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Creating an integral approach to sustainability in the WA public school system

Raso, Phillip (2014) Creating an integral approach to sustainability in the WA public school system. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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Moving towards a sustainable future will require the involvement of all sectors of Australian society. In 2012, South Fremantle Senior High School, a public school in Western Australia (WA), successfully became the first officially certified carbon neutral school in Australia. This achievement has demonstrated that sustainable, low carbon schools could indeed become a reality and confronted with the challenges of climate change, population growth and increasing energy costs, a public school system premised on the principles of sustainability will become a necessity.

With sustainability strategies readily available, yet little progress being made to prepare schools in WA for these future challenges, it is proposed that on a societal scale the barriers to creating change are psychosocial, behavioural and cultural: a symptom of conflicting perspectives or worldviews with competing priorities. The guiding aim of this thesis has been to determine how these different worldviews can be reconciled so that a concerted effort to transform the WA public school system can become a reality.

The major research strategy that was adopted was a two part literature review beginning with an analysis of policy documents, scientific reports and contemporary publications to critique efforts to introduce sustainability into WA. Next, a review was undertaken of theoretical approaches to sustainable development. This analysis exposed a gap between the theoretical understandings of sustainability and practical application of sustainability in the WA context with further research from the field of developmental psychology able to provide insights as to why this has occurred.

The results of the study revealed a number of policy, funding and resource deficiencies in integrating sustainability into the WA public school system: each deficiency a consequence of competing value orientations and worldviews within the WA State Government, public schools and the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI). By reassigning functions such as funding, regulation and innovation with the institutions they are most naturally suited to under an Integral worldviews model, efficient and cost-effective change becomes possible through the processes of ecological modernisation.

This research has implications for other sectors of government and society which seek to undertake transformative change. The premise for the organisational model proposed is easily transferrable and provides the blueprint to overcome the stagnation in efforts to address climate change and issues of sustainability by ushering in new cognitive abilities under an Integral worldview.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Management and Governance
Supervisor(s): Johnstone, Allan
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