Viet Nam has experienced strong economic growth in recent years, however this has been at the increasing expense of the environment. Rapid industrialization and urbanization has led to a greater and greater impact on the environment, with significant pollution of air, land, and water. To combat the deteriorating situation, the Government of Viet Nam has launched the “Eco-Life” concept nationally in order to encourage the general public to raise awareness and encourage the public to adopt more environmentally friendly behaviour.
With its young and growing population, Viet Nam needs to ensure that the youth understand and embrace sustainable lifestyles. Although Viet Nam has introduced environmental education into the school curriculum, key to further awareness raising and the development of a sustainability mentality is involving the youth into practical activities that use their creativity while altering behaviour. Initial efforts have been centred on what are called “eco-challenges”, which are undertaken by the school to encourage a pro-environmental outlook and behaviour. They are seen as a good motivation for youth to discover themselves and will make them be confident to convince others on how to be sustainable. Such eco-challenges are daily practical requests for school students to do and record by themselves, such as ensuring waste is properly separated, and involving them in activities such as composting or urban gardening. These simple challenges will step by step change school students’ awareness on eco-life behaviour. Such challenges are also supplemented by the presence of student run eco-clubs within the schools (particularly at high schools), under which students pursue pro-environmental activities.
However such challenges are not fully widespread in Viet Nam, and currently do not incorporate a “whole school” approach advocated by organisations such as UNESCO whereby all aspects of the school (governance, curriculum, facilities, and community involvement) are addressed. Moreover, such eco-challenges have often been teacher-led, and students have had limited opportunities to develop and lead activities that impact the entire school. In addition, although Viet Nam has participated in the ASEAN Eco-Schools Programme, which recognizes schools that are pre-eminent in sustainability within the region, a national contest has yet to be established.
Viet Nam will therefore build on these foundations through the Global Search for Sustainable Schools whereby schools will submit plans for making their schools more sustainable, with 5 winning schools receiving funds for implementation. In parallel, internal capacity for mainstreaming and supporting sustainable schools will be further strengthened through the further development of education for sustainable development materials and eco-challenges activities. Dissemination will be conducted through a training of trainers (TOT) methodology. TOT is conceived as a cascade style of training – an initial cohort of trainers are taught, who then go on to disseminate the training further to others, who can teach others in turn and so on. In addition, an awareness raising campaign will be developed and implemented to encourage more students and communities participation in the project and incorporate sustainable lifestyles into their daily life.