Transformational Learning & Education Attainment

By 2030, provide learner-driven educational experiences that ensure all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to thrive and build a sustainable future.

Education is the foundation for thriving, productive communities. Hawai‘i has the opportunity to be a leader in transformational education, particularly through place-based and learner-driven experiences that support education as a lifelong pursuit. This is possible through partnerships between educators, communities, practitioners, and learners, which can yield increased resources and expertise to provide students with access to meaningful learning opportunities. 
Integrating sustainability into education can prepare the next generation of innovators and global citizens, ready to lead solutions on Hawai‘i’s Aloha+ Challenge goals, which cut across the areas of clean energy, local food, natural resource management, solid waste reduction, and smart sustainable communities, and green workforce and education.  

Hawai‘i Public Education Blueprint

“This is a major opportunity to change the face of public education in Hawai‘i for the better. Our innovation economy depends on a well-educated workforce to meet the state’s goals in renewable energy, locally grown food production, environmental stewardship and more. It is my hope that the public will participate in this process to help our education system prepare students for high-skill careers in the 21st century,” — Governor David Ige
In 2017, Governor Ige launched the Hawai‘i Public Education Blueprint as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which outlines a vision for transformation by focusing on student, teacher, and system success. Hawai‘i’s public education system is committed to excellence, and strives to be one of the top public education systems in the country by 2025.
The Blueprint focuses on empowering schools, teachers, and students. Each community, school, and student is unique, and the Blueprint therefore notes the importance of system-wide education policies that allow a certain level of autonomy for schools and teachers to best meet the needs of communities and individual students.
Teachers are a cornerstone of the education system, and play a critical role in building student confidence and preparing the next generation of Hawai‘i’s leaders; highly effective teachers can enrich the daily lives of keiki and have a transformative effect on their lifelong education, achievements, and career aspirations. Given the critical role that schools and teachers play in a child’s development, the Blueprint aims to provide administrative and policy that support a strong environment for student-driven learning and system-wide success.

On-Time High School Graduation

High school graduation is a critical milestone in one’s education and workforce pathway. On-time graduation indicates that a student is “on-track” to take the next step in their career – whether that be  college, an apprenticeship program to learn a trade, or an internship to learn about opportunities in different lines of work and other applications of knowledge. There is a multitude of options to continue learning, including academic, home, community or other settings. On-time graduation from high school is one indicator of progress given available data, though it may not capture the diversity of learning pathways.

Figure 1: The map shows the proportion of students that graduate high school on-time by County in 2017 – yielding a weighted average of 83.2% statewide. (Source: Kids Count Data Center, 2017)

Figure 2: High School students obtaining a diploma by County in 2017 (Source: Kids Count Data Center, 2017)
A personalized approach to education can create and help sustain a culture of innovation, curiosity, and empathy in learners. Recent education practices have focused on Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM), social-emotional learning, and project-based, place-based, and inquiry-based learning. These practices support learner-driven content, further engaging and empowering students to take more responsibility for their own learning.

Sustainability Education

Sustainability education is a holistic approach that seeks to prepare every child with the knowledge, skills, attitude and values necessary to shape a sustainable future.  Teaching young people through culture and environment can foster inquiry, ingenuity, critical thinking, and compassion, providing students with life-skills for personal and professional development. Schools in Hawai‘i are increasingly integrating sustainability into existing courses and creating new courses that directly address sustainability. Integrating sustainability into schools prepares future generations to adopt practices and pursue careers that care for the natural environment and communities.
The connection between schools and communities creates more a relevant educational experience by exposing students to current conditions, practices, and issues in their communities. Fostering these connections not only affects students’ academic and professional careers, but also provides an opportunity for application of what they learn in the classroom to their homes, communities, and daily lives. In addition, keiki can have an important impact on the behavior of family members, such as with recycling, water use, and electricity consumption.
The Hawai‘i State Department of Education created the HĀ Nā Hopena A‘o framework to support holistic learning through a foundation of Hawaiian values, language, and culture across Hawai‘iʻs public education system. HĀ Nā Hopena A‘o is a pilot program that works with community-based organizations; there are currently 19 HĀ pilot schools and 21 Community-Based Organizations (CBO) participating in HĀ in the 2016-17 academic school year. The HĀ outlines give core competencies Intended to support students reaching their fullest potential in academic achievements, character development, and overall well-being. HĀ uses the following core values to guide learning: Belonging, Responsibility, Excellence, Aloha, Total well - being and Hawai’i (“BREATH”).
The Department of Education's s School for Examining Essential Questions for Sustainability (SEEQS) offers a community-focused, interdisciplinary project-based, tuition-free secondary school experience for Oahu families. Its holistic and innovative perspective on sustainability education fosters student-driven exploration and investigation to promote environmental stewards for Hawaiʻi's future. SEEQS values community, diversity, lifelong learning, and growth that helps craft curriculum for incoming students.
The University of Hawai‘i has developed course markers to help students more easily find sustainability coursework, and to help faculty integrate education for sustainability across disciplines. Sustainability-focused programs are interdisciplinary academic programs that concentrate on sustainability as an integrated concept, including its social, economic, and environmental dimensions. The courses required for the successful completion of the program educate students about how different dimensions of sustainability relate to and support each other in theory and in practice.
There are currently over 200 courses offered across all University of Hawai‘i  campuses. Additionally, there are two degree programs offered with a primary and explicit focus on teaching sustainability as a discipline: University of Hawai‘i Maui College's (UHMC) Bachelor for Applied Science in Sustainability Science Management (SSM) Program and University of Hawai‘i West O‘ahu's Bachelor of Applied Science in Sustainable Community Food Systems. These courses seek to equip students with competencies of systems-thinking, futures-thinking, values-thinking, strategic thinking, and effective collaboration skills through hands-on experiential learning and applied research to create future leaders who can work to catalyze transformation towards a sustainable future in their chosen fields.
Many other private and independent schools across Hawai‘i  are advancing sustainability through innovative project learning and ‘āina-based education programs. Learn more on the ‘Āina-Based Education page and in the “Learn More and Make A Difference” section.

