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Sustainability in Textile Education System

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Engr. Abrar A Apu

Sustainability concept advocates about saving natural resources and its environment whereas textile industry uses huge amount of natural resources. Therefore, textile industry pollutes environment and depletes natural resources intensively. Bangladesh is one of the most dominating identity in the world in manufacturing and export of textiles and textile products. It means, Bangladesh has to use huge natural resources to convert inputs into outputs of textiles and its products. It also means that Bangladesh is liable of environmental pollution and exhaust of natural resources. By understanding, implementing and maintaining principles of sustainable manufacturing, we will be able to reduce our liability towards environmental pollution and use of natural resources. Education system is the first and primary step in understanding of sustainable principles and their applications. That is why, the sustainable principles shall be included in the textile education system.

The basic three pillars of sustainable development are environmental care, social development and rational economic growth. Every aspect of any activities, processes or systems interact with environment and or people. Every activity of human being, especially in the production arena, creates negative impacts on environment and on people. In traditional perception it is obvious to have impacts on environment and on people while going production and manufacturing and or transformation. But in sustainability perception, any production, manufacturing and or transformation of any inputs into outputs must go without impacting environment and people.

Textile or Textile Industrial production is considered on of the worst polluters of environment and creators of deadly carcinogenic, mutagenic diseases in human bodies. Present scenario is more alarming because textile and its products is not any more for fulfilling basic needs of human being but they have become the integral part of luxury and posh status. Therefore, consumption of textile products per citizen per year more than 19.2 Kg in Scandinavian countries, while in UK, it is about 12 Kg. Textile and its products once belonged to human’s fundamental needs, now created one of the biggest business market in the globe. Every year, the consumption pattern is growing exponentially. This means more and more textile industry need to be set up every year, and also means more environmental pollution and more people will be affected. Most importantly, it also indicates huge consumption of natural resources. Natural resources are depleting multiple time than that of previous rate.

A Sustainable planet means a resilience balance between bottom triple Ps, i.e, People, Planet and Profit. In the book “The Limit to Growth (1972)” described about the simulation among exponential economic growth, population growth and depletion of natural resources. This book concluded that with the begin of twenty second century, there will be no natural resources left to use, that means the world will be no more. Taking this simulation into consideration, the UN announced millennium development goal as sustainable development and UN define sustainable development in the industrial sector as low carbon growth, resource efficiency and social inclusivity.

One of the important pillars of sustainable development is sustainability in education or sustainable education. Sustainable education can be defined as “An education system that equips educators, learners, and learning environment with new knowledge and ways of thinking to creates products and services that are economically sound (Profitability) without polluting environment, conserve energy and resources (Environmental Conservation) and safe for employees, communities and consumers (Social Responsibilities)”.

Education system works as one of the backward linkages of service and manufacturing industries. Based on tomorrow and or future demand of these service and manufacturing industries, education system is structured. Today’s business is driven by sustainability (focus on 6R- reduce, reuse, recycle, recover, redesign and remanufacture) leaving behind traditional manufacturing (focus on only quality and quantity, Q&Q), lean manufacturing (focus on waste reduction to fulfil Q&Q), and green manufacturing (focus on reduce, reuse, and recycle, 3R). Therefore, sustainability principles shall be integrated in education system. The principles of sustainability are so big and so complex that up to now, no integrated tools or method created that will advocate about all aspects of sustainability. Taking with example of textile industrial sector, macro level sustainability tool may consider to CSR or ISO 26000 while micro level tools are- GOTS, OCS, STeP, Fairtrade Textile Production, LEED, WRAP, BSCI, SEDEX, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001, ISO 50001, SA8000, Higg Index, ZDHC, FSC, GRS, Bluesign and CoC.

I have been involved in Textile Engineering as educator more than a decade. A part from this, I involved myself in the practical uses of my knowledge, skills and competence through training and consulting in the industrial sector more than a decade also. Based on these involvement, I would like to identify what are the gaps existed in our education system (especially in the course contents) in comparison of sustainability principles.

To study any engineering field, students from science background are only preferable. Important elements of science study are physics, chemistry and mathematics. These course are arranged under the title of physical science. No course title of natural science, climate change and social issues are included simultaneously with physical science in their higher school certificate (HSC)/Advanced Level. But these missing courses are integral parts of understanding sustainability.

If we look inside of Textile Engineering curricular, the common missing courses, but most important for sustainability principles are Natural Resource Management (Environmental Sustainability) and Laws, Policies and Trade Investment (Social Sustainability and Profit Sustainability). These courses contents shall be structured in such as way that fundamental principles/concepts of the above mentioned tools must cover.

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Traditional textile education is more focused on profitability (one dimensional), while sustainability in textile education is forced on environmental conservation, social development along with profitability (multi-dimensional). Comparison between traditional educational system and sustainable education system can be summarized as:

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Inclusion of necessary course contents in the textile education system will be a first and initial step in introducing sustainability principles in the education system. The next step is to train relevant faculty on these course contents and keep them train after certain time interval, as new development, new principles and/or new version in sustainability are very frequent. The third and final step shall be to assign sustainability principles along with core subject matter to every student during his/her project/thesis.

Bangladeshi Textile and its forward industry are on the direction to become global leader, introduction and implementation of sustainability principles in textile education system will accelerate our speed to the goal. But if we fail to do so, there is very high risk that our competing countries may add more acceleration by adopting cited concept here. As educationists and maker of future leaders, it is high time for us to concentrate on sustainable textile education leaving behind traditional textile education with motto create future leaders who would welcome future challenges as opportunity rather than as burden.

About the Author: Engr. Abrar A Apu, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Textile Engineering, DIU and Trainer-Consultant at AAA Control (Textile Training & Consulting). He is the sole writer of two books- Practitioner’s Handbook of Compliance Management (DFID) and Integrating Handloom into the Bangladeshi Export-Oriented RMG Chain (UNIDO). He is also Technical Team Leader of Textile Focus.

 

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