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Pre-University engagement and education for sustainable development in Aruba: The Academic Foundation Year


Chapman, Mollie; Eppinga, Maarten B; de Scisciolo, Tobia; Mijts, Eric N (2024). Pre-University engagement and education for sustainable development in Aruba: The Academic Foundation Year. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 25(1):78-103.

Abstract

Purpose
Universities of Small Island States (SIS) have the potential to fulfill a crucial role in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but also face barriers to local capacity building. The University of Aruba partly addresses these challenges through the development of The Academic Foundation Year (AFY), a one-year pre-university program aiming to optimally equip students for higher education. This study aims to assess to what extent the program can foster the local embeddedness of the students in ecology, culture and history and an understanding of opportunities and challenges for sustainable development in SIS.


Design/methodology/approach
The authors provide examples of how the program incorporates education for sustainable development and how it emphasizes experiential learning. In addition, quantitative survey data and qualitative analysis of focus group meetings are used to reflect on the program’s achievements and its potential for further development.


Findings
The survey results suggest that AFY courses not only increase knowledge but also change students’ perceptions regarding sustainability. Indeed, key impacts emerging from the student focus group related to both academic preparation and engagement with sustainability. Reflections by teachers emphasized the importance of experiential learning, an expansive view of the SDGs and preparing students as citizens.


Originality/value
This study highlights that the program could provide a starting point for the development of similar initiatives in other SIS, the common basis being the fostering of sustainability literacy and social adoption of the SDGs.

Abstract

Purpose
Universities of Small Island States (SIS) have the potential to fulfill a crucial role in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but also face barriers to local capacity building. The University of Aruba partly addresses these challenges through the development of The Academic Foundation Year (AFY), a one-year pre-university program aiming to optimally equip students for higher education. This study aims to assess to what extent the program can foster the local embeddedness of the students in ecology, culture and history and an understanding of opportunities and challenges for sustainable development in SIS.


Design/methodology/approach
The authors provide examples of how the program incorporates education for sustainable development and how it emphasizes experiential learning. In addition, quantitative survey data and qualitative analysis of focus group meetings are used to reflect on the program’s achievements and its potential for further development.


Findings
The survey results suggest that AFY courses not only increase knowledge but also change students’ perceptions regarding sustainability. Indeed, key impacts emerging from the student focus group related to both academic preparation and engagement with sustainability. Reflections by teachers emphasized the importance of experiential learning, an expansive view of the SDGs and preparing students as citizens.


Originality/value
This study highlights that the program could provide a starting point for the development of similar initiatives in other SIS, the common basis being the fostering of sustainability literacy and social adoption of the SDGs.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Research Priority Programs > Global Change and Biodiversity
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Human Factors and Ergonomics
Social Sciences & Humanities > Education
Uncontrolled Keywords:Education, Human Factors and Ergonomics
Language:English
Date:2 January 2024
Deposited On:21 Sep 2023 07:34
Last Modified:26 Jun 2024 03:40
Publisher:Emerald Publishing
ISSN:1467-6370
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1108/ijshe-10-2022-0334