THE ROLE OF EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN FOSTERING STUDENTS’ INNOVATIVENESS AT TECHNICAL UNIVERSITIES
Keywords:sustainable development, education for sustainable development, cross-disciplinarity, innovativeness, creative thinking, technical universities, knowledge-based economy, knowledge society
The transition from postindustrialism to knowledge-based economy requires a fundamental transformation of education system. Therefore, in the last decade, national governments and education institutions have been challenged by new demands set by the European Union and UNESCO to re-orient a traditional disciplinary paradigm of education towards Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). It is a more contextualized approach to education, which seeks to systematically and innovatively address complex socio-economic and environmental issues of a contemporary globalized society. ESD relies on a joined-up and cross-discipline thinking and practice which serves to uniquely and creatively configurate ideas from different fields. Thus, the new paradigm of education recognizes the importance of developing innovative and creative thinking of learners, as well as a strong interrelation between sustainable development and innovation.
The current paper aims to identify the role of ESD in fostering innovativeness of students from different engineering fields at technical universities. Moreover, it seeks to reconsider the concepts of innovativeness and creative thinking in terms of a new paradigm of knowledge. It also questions whether teachers’ and students’s attitudes toward these competences could possibly have some effects on developing them in students. Finally, it seeks to check a hypothesis that there is a correlation between lecturers’ attitudes toward students’ creative capabilities and students’ self-evaluation.
The relevance of the research lies in the fact that in the face of local and global challenges, universities are reluctant or slow to transform the traditional paradigm of education into a new one. There is a lack of consistency in implementing the principles of ESD in curricula of universities. Very often technical universities show inadequate attention to interdisciplinary and context-specific model of learning as well as such general purpose competences as innovativeness and creative thinking. This threatens universities to become technocratic institutions.The present study employs qualitative descriptive and explanatory research methods. An extensive research and a critical evaluation of international and Lithuanian literature on the field have been done in order to offer the current perspective on the issue. What is more, a pilot survey on the students of Lithuanian technical universities supplementes the qualitative research by providing with their opinions on the issue. The results of a theoretical study points out to some limitations of a traditional disciplinary paradigm which fails to foster students’ creativity and innovativeness at technical universities at their full potential. Similarly, the findings of the students’ survey support the results of the qualitative study. However, they also reveal a significant potential of ESD to spawn these general purpose competences, which, in a long-term, could contribute to sustainable development at the national and global levels