Transformation in the Classroom and Learning Areas

Integrating sustainability education into curriculum extends beyond the four walls of the classroom and provides students with experiential learning opportunities on sustainability in practice. As education evolves to adapt to new technology and transformative educational practices, learning environments also need to adapt accordingly.
For example, the Department of Education, which maintains 256 schools that are approximately 65 years old, is engaging students to develop sustainability solutions by partnering with the Ka Hei program, a five-year endeavor launched in 2014, to integrate innovative technology paired with meaningful learning experiences for students. The Ka Hei program works with the Department of Education to install building facility upgrades to increase energy efficiency and renewable generation that helps meet Hawai‘iʻs clean energy goals. These upgrades provide educational opportunities for students interact with the system and understand the impact.
The University of Hawai‘i  has a stated  commitment “to become net-zero with respect to energy use, producing as much (renewable) energy as the system consumes across all campuses by January 1, 2035.” The UH Office of Sustainability has an Energy Management Team to support design and implementation on the Net Zero Energy strategy to achieve Act 99 (Session Laws of Hawaiʻi 2015) mandate. 
Figure 3 shows Strategic priorities for the University of Hawai‘i  Office of Energy Management
Learn more about the energy-saving metrics and sustainability initiatives of local schools in the “Learn More and Make A Difference” section at the bottom of the page.

Out of School Learning Programs

Learning occurs both in the classroom and outside of school walls and hours. “Out-of-school time” (OST) includes before and after-school, and weekend programs; summer school and learning opportunities; and service learning. In addition, mentorship and internships can complement the school day through learning enrichment and leadership development opportunities in formal and informal settings for school-aged youth. These programs and activities support student’s academic success and overall development. They are offered by local public, private, and charter schools as well as community and faith-based groups, youth-serving organizations, cultural institutions, and city/state agencies.
For example, school garden programs are an excellent way to provide students with experiential learning opportunities, and how to cultivate their own food with a view to contributing to the Aloha+ Local Food goal. There are a number of programs throughout Hawai‘i that support student learning through school garden programs. The Department of Agriculture leads a comprehensive Farm to School (F2S) Program through statewide partnership. This includes a number of statewide and county-level programs such as Hawai‘i Farm to School & School Garden Hui, University of Hawai‘i  College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Master Gardener Program, and Kōkua Hawai‘i  Foundation’s ‘ĀINA In Schools Program as well as other programs such as "3R's School Recycling Program.
Figures 4 and 5: Impact of Hawai‘i  Farm to School and School Garden Hui Program through the Kohala Center (Source: Kohala Center)

Early Childhood Education

Early childhood is a critical stage of development for a child’s physical, mental, emotional, and social development. Early childhood education is defined as “developmentally appropriate early childhood development and education for children from birth until the time they enter kindergarten.”  (Hawai‘i State Department of Education). It is critical that children receive access to high-quality learning opportunities at an early age to support their social, emotional, and neurological development. Research shows that providing a high-quality education for children before they turn five yields significant long-term benefits (National Education Association). High-quality education can take many forms through licensed childcare facilities to connection with multi-generational ‘ohana. Families are a child’s first line of education and continues to be throughout their lives; thus, a high-quality early learning system ensures strong partnerships between families and education, healthcare, and living and work environments to support the well-being of children. The available data tracks licensed early childhood education programs.
Figure 6: Proportion of young children enrolled in early childhood education program (Source: Center on the Family – Early Childhood Report, 2015)
Figure 7: illustrates the proportion of students by County deemed ready to succeed in school by their teachers (source: Center on the Family, 2013)


