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Jose Antonio Valdivieso

Incorporating the sustainable dimension into undergraduate engineering programmes in South America, with specific reference to mining engineering in Chile

Jose Antonio Valdivieso

Incorporating the sustainable dimension into undergraduate engineering programmes in South America, with specific reference to mining engineering in Chile

 

Engineering and technological development have significantly contributed to the present environmental crisis, but at the same time they play a fundamental role in the solution to revert it. Engineering schools and technological institutes have introduced aspects of sustainability to some extent in their study programmes, but so far, in most cases, the horizontal embedding of Sustainable Development (SD) issues in the curricula has not been achieved. Consequently, a new approach grounded in pedagogy and learning processes towards SD in engineering is a key aspect to be tackled.

Engineering Education in Sustainable Development (EESD) has arisen with the purpose of providing future engineers with the competences needed to contribute to the building of a sustainable society. These competences can be summarised as “critical thinking”, “systemic thinking”, “inter- and trans-disciplinary teamwork” and “values and ethics”. Experts conclude that active learning, in which students are rationally and emotionally involved in the process, is the most effective pedagogical approach to be applied. This is essentially an experiential approach that involves learning-by-doing and includes techniques such as project-based learning, case studies analysis, role plays, etc.

The present dissertation work aims to propose a specific strategy to incorporate SD education into mining engineering curriculum taught by the Engineering Faculty’s Mining Centre of the Pontifical Catholic University in Chile. The methodology designed includes the state of the art review on EESD; identification of the most relevant SD-related aspects for Chilean mining; analysis of the PUCMC’s strategic statements and curriculum redesign plan in order to identify drivers, barriers and constraints to the introduction of the EESD approach; interviews and surveys among the Mining Centre academic staff, students and alumni.

As a result, an EESD framework is proposed, including general guidelines and a specific exercise for the Chilean mining context. The study aspires to take a first step towards a new generation of Chilean mining engineers more committed to a sustainable model of society. The approach proposed can be also replicated in other engineering specialities and schools.