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Biosphere Reserves for Environmental and Economic Security Initiative in Viet Nam

As a result of the Biosphere Reserves for Environmental and Economic Security Programme activities in Red River Delta Biosphere Reserve, parents, community and schools are collectively taking action to respond to climate change challenges in their locality and mainstreaming Education for Sustainable Development in school and extra-curricular activities. This model of linking teachers, students and community members in an inter-generational learning experience where teachers are trained and teach students, parents and community are trained and understand what their children are learning, students develop projects that interest the community or are in the interests of the community, and parents and community support project implementation, has demonstrated a highly effective and viable way of building the resilience of Viet Nam’s young and old to the risks and threats posed by climate change, disasters and biodiversity loss.

This project has been implemented as part of the Letter of Agreement between MOET and UNESCO on the Joint Work Plan for 2013 and has followed-up on the successful implementation of BREES activities in Cat Ba Biosphere Reserve in 2011. It was enhanced to build on lessons learnt and especially to strengthen the interaction between the three components: a) enhancing teachers’ capacity; b) awareness raising in parents and community; and c) awarding of student projects in environmental conservation and climate change mitigation.

Participating on behalf of MOET were the Departments for: Continuing Education; Teachers and Education Administrators; and Science, Technology and Environment. 

Enhancing teachers’ capacity

15 teachers from the 5 participating schools, together with 5 school principals/vice-principals, have enhanced their capacities to deliver lessons on climate change and biodiversity/environmental conservation, as well as in participatory teaching methodologies and development of lesson plans, as a result of a three-day training delivered by the Viet Nam Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB), with support of MOET and UNESCO. Training also covered the purpose and procedures of the Youth Awards and teachers’ roles in assisting students for youth award projects’ development and implementation with support from local community. MAB, MOET and UNESCO provided feedback to teachers after monitoring lessons’ delivery directly in the classroom.

Seven modules from the Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future multimedia teacher training programme most relevant to Red River Delta Biosphere Reserve were selected for teacher training and were as follows: i) Understanding sustainable development, ii) Accepting the challenge, iii) Citizenship education, iv) Consumer education, v) Women and sustainable development, vi) Sustainable communities, and vii) Climate change.

Teachers delivered lessons to students, incorporating inputs from community awareness raising training provided by Community Learning Centre (CLC) facilitators that resulted in identification of problems being faced by the community as a result of cc or loss of bio and in the proposal of practical actions students can carry out as a part of Youth Awards component to contribute to the communities’ needs.

Pre-and post-tests of teachers taking part in the training showed the following:

  • 75% of teachers could accurately define the term ‘sustainable development’ before the training; this number was raised to 90% following the training;
  • 10% of teachers could accurately define the terms ‘climate change mitigation and adaption’ before the training; this number was raised to over 70% following the training;
  • 50% of teachers indicated they felt the school should cooperate with the community in their actions before the training; 90% agreed with this idea following the training.

Awareness raising of parents and community

45 parents and community members of 5 CLCs have enhanced their capacities and are better able to take action to respond to challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss as a result of training on these areas and interaction with youth awards projects in the 5 participating schools. The parents and community members were trained by 10 CLC facilitators, who were themselves trained by MAB Viet Nam and UNESCO using training materials developed specifically for the sessions. A facilitators’ guidebook was developed and used to enhance the training of community members on climate change response and biodiversity/environmental conservation. During the training, the facilitators developed a lesson plan to be used during their training of parents and community. Monitoring of the training was carried out by the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), MAB Viet Nam and UNESCO.

During the training, community members identified specific climate change and biodiversity/environmental challenges in their locality. These challenges were then presented to students of the 5 local schools as potential areas that could be addressed by the Youth Awards projects.

These included:

  • Collect and separate waste to help conserve the local environment and to add to the process of recycling waste in the area;
  • Prevent and raise awareness of the improper disposal of rice straw by farmers, including the burning of excess straw from rice cultivation that pollutes the air;
  • Gain technical support from energy suppliers to help identify areas in the school that are particularly wasteful and reduce the consumption of electricity in schools by replacing inefficient equipment;
  • Raise awareness in the community about the need to save energy via a student-led campaign;
  • Collect used books, notebooks, newspapers, picture books and other waste paper from the community to be used in school and/or community libraries;
  • Plant mangrove trees to improve natural sea defenses.

