May 19, 2024

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UTM Pioneers Planetary Health Education: A Blueprint for Transformative Change in Higher Education

Planetary health is a burgeoning field of science and technology that explores the intricate relationship between human health and the well-being of the planet. It serves as a crucial bridge between scientific knowledge and actionable plans. The primary goal is to discover solutions to environmental and social challenges that pose threats to both humanity and nature. Planetary health encompasses key topics such as climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, food security, water scarcity, and infectious diseases.

This emerging field represents a transformative action plan in higher education and a related Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) framework. It provides a holistic understanding of the interconnected environmental, social, and health crises, urging educators to innovate solutions for contemporary challenges. Planetary health aims to identify and address complex challenges facing society, translating research efforts into tangible benefits for societal well-being. Since 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda has dominated intergovernmental discussions, emphasizing universal indicators fulfilling the requirements of the 5 Ps: Planet, People, Prosperity, Partnership, and Peace. Planetary health in the education sector is essential for achieving the transformative change needed in society today.

The University Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) stands out as one of the most proactive institutions in integrating sustainability across sectors in higher education. The institution’s comprehensive Sustainability Blueprint 2030, launched recently, outlines strategic initiatives for the next decade. This blueprint aligns with key elements of planetary health, such as low carbon and conservation/protection indicators, supporting future action plans. UTM’s task force of selected leaders is well-suited to form alliances or consortiums to develop the Planetary Health Education Framework and STI for Planetary Health in phases.

The proposed framework serves as a cohesive guide for institutions, educators, and learners to incorporate planetary health education into curricula. It functions as a common living laboratory, fostering collaboration across disciplines, sectors, geographies, and serving as a pilot test for diverse education strategies. For instance, utilizing clean water from underground sources on campus can prevent waterborne diseases and protect existing water resources. Moreover, conserving and restoring natural ecosystems, such as the Hutan Rekreasi and River Trails of UTM, supports biodiversity and ecosystem resilience on campus.

The Planetary Health Education Framework at UTM goes beyond a prescriptive list of competencies, recognizing diverse inquiries that shape planetary health concepts in STI and higher education. It promotes praxis, participatory teaching methods, and unique learning pathways responsive to environmental and societal well-being, local priorities, and global agendas. This framework facilitates the creation of diverse educational programs and learning resources in planetary health, necessitating significant changes in values and behaviors to ensure the care of the planet and its future resources.

 

By Professor Ir. Ts. Dr. Mohd Fadhil Md. Din, Director of UTM Campus Sustainability.

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