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Sustainable Learning

Melissa AU

(Revised on 18 August 2022)


Extended school closure has caused disruption in teaching and learning that impacted not only students, but also families, societies and educators globally. According to the recent global survey conducted by UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank and OECD (2021), around one in three countries is taking the first step to mitigate learning loss. Strategies like distance learning, remedial curriculum, longer school days, shorter summer break have been adopted to make up for what has been "lost". While the field is busy "recovering education", some scholars argued that learning has not been lost but transformed. Rachael Gabriel, Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut suggests that learning is never lost, though it may not always be "found" on pre-written tests of pre-specified knowledge or pre-existing measures of pre-coronavirus notions of achievement." Yong Zhao (2021) from the University of Melbourne calls the whole notion of learning loss "a dangerous trap" that can lead to "undesirable outcomes" because the measure of learning has narrowly been defined by high stakes exam scores in key content areas. He urges us to unbind our thinking so we can "pay attention to all educational outcomes" and "engage learners as partners of change and owners of their learning."

The pandemic offers us a chance to make radical change, to think differently about pedagogies, teaching and learning outcomes, and education as a whole. Our view needs to be much longer and complex, in keeping with the uncertainty of our times; we need significant overhaul, not tinkering or minor tweaking. We are called to make a shift from incremental learning to sustainable learning, moving from the what of learning to the who of learning, i.e., the learner as a precious and unique human being. Sustainable learning is not education about sustainability but education for sustainability, that is education for learning that is perennially relevant and also profoundly consequential and therefore can be enduring and transformative. Sustainable learning aims to empower learners to prevail and thrive in the face of ever-changing circumstances and multifaceted challenges. It emphasises authenticity and meaningfulness to activate learners’ creativity and imagination and cultivate deep and transferable learning. We have been teaching as if we can predict what happens next, as we know what learners will need to be “future-ready.” The reality is we haven’t the faintest idea what lies ahead and instead of fixing our gaze on teaching some-thing, we need to recommit our efforts to teaching some-one for some-thing bigger—a future that young people conceive and create themselves, following pathways towards new directions that we cannot yet imagine.

Below are some relevant and timely school examples, internet resources and scholarly contributions that raise issues, considerations, challenges as we are rethinking and re-envisioning ways to design, create, and research learning opportunities and teaching processes to meet the needs of all students and to prepare them to be makers of the future.


Sustainable Learning

Highly-Cited Academic Articles (Based on analysed results from Web of Science)


Extended Readings


YouTube Videos


Articles Published in/about the Region





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