and social justice, are essential for achieving sustainability.
OI.5 World views are formed by experiences at personal, local, national and global levels, and are linked to individual and community actions for sustainability.
Futures
OI.6 The sustainability of ecological, social and economic systems is achieved through informed individual and community action that values local and global equity and fairness across generations into the future. 
OI.7 Actions for a more sustainable future reflect values of care, respect and responsibility, and require us to explore and understand environments.
OI.8 Designing action for sustainability requires an evaluation of past practices, the assessment of scientific and technological developments, and balanced judgements based on projected future economic, social and environmental impacts.
OI.9 Sustainable futures result from actions designed to preserve and/or restore the quality and uniqueness of environments. 

Learning Areas

Learning area statements

All Australian Curriculum learning areas have a potential to contribute to the sustainability cross-curriculum priority. Sustainability is included in each learning area in ways that are consistent with the content and purpose of the area of study. Each learning area contributes differently to the Sustainability cross-curriculum priority, its key concepts and organising ideas. For example, some have content that enables students to work with ecological and human systems and to appreciate their interdependence. Others contribute to the development of world views necessary for students to act to create a more socially and ecologically just world. There are others that provide content that challenges students to consider sustainable futures and to design and take action that recognises projected future economic, social and environmental impacts.

While some learning areas do not address sustainability directly in their content descriptions, they may still contribute to learning that is essential for understanding sustainability issues by providing the analytical, measurement and persuasive skills needed to advocate effectively for sustainability.

Across the Australian Curriculum, content descriptions and elaborations tagged with the sustainability symbol illustrate how content might be taught in relation to the Sustainability cross-curriculum priority.

English

The Australian Curriculum: English helps students develop the skills necessary to investigate, analyse and communicate ideas and information related to sustainability, and to advocate, generate and evaluate actions for sustainable futures. The content in the language, literature and literacy strands is key to developing and sharing knowledge about social, economic and ecological systems and world views that promote social justice. In this learning area, students may interrogate a range of texts to shape their decision-making in relation to sustainability. They develop the understanding and skills necessary to act responsibly and create texts that inform and persuade others to take action for sustainable futures.

Mathematics

In the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics, students can develop the proficiencies of problem-solving and reasoning essential for the exploration of sustainability issues and their solutions. Students apply spatial reasoning, measurement, estimation, calculation and comparison to gauge local ecosystem health and can cost proposed actions for sustainability. Mathematical understandings and skills are necessary to measure, monitor and quantify change in social, economic and ecological systems over time and statistical analysis enables the prediction of probable futures based on findings and helps inform decision-making and actions that will lead to preferred futures.

Science

In the Australian Curriculum: Science, the Sustainability priority provides contexts for investigating and understanding chemical, biological, physical and Earth and space systems. Students explore a wide range of systems that operate at different time and spatial scales. By investigating the relationships between systems and system components and how systems respond to change, students develop an appreciation for the interconnectedness of Earth’s biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. Relationships including cycles and cause and effect are explored, and students develop observation and analysis skills to examine these relationships in the world around them. In this learning area, students appreciate that science provides the basis for decision-making in many areas of society and that these decisions can impact on the Earth system. They understand the importance of using science to predict possible effects of human and other activity and to develop management plans or alternative technologies that minimise these effects.

Humanities and the Social Sciences

The Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences helps students develop the ability to question, think critically, solve problems, communicate effectively, make decisions and adapt to change. Students respond to the challenges of sustainability requiring an understanding of the key historical, geographical, political, economic and societal factors involved, and how these different factors interrelate. The learning area provides content that supports the development of students’ world views, particularly in relation to judgements about past social and economic systems, and access to and use of Earth’s resources. It gives students opportunities to integrate their study of biophysical processes with investigations of the attitudinal, demographic, social, economic and political influences on human use and management of the environment. The curriculum prepares students to be informed consumers, to act in enterprising and innovative ways and to perceive business opportunities in changing local, regional and global economic environments. Students explore contemporary issues of sustainability and develop action plans and possible solutions to local, national and global issues which have social, economic and environmental perspectives.

The Arts

The Australian Curriculum: The Arts provides engaging and thought-provoking contexts in which to explore the nature of art making and responding. It enables the exploration of the role of The Arts in maintaining and transforming cultural practices, social systems and the relationships of people to their environment. Through making and responding in The Arts, students consider issues of sustainability in relation to resource use and traditions in each of The Arts subjects. The Arts provides opportunities for students to express and develop world views, and to appreciate the need for collaboration within and between communities to implement more sustainable patterns of living. In this learning area, students use the exploratory and creative platform of The Arts to advocate effective action for sustainability.

Technologies

The Australian Curriculum: Technologies enables consideration of preferred futures. When students identify and critique a problem, need or opportunity; generate ideas and concepts; and create solutions, they give prime consideration to sustainability by anticipating and balancing economic, environmental and social impacts. The curriculum focuses on the knowledge, understanding and skills necessary to design for effective sustainability action taking into account issues such as resource depletion and climate change. The learning area gives students opportunities to explore their own and competing viewpoints, values and interests. Understanding systems enables students to work with complexity, uncertainty and risk; make connections between disparate ideas and concepts; self-critique; and propose creative solutions that enhance sustainability. Students reflect on past and current practices, and assess new and emerging technologies from a sustainability perspective.

Health and Physical Education

In the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education, students explore how they connect and interact with natural, managed and built environments, and with people in different social groups within their social networks and wider communities. They consider how these connections and interactions within systems play an important role in promoting, supporting and sustaining the wellbeing of individuals, the community and the environment as a whole, now and into the future. Students develop their world view by exploring concepts of diversity, social justice and consumerism as these relate to the promotion and maintenance of health and wellbeing. Through movement experiences, students are provided with opportunities to develop a connection in and with environments and to gain an appreciation of the interdependence of the health of people and that of environments.

Languages

The Australian Curriculum: Languages contributes to students’ capabilities to investigate, analyse and communicate concepts and understandings related to sustainability in broad contexts, and to advocate, generate and evaluate actions for sustainable futures. Within each language, students engage with a range of texts focused on concepts related to sustainability.

In this way, students develop knowledge and understanding about sustainability within particular cultural contexts. This is crucial in the context of national and international concerns about, for example, climate change, food shortages and alternative ways of caring for land and agriculture. Through developing a capability to interact with others, negotiating meaning and mutual understanding respectfully and reflecting on communication, students learn to live and work in ways that are productive and sustainable.

Work Studies

The Australian Curriculum: Work Studies provides opportunities for students to observe and reflect on ways individuals apply workplace practices that value and protect environments as well as the health and welfare of themselves and other workers. In reviewing work-related experiences, students reflect on personal behaviours and practices that contribute to more sustainable enterprises. Students recognise the relationship between social and environmental sustainability and how one is necessary for the other. Through study of the operation of organisations, students appreciate the interdependence of economic, social and environmental factors in moving towards more sustainable industries. When applying their skills and knowledge to solve problems or implement projects, they take into account sustainability as a key factor in realising solutions. They recognise the need for respecting diversity and social justice to achieve outcomes that lead to a more sustainable future.