In honor of World Teachers' Day, we are featuring this blog by ERI Training Director Billy Doerner.
World Teachers’ Day is an occasion to celebrate the role teachers play in providing quality education around the world. The EarthRights School in Chiang Mai, Thailand plays an important role in the theory of change used by EarthRights International to shift power in defense of human well-being and a sound environment. These “earth rights” include the right to a healthy environment, the right to speak out and act to protect the environment, and the right to participate in decisions around development projects. Our theory of change is best achieved when our training, legal, and campaign teams collaborate to focus on empowered people and communities, strong laws and lawyers, and global-local collaboration and networks.
We at the EarthRights School recognize that effective teaching requires expert knowledge, specialized skills, and pedagogical competence, therefore we empower our diverse staff of lawyers, campaigners, storytellers, earth rights defenders and alumni to teach in our school. We provide participatory learning and teaching methods training to all ERI staff teaching in our school. This helps us all to focus on maximizing participation of students in the learning process, including drawing upon their knowledge and life experiences in the classroom. The objective of our school is to train campaigners with the skills and knowledge they need to build their campaigns from the ground up by building community leadership. The training team works closely with ERI’s legal and campaign teams in three important areas: the strategic recruitment of students, curriculum design, and teaching
Finding students who are a good fit for our program is a year-round process: we focus on identifying candidates from communities who are campaigning for earth rights throughout the Mekong region and Myanmar. We recruit students from communities connected to ERI-supported campaigns, EarthRights School alumni campaigns, and earth rights campaigns of non-alumni partners. The school curriculum draws on ERI’s six thematic areas of focus: 1) Climate Change/Climate Justice; 2) Earth Rights Defenders; 3) Corporate Power and Emerging Financial Powers; 4) Extractive Industries; 5) Megaprojects; and 6) Land Rights and Clean Environments. We collaborate with ERI’s legal and campaign teams each year to determine who will attend our school and also to design curriculum.
ERI staff provide most of the teaching in the school but we also rely on outside experts to share their knowledge and skills with our students and staff when needed. Through this strategy, we provide the best that ERI has to offer in experience, expert knowledge, specialized skills, and pedagogical competence so that our students receive the best possible training. This year we are very fortunate to have a brand new school with dormitories and office space. The Mitharsuu Center for Leadership and Justice is a LEED Platinum-certified green building that is an environmentally friendly and healthy building to live and work in. The new classroom provides an excellent learning environment for our students, as well as an excellent environment for empowering teachers through collaboration.
So, on World Teacher’s Day, and every day, we at ERI celebrate the role teachers play in the movement to shift power in defense of human rights and the environment.