Awarding of student projects in environmental conservation and climate change mitigation

Students have developed and are implementing, with support of local community members, projects with concrete actions in responding to climate change as a result of their increased understanding of climate change, biodiversity and environmental conservation, having been taught lessons on these areas by trained teachers. Students’ capacity to develop projects and activities was also enhanced through an orientation session delivered by MAB and UNESCO in which the Youth Awards and the procedures on how to prepare project proposals were introduced. The five best project proposals out of 19 that were presented were selected jointly by MOET, MAB and UNESCO (one for each school). These five projects were awarded each a grant of US$500 to support their implementation and to ensure that each project was developed and monitored in a way that would allow for the production of step-by-step project guidelines which will be shared with other schools in Viet Nam wishing to replicate the projects. Students and teachers who submitted the winning proposals then involved students and teachers from the other two proposals in each school to work on the award-winning initiatives. Local expertise provided by community members, parents, an agricultural cooperative and the district Bureau of Agriculture ensured a scientific approach to the implementation of projects and adequate community assistance to ensure successful implementation of the students’ projects. School projects responded to priority concerns raised by the local community and included:

  • Tackling the problems caused by the widespread burning of agricultural waste by producing environmentally friendly fertilizer from discarded rice straw;
  • Planting and caring for trees with support of family and community to change local attitudes towards conserving and protecting nature;
  • Producing an organic vegetable garden in the school to raise awareness of the importance of using natural fertilizer instead of chemical fertilizer;
  • Campaigning to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic bags in the area;
  • Implementing sawdust bedding in family-scale livestock farms to absorb animal waste and reduce water run-off, thus reducing water pollution in the area.

Students used local media to deliver regular updates to community members on the progress of their projects and to provide local people with basic information about the environmental challenges facing their communities and the behavioural changes required to tackle them. These regular broadcasts helped to raise community awareness on fundamental environmental issues whilst promoting local interest in the school projects thus fostering participation from community.

In addition to regular monitoring of project progress, MAB Secretary General and UNESCO Representative, with participation of technical staff, conducted a mid-term review of the five projects and provided feedback and additional support where needed. School principals committed to continue the projects in their schools and to especially strengthen the relationship with parents and community.

A documentary has been produced to record all activities, experiences and lessons learnt during the BREES Red River Delta project implementation. Comments by school principals, vice principals, parents and community members were recorded to share this positive experience with other schools.

A final event, organised and hosted by the Director of Education and Training (DOET), will be held in November which will provide MAB and UNESCO the opportunity to share the project film with beneficiaries and for schools to discuss their projects in terms of the significance of the experience and lessons learned. Sustainability and expansion to other schools in the province will also be part of the discussions during this final event as will the assistance to be provided by relevant authorities to the school and community initiatives. Five teachers, one from each of the five schools, are currently writing a short guideline outlining the steps involved in implementing their project, providing tips to ensure successful results and suggestions on how to link lesson plans to project activities. The five guidelines will be made available to all teachers in Viet Nam who wish to replicate the projects through an online platform that is being built as part of the Education for Sustainable Development Initiative being implemented with the Ministry of Education and Training, with support of Samsung.

List of achievements:

  • Teachers and principals have enhanced their capacities to deliver lessons on climate change and biodiversity/environmental conservation.
  • CLC facilitators were trained and delivered awareness raising training for parents and community members of CLCs on climate change and biodiversity/environmental conservation who better able to support their children’s learning.
  • Teachers and CLC facilitators are now equipped with teaching materials, participatory teaching methods and project implementing skills and experience to continue raising awareness of students and community on issues of climate change and biodiversity conservation.
  • As a result of the lessons delivered by trained teachers on climate change and biodiversity/environmental conservation, students have developed projects that directly involve their communities in concrete actions and in awareness raising.
  • As an official activity in MOET’s 2013 workplan with UNESCO, BREES is providing important inputs to the renovation of the country’s curriculum through 2015 by showing concrete examples of good practices in incorporating Education for Sustainable Development in school and extra-curricular activities, and in linking communities to schools in tackling sustainable development challenges through practical activities.
  • Raising awareness of community, parents, school principals, teachers and students, as well the joint implementation of environmental projects by community and schools, has begun to change attitudes towards coordinated and practical strategies for responding to climate change. Schools and community are aware of the importance and feasibility of taking joint action to build not only immediate resilience to the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss, but to instil a mind-set among future generations to take action to protect Viet Nam’s natural resources in the long-term.
  • The BREES project will have benefits beyond Nam Dinh Province and the Red River Delta. Results of the implementation of the BREES programme in the Red River Delta will be shared with relevant partners, potential donors and other biosphere reserves to serve as a reference for future implementation in other locations. The project experience will also be shared through the Asian Green Network of Biosphere Reserves and World Natural Heritage Sites.
  • The results of this project will also be a concrete contribution towards the production of open license e-learning teacher training courses that UNESCO and MOET, with support of Samsung, are working on in the areas of biodiversity conservation, climate change and disaster risk reduction, which will be made available to all teachers in Viet Nam.
  • Students enhanced the impact and reach of their awareness raising campaigns by utilising local radio stations to promote their projects and to provide local people with basic information about the environmental challenges facing their communities and the behavioural changes required to tackle them.