Education For Sustainable Development At Global Scene Education Essay

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The world continues to face various critical challenges such as: human-induced climate change, the rapid depletion of natural resources, the frequency of natural disasters, the spread of (old and new) infectious diseases, the loss of biodiversity, the violation of human rights, increased poverty, the dependency of our economic systems on continuous growth in consumerism and so forth. Sustainable development (SD) has become a vehicle around the globe for expressing the need to depart from present dominant models of development which appear unable to balance the needs of people and the planet in the pursuit of peace and prosperity.

Sustainable development needs to be described for each of these dimensions in their interrelation in time (past-present-future) and in space (near-far). Sustainable social development (people) is aimed at the development of people and their social organization, in which the realization of social cohesion, equity, justice and wellbeing plays an important role. A sustainable environmental development (planet) refers to the development of natural ecosystems in ways that maintain the carrying capacity of the Earth and respect the non-human world.

Sustainable economic development (prosperity) focuses on the development of the economic infrastructure, in which the efficient management of our natural and human resources is important. It is the finding of balanced ways to integrate these dimensions in everyday living and working that poses, perhaps, the greatest challenge of our time as this requires alternative ways of thinking, valuing and acting.

Across the globe there is a surge of interest in sustainability issues in governments, communities and organizations and in business and industry. More importantly, perhaps, more and more people are beginning to understand that the creation of a sustainable world that includes humanity depends on fundamental changes in our socio-economic systems as a whole, supported by a critical re-orientation of our principles, values, behaviors and lifestyles. The worldwide financial crisis of 2008-2009 is seen by some as a phenomenon that will accelerate the transition towards alternative economic systems, mechanisms and principles that are more in tune with the 'planet' and 'people' dimensions of sustainability. In response, new policies, legislation, forms of governance at the local, regional, national and international level and, indeed, new forms of education and learning are emerging that can help facilitate such changes.

The emergence of ESD

While the roots of ESD can be traced back to the early 1970s its first flowering occurred at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. UNCED resulted in a landmark publication: Agenda 212. Agenda 21 provides a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by UN agencies, governments and major organizations (NGOs, CSOs and networks) to reduce the human impact on the environment.

Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the Statement of Principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests were all adopted at the Earth Summit by 178 Governments. The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was created in December 1992 to ensure effective follow-up of UNCED and to monitor and report on implementation of the agreements at international, regional, national and local levels.

Education, training and public awareness, for which UNESCO was designated as Task Manager, identifies four overarching goals:

• Promote and improve the quality of education:

The aim is to refocus lifelong education on the acquisition of knowledge, skills and values needed by citizens to improve their quality of life.

• Reorient the curricula: From pre-school to university, education must be rethought and reformed to be a vehicle of knowledge, thought patterns and values needed to build a sustainable world.

• Raise public awareness of the concept of sustainable development: This will make it possible to develop enlightened, active and responsible citizenship locally, nationally and internationally.

• Train the workforce: Continuing technical and vocational education of directors and workers, particularly those in trade and industry, will be enriched to enable them to adopt sustainable modes

of production and consumption.

Although there appears widespread consensus about these goals, there is less agreement about the meaning of ESD. Just as is the case with sustainable development, there is not one single correct interpretation and use of ESD. The fact that there is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to SD and the road that will take us there, does not necessarily make SD and ESD weak concepts. On the contrary, it can be argued that this characteristic allows for the key challenge of our time to be addressed in multiple ways from different vantage points in locally grounded but globally connected ways. Perhaps ESD can be seen as the total sum of diverse ways to arrive at a 'learning society' in which people learn from and with one another and collectively become more capable of withstanding setbacks and dealing with sustainability-induced insecurity, complexity and risks. From this vantage point, ESD is about - through education and learning - engaging people in SD issues, developing their capacities to give meaning to SD and to contribute to its development and utilizing the diversity represented by all people - including those who have been or feel marginalized - in generating innovative solutions to SD problems and crises; however, as will become clear in this review, this is not the only vantage point.

The basic vision of the Decade is of a world in which everyone has the opportunity to benefit from education and learn the values, behaviors and lifestyles required for a sustainable future and for positive societal

transformation. DESD seeks to promote the meaningful development and implementation of ESD on all geographical scales (locally, nationally, regionally and internationally) with the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders. At the start of the Decade, this vision was

translated into four objectives: 1) facilitate networking, linkages, exchange and interaction among stakeholders in ESD; 2) foster an increased quality of teaching and learning in ESD; 3) help countries progress towards and attain the Millennium Development Goals7 ; and 4) provide countries with new opportunities to incorporate ESD into education reform efforts.

The implementation plan called for a number of actions to realize this vision, including:

catalyzing new partnerships with the private sector, youth and media groups;

sharing good ESD practices;

linking Member States that have developed or have the desire to develop ESD curricula, policies and research;

Establishing an agenda for ESD research and a framework for monitoring and evaluating the Decade.