Proficiency in reading by the end of third grade is a crucial marker in a child's educational development. Beginning in fourth grade, children use reading to learn other subjects, and therefore, mastery of reading becomes a critical component in their ability to keep up academically. Children who reach fourth grade without the ability to read proficiently are more likely to drop out of high school, reducing their earnings potential and chances for academic success (National KIDS COUNT Databook).

Academic Performance and Assessments

Educational assessments are conducted in the service of student learning and educator capacity building to measure and support student growth. The Hawai‘i Standard Assessment (HSA) proficiency level was used provisionally as a proxy to measure both the effort and outcome that the state devoted to enhance early learning. Standardized test scores for reading and math at grades 4 and 8 are traditional measurements can indicate academic progress nationally and internationally to inform policy decisions and therefore are represented here.
Student learning and progress cannot be measured by test scores alone. Many learning communities are exploring other forms of quantitative and qualitative assessments to holistically measure progress and support students. As a supplement to quantitative measurements, educational organizations and institutions have operating principles to guide their educational practices. For example, the Hawai‘i State Department of Education (DOE) has a set of overarching goals, General Learner Outcomes (GLOs), that are a set of skills and dispositions used as a framework to prepare students to be global learners, which include: complex thinker; effective communicator; self-directed learner; community contributor; quality producer; effective and ethical user of technology; and creative innovator. Guiding principles such as GLOs can help to provide further context for standardized quantitative measurements.
Figure 8: Reading proficiency of 4th graders by County (Source: Hawai‘i State Assessment (HSA))
Figure 9: Math proficiency of 4th graders by County (Source: Hawai‘i State Assessment (HSA))

Student Preparedness

Academic preparedness is essential for students entering a new milestone in their schooling. The Department of Education’s Strive HI program aims to track key federally-required indicators of academic performance under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). These indicators are standard measurements across the nation that will provide general trends for basic needs of the school, students, and communities that will inform action for education stakeholders.
The snapshot below provides academic performance indicators for general academic performance at key stages of scholastic development and subject area as well as indicators for special needs, transitions, participation, and safety. Efforts are being made consistently to further develop measurements to capture holistic learning progress among students.
Figure 10: State performance measures for public schools – key educational milestones for 2018-19 academic year.

Educational Attainment

Education indicates the community preparedness for a skilled workforce. While there are many forms of education such as stewardship, cultural and community engagement, childcare/at-home work, trade and labor on-the-job training, and many other pathways, reliable data is available for scholastic institutions and cannot capture all of these types of education.
Post-secondary graduation rates, measured by Bachelor’s degree holders, is reflected in alignment with P-20’s goal of “55 by 25” – 55% of Hawai‘i workforce to be college-educated by 2025. However, there are many lucrative professions that do not require a post-secondary degree.

Hawai‘i  Percentage of Post-Secondary Degree Holders

Figure 11: This graph shows the percentage of statewide individuals holding post-secondary degrees annually for the period of 2000-2016. In Hawai‘i, 45.1% of adults aged 25-44 held a post-secondary degree in 2016. This represents an increase of 7.3 percentage points since 2000. The data serves as a metric for assessing overall rates of higher education attainment and trend lines over this time period. Source: UHERO and National Science Foundation

Hawai‘i Percentage of Science & Engineering Bachelor’s Degree Holders

Figure 12: This graph shows the percentage of statewide individuals holding post-secondary degrees in Science and Engineering fields annually for the period of 2000-2016. The data serves as a metric for assessing overall rates of higher education degrees that may contribute to future innovation.
(Source: UHERO, National Science Foundation)

Hawai‘i Percentage of Science & Engineering Master’s Degree Holders

Figure 13: This graph shows the percentage of statewide individuals holding graduate degrees in Science and Engineering fields annually for the period of 2000-2015. The data serves as a metric for assessing overall rates of higher education degrees that may contribute to future innovation. (Source: UHERO, National Science Foundation)
Figure 14: In addition to tracking Science and Engineering degrees, the above chart illustrates the number of STEM degrees and certificates awarded by the University of Hawai'i. This is not inclusive of all higher education institutions.

