Introducing green thinking in vocational training

In Estonia, Norwegian and Estonian schools are working together to make environmental thinking an indispensable part of vocational education.

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“Vocational schools currently pay little attention to the environmental awareness in their curriculum. That's why we wanted to change thinking and behaviour in our school,” says Siret Lillemäe, Project Manager at VKHK.

Voru County Vocational Training Centre (VKHK) in Estonia is currently cooperating with the Norwegian Etterstad Videregaaende Skole to ensure that the themes of environment and sustainable development are introduced into the national curriculum. Whilst widespread consideration is given to environmental awareness in Estonian preschools, elementary and secondary schools, the issues are not fully integrated into vocational education.

The project, ‘Designing Environmental Thinking in Vocational Training’ aims to draw attention to the benefit of environmentally focused curricula by integrating environmental thinking into all courses in vocational training. Through the project, students complete various environmentally themed assignments ranging from essays assessing the schools recycling and energy efficiency, to producing bottle openers from recycled materials.

Creating new materials

The reason why there isn’t a strong environmental focus is in part due to the limited availability of teaching and study materials on the topic. Through multiple project meetings, seminars and workshops the partner schools have had the opportunity to get-together and develop new teaching materials by exchanging experience and knowledge.

The new materials will be important in making green thinking an integrated part of life. “The benefit of the cooperation extends beyond the project itself as new materials can be used by other schools, not only nationally in Estonia, but in Norway as well,” explains Lillemäe.

Student companies

The project includes the ‘Student Company’, an initiative Etterstad Videregaaende Skole has previously implemented with good results. The initiative is designed to assist students in starting their own companies during the school year. A pilot project was implemented at VKHK during the 2013/2014 school year and a follow-up module is planned for the current school year.

Student company Christmas stand. Photo: VKHK

“The value of the project lies especially in the idea of using the student company as a learning tool which helps develop students’ entrepreneurial skills and spirit,” says Lillemäe, “the student company project provides a first-hand experience for students in setting up a company in a supportive, non-risk environment. It teaches skills needed for launching a start-up company which are also relevant for students entering the labour market as employees.”

Successful cooperation

The project is based on a previously established partnership between the two countries. “We already have one other project with our Norwegian partners so when I told them about our idea they were very interested,” explains Lillemäe and notes that the support of the EEA and Norway Grants has been an important component of maintaining the successful cooperation.

Project Partners at the Räpina Environmental House. Photo: VKHK

About the project

Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway contribute € 45,009 to the project.

Read more about the ‘Designing Environmental Thinking in Vocational Education’ project

Read more about the ‘Scholarship’ programme in Estonia