Ellen MacArthur Foundation working to develop circular economy IB curriculum

The International Baccalaureate (IB) and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) have partnered to work on embedding systems thinking and perspectives on the circular economy into the IB curriculum.

The new partnership, in development since 2013, will give students the opportunity to actively participate in shaping a positive future working towards a sustainable economy for the globalised world that works in the long-term.Ellen MacArthur Foundation working to develop circular economy IB curriculum

Founded in 2010, the EMF endeavours to facilitate the thinking around and the transition to a circular economy, one that focuses on the long-term reuse and regeneration of resources, through working to assess the economic potential and value of the circular economy, developing business initiatives and capacity-building, and creating a global teaching and learning platform.

The IB offers four educational programmes, ranging in age from three to 19, which reach over 1.3 million students in 147 countries. The new partnership places an emphasis on the importance of education in developing innovative thinking to creating a sustainable economy, and was launched at the IB’s recent Africa, Europe and Middle East Regional Conference (6-8 October), where Dame Ellen MacArthur gave a speech before 1,500 IB educators.

‘We need an entire generation of young people and adults thinking differently’

During her speech, MacArthur said: “The link with education is clear. We need an entire generation of young people and adults alike thinking differently, thinking in circular ways. At the moment our economy is predominantly linear: we take a material out of the ground, we make something out of it and ultimately that product, in the most part, gets thrown away. 

“Circular thinking means considering from the beginning of the process of designing a product, how to design it to fit within a system, and how the materials it contains will be recovered after use. So it’s an entirely different approach, and in order to apply this at scale across the global economy we need to think differently.

“We are delighted to be collaborating with the IB, which works with people from all over the world who already have a different point of view because of their studies. The fascinating thing about working with young people is that, given the right inputs, they inspire themselves, and embrace new ideas and a different way of thinking. This fits beautifully with systems thinking and the circular economy and the ability to see the world in a different way.”

Classroom resources and curriculum innovation

The approach that the partnership between the two organisations will take will largely be based on the provision of classroom resources, which place the cross-cutting themes of systems thinking, understanding the interconnectedness and interactions of components that define a system, and the circular economy at the heart of curriculum learning.

Expanding on this approach, Dr Siva Kumani, IB Director General, stated: “As well as classroom resources, the IB will also work with the Foundation on curriculum innovation, exploring the importance of project-based, interdisciplinary learning that enables learners to consider the interconnectedness of our increasingly complex world”.

As well as the IB, the EMF recently announced a partnership with United World Colleges (UWC), an organisation working through 16 international schools and colleges, national committees in 150 countries, and various other projects, all accessible to students of all socio-economic backgrounds.

In addition to this, the EMF has been heavily involved in the creation of two university degrees at the universities of Cranfield, a dedicated postgraduate university, and Bradford. These courses were set up earlier in 2016 and in 2013 respectively.

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