Work-Based Learning and Career Pathways  

Opportunities for students and professionals to connect with communities and industry professionals fosters real-world and work-based learning experiences. Career pathways can include internships and fellowships; volunteer opportunities; work study; apprenticeship programs; career guidance; mentorship from professionals in the field; and community events.  
These options help equip students and early professionals with the direction and training to identify the academic and career pathways that align with their passions and interests, set them up to thrive in the workplace. In order to achieve this, there must be a continuum of substantive opportunities at the entry, mid-level, and senior-level career levels for exploration, skills building, and networking to promote a sustainable education and workforce.
There are a number of programs across Hawai‘i that offer internship, mentorship, work study, and apprenticeship programs to students and professionals, as well as career portals to provide access to diverse opportunities.  
For example, Kupu provides experiential training programs that educate and mentor youth to become stewards of Hawai‘i’s culture and environment, helping them develop a strong connection to place. Since 2007, Kupu has trained 3,995 youth in conservation, sustainability and environmental education through internships and service-learning opportunities which blend vocational training and sustainable leadership development to support over 150 partner sites across Hawaiʻi and the Pacific region.
Figure 15: Number of worksites KUPU interns steward with total acreage (Source: KUPU)

Hawai‘i  Industry Sectors Portal

It is important for students and professionals to find work that best suits their interests and skillsets. Understanding what education and training is needed for their desired career, as well as the overall market demand is helpful to inform student’s education and career choices. The Hawai‘i  Industry Sectors portal is a tool for Hawai‘i residents to navigate their career pathway through information and resources.
Figure 16: University of Hawai‘i Community College’s Hawai‘i Industry Sectors Portal (Data Source: O*NET)
Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs prepare students of all ages to be college and career ready and lifelong learners. CTE programs provide students with opportunities to build academic, technical, and real world skills, knowledge, and training necessary to succeed in the workforce. CTE opportunities also support lifelong learning through internships and work study for students to gain professional experience. Hawai‘i offers dual credits for college and six articulated career pathways with dozens of programs of studies, such as industry certifications, to support their interests and desired career paths.
Connect 2 Careers (C2C) Program is an industry collaborative through Hawaii Department of Education to prepare students for success in high-skill, in-demand careers at both state and regional levels. C2C recognizes that career readiness is always evolving due to changing workforce conditions and aligns K-16 curriculum and rigorous learning opportunities that can flexibly adapt through business-led partnerships. The effectiveness of these pathways will be tracked via data and industry feedback. Partners include employers, state educational systems, funders, and workforce and economic development agencies.

Learn More and Make A Difference 

What You Can Do

  • Visit Hawai‘i Industry Sectors Portal to learn more about career pathways, training, and education requirements for careers
  • Sign your child up for after-school programs offered through Hawai‘i State Department of Education
  • Sign up as a community partner, volunteer, or apply for an internship with KUPU. KUPU internship opportunities engage students and the community in stimulating, educational and hand-on activities and curriculum that broadens their knowledge of conservation and sustainability, encourages community service, and inspires a career or education in natural resource management 
  • Navigate your conservation career pathway through academic programs, scholarship opportunities, jobs, internships and fellowships, and volunteer opportunities at Conservation Career Compass, a resource hub which guides the next generation of stewards in conservation and mālama ‘āina
  • Post conservation jobs, volunteer, or apply for conservation work opportunities at Conservation Connections – A sister site to conservation compass, this website shares job and volunteer opportunities geared towards high school and college students, and emerging professionals

Learn More


Learn More about the strides schools in Hawai‘i are making to provide sustainability-focused learning environments:

  • Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy’s Energy Lab is designed to challenge standards of sustainability and collaborative education and encourages independent thinking in students, promoting Autonomy, Mastery, and Sense of Purpose.
  • Kamehameha Schools Strategic Plan 2015-20 aims to achieve postsecondary education success in learners who will become leaders who give back to their local and global community
  • Punahou’s outdoor Kindergarten focused on sustainability – Omidyar Neighborhood educating for a sustainable future and act as a model for other schools in sustainable facilities design, programs, and teaching philosophies. 
  • ‘Iolani Schools – Sullivan Center  creates an environment for our students to discover their passions, find themselves and how they relate to the constantly changing world. It prepares students in problem-solving, emotional maturity and compassion and to effect positive change in the community
  • Ka Hei is a five-year endeavor launched in 2014 that integrates energy technology with meaningful learning experiences, all while reducing energy costs. Learn more about their impacts from education and retrofits

Learn More About Examples of Transformational Learning Experiences:

SDG 4 - Quality Education
Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning
SDG 5 - Gender Equality
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
Reduce inequality within and among countries
SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals
Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development