To date, UNESCO has provided leadership in shaping and coordinating these processes. However, continuous support to ESD is necessary to further strengthen the momentum. The 34th UNESCO General Conference in 2007 adopted a resolution on ESD that recognized that further substantial initiatives have to be taken by Member States and by UNESCO in order to reorient teaching and learning towards sustainable development worldwide. To address this call, UNESCO and its Member States would have to further help conceptualized ESD as well as implement it.

To build on the progress achieved in the first half of the Decade and to strategically prioritize actions to obtain visible results during the remaining half were identified as the key areas of action of UNESCO and its partners.

A Mid-Decade Review

Given its ambitious goals, the DESD has raised high expectations among the countries and stakeholders who seek to promote and develop ESD. UNESCO and its Member States are called upon to deliver quick, visible and tangible results. The year 2009 marks the midpoint of the DESD. A mid-Decade review, shaped by the objectives

stated in the IIS, has been conducted to take stock of progress achieved and to determine strategies and directions for the second half of the DESD (2009-2014).

The IIS identifies monitoring and evaluation as part of the implementation strategy. As the lead agency, UNESCO was given the responsibility of establishing mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation as well as for reporting on progress to the UN General Assembly in 2010 and to the UNESCO Executive Board at the end of each Biennium.

The Monitoring and Evaluation Expert Group (MEEG)

In 2007, UNESCO established a DESD Monitoring and Evaluation Expert Group (MEEG) to advice on appropriate monitoring mechanisms for assessing:

1) Global progress in the implementation of the DESD; and

2) UNESCO's own contribution to the implementation of the DESD.

Following the advice of the MEEG, a Global Monitoring and Evaluation Framework (GMEF) 14 was developed which elaborated a rationale, identified methods and provided structures for the data collection, analysis and reporting processes for the DESD at the global level.

The purpose of this mid-Decade review is not to rank, label or judge countries or regions against a universal ESD standard but rather to highlight the provisions and structures that have been put in place around the world for the development of ESD.

The review also identifies the obstacles that countries encountered in the creation of such provisions and structures and suggests ways to overcome them. In doing so, it seeks to strike a balance between what might be called the universal (attempts to generate general guidelines that can be used in contexts other than the ones in which they were generated) and the contextual (attempts to do justice to local realities, histories and political structures). The latter also recognizes that the various countries and sub-regions around the world each have their own unique challenges, perspectives and histories that all affect the way ESD is perceived and implemented.

The recommendations put forward in the final 'Ways Forward' chapter are, much in the spirit of ESD as described above. The recommendations are intended to be stepping stones that may inform or guide local development of ESD in the years to come and not as prescriptions. Altogether, 97 countries from all regions of the world contributed to this mid-Decade review. However, this review also includes examples from countries that did not contribute directly to the M&E process as outlined in the GMEF (Chapter 1), thereby showing that ESD is also an educational field in progress in many of those countries

as well.

5.2 Sustainable Development/Education

5.2.1 United States (U.S) Perspective

There is no doubt that across the globe people are engaged in forms of ESD, sometimes in the name of ESD, sometimes in the name of Environmental Education (EE) or EE for SD (EESD) or in the name of another related existential concern. It is quite complicated and perhaps impossible to prove that this engagement is in spite of or because of the DESD. The point of this review, however, is not to provide such evidence but rather to get a better sense of 1) the contexts in which regions and countries around the world are trying to develop ESD and ESD-related forms of education and learning, 2) whether the conditions (structures, policies, coordination, budgets, etc.) are favorable for such development and 3) to identify strategies and actions that could lead to an improvement of these conditions during the remainder of the Decade, particularly in those countries where they are considered unfavorable.

The existence of favorable conditions for the development of ESD in some countries could be the result of the DESD.

In others, they might have emerged regardless of the DESD. From the UN perspective, it would obviously be useful to have more information on this aspect. This review will touch upon a range of mechanisms that have been put in place around the world that reflect strategies outlined in the DESD International Implementation Scheme (IIS). The DESD is not in and of itself an end but rather a means to promote, develop and implement ESD.

Finally, it should be recognized that in many instances practice is ahead of policy. This is to say that in many parts of the world there is a lot of ESD activity in formal, informal and non-formal learning settings that are not or hardly supported by policies and structures put in place by governments. Since the 2009 DESD review focuses on contexts and structures of ESD these practices will not be featured here. Processes and learning for ESD will be the focus of the 2011 DESD review.

DESD Monitoring and Evaluation Process

The focus on contexts, provisions and structures in this review does imply that this report does not focus on the actual learning that takes place in schools, universities, communities and workplaces. This will be the focus of a second review of ESD in action.


In order to review the ways countries and regions around the world have responded to the challenge of ESD during the first four years of the DESD, four forms of inquiry were used:

1. Questionnaire

2.Complementary research - Complementary research was conducted by reviewing existing reports, research articles on ESD and ESD implementation and by organizing regional ESD expert and stakeholder meetings to fill in information gaps in the questionnaire responses. This complementary research was also helpful in (a) identifying global issues; (b) capturing innovative practices; (c) assessing changes within and across the regions; and (d) capturing global trends.

3. The Multi-stakeholder consultation process (MSCP)

4. UNESCO's Self-Assessment and Portfolio of Evidence


Despite the complexity of monitoring and evaluating the