Efforts related to sustainable development have been carried out for a long time at the Viikki Teacher Training School, as evidenced by the sustainable development certification of educational establishments awarded by the OKKA Foundation for Teaching, Education and Personal Development. The certificate was initially awarded to our school in summer 2011, preceded by an environmental certificate awarded to us in 2008 by the same foundation. Our school also participates in the Vihreä lippu (‘Green flag’, internationally known as Eco-Schools) programme and, as part of Viikki Campus, the Green Office programme.
Sustainable development efforts are carried out at the Viikki Teacher Training School through four programmes in particular:
1) Five themes are collectively selected for the sustainable development certificate awarded by the OKKA Foundation, some of which relate to ecologically sustainable development, some to socially and culturally sustainable development. In the initial certification process of 2011, our school’s themes were water and energy, waste, the prevention of bullying and exclusion, student welfare services and other support for learning, as well as the school’s own traditions and collaboration. The certificate was renewed in 2014, 2017 and 2020.
Further information about the OKKA Foundation certificate and its requirements.
2) Vihreä lippu is a sustainable development programme for day care centres, schools and educational institutions, which is coordinated in Finland by FEE Suomi (previously the Finnish Association for Environmental Education). The programme, which is part of the international Eco-Schools programme, is a good match for the OKKA Foundation certificate. In all, there are almost 50,000 Eco-Schools in the world: in nearly all European countries, as well as in Asia, Africa, the Americas and Australia.
Key to the programme is participation: a sustainable development panel composed of our pupils and students is a central contributor to brainstorming and planning. From the fifth grade to the general upper secondary school groups, the pupils and students choose their representatives for the panel. The panel is supported by a sustainable development working group comprising members of staff, which includes, in addition to teachers, representatives of the principals, cafeteria staff, IT support and porters/cleaners.
The themes of sustainable development are revised at 18-month intervals through elections held for pupils and students. The following themes have been implemented at our school: water (2010), energy (2011), local environment (2012), the climate and climate change (2013–2014), socially sustainable development (2014–2015) as well as waste, energy and forests (2016–2017). In the school year 2018–2019, the themes were nutrition and ecological food production as well as wellbeing. In the school year 2019–2020, the theme was the circular economy (not carried out as a Vihreä lippu project), while in 2020–2021 the theme was the preservation of natural resources.
Further information about the Vihreä lippu project
3) Green Office is an environmental service for offices provided by the WWF that is also suited to the school world with its partially office-like environment involving computers, lighting fixtures and paper documentation. The University of Helsinki’s Viikki Campus, and the Viikki Teacher Training School as part of it, has been awarded the Green Office label. Related audits were carried out in 2012 and 2017.
One of Finland’s largest solar power plants has been built on Viikki Campus. Its rated output is 1.2 MW, and the solar cells are located on the roofs of the campus buildings. Unfortunately, panels have not been installed on the roof of the Viikki Teacher Training School in spite of requests, since the energy they would generate cannot be utilised in the summer when the school is closed.
Further information about the Green Office (in Finnish only) service
4) The Viikki Teacher Training School is part of the UNESCO Associated Schools Networks (in Finnish only).
Besides the themes, sustainable development is part of everyday life at the school in terms of both waste sorting and teaching – sustainable development is taken into consideration in all school subjects. Related activities include waste-related volunteer efforts and, for example, excursions to the Viikinmäki wastewater treatment plant or the Ämmässuo eco-industry centre. Another example is the ninth-graders’ eco-deed scheme: pupils get to come up with ideas for deeds benefitting the Earth that they are capable of carrying out on their own. They commit to their idea for a week or another specific period of time. Examples of these simple ideas include reducing shower water consumption, modifying your eating habits or cycling more frequently.
The UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) promotes intercultural dialogue, peace, human rights, sustainable development and quality education. In recent years, global education and sustainable development have gained a prominent role alongside the preservation of cultural and world heritage sites. Cultural and world heritage education falls under global education, supporting the development of a cultural identity and promoting cultural knowledge and sustainable development (Finnish National Agency for Education).
UNESCO activities of the eNorssi network (in Finnish only)
Equality and diversity plan of the Viikki Teacher Training School
Equality means equal opportunities for all. Since 1995, the law has obliged every workplace with at least 30 employees to have a gender equality plan. When the Act on Equality between Women and Men (609/1986) was amended in 2005, this obligation was extended to cover all educational institutions as well. Since the 2014 amendment of the Act, the obligation has encompassed all education providers. The Non-Discrimination Act (1325/2014) requires education providers to have a plan for the promotion of equality.
The purpose of the Act on Equality between Women and Men is to prevent gender discrimination, promote equality between women and men and, to this end, improve the status of women, particularly in working life. Another objective is to prevent discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression (sections 1–3 of the Act on Equality between Women and Men).
According to the Act, education providers must ensure that girls and boys as well as women and men have equal opportunities for education, training and professional development, and that teaching, research and instructional material support the attainment of the Act’s objectives.
Equality must be promoted in education and training while taking into account the age and level of development of the children (section 5).
The concept of equality is not confined to gender equality. As defined in the Constitution of Finland, everyone is equal before the law and no one shall, without an acceptable reason, be treated differently from other persons on the ground of any reason that concerns his or her person (section 6).
According to section 6 of the Non-Discrimination Act, education providers must evaluate the realisation of equality in their activities, take necessary measures to promote the realisation and ensure that they have a plan for the necessary measures for promoting equality.
The evaluation must consider the admissions criteria for pupils and students, the instructional material used in teaching, the measures taken to prevent bullying and harassment, the equality of teaching situations, the assessment of learning outcomes, and the equality competence of teachers.
The purpose of the Non-Discrimination Act is to promote equality and prevent discrimination as well as to enhance the protection provided by law to those who have been discriminated against (section 1).
The aim of the equality plan is to identify and tackle discrimination, assess the impact of equality in the functions, activities and practices of the organisation, and implement measures that promote equality and increase participation (Equality planning guide of the Ministry of the Interior 2010, p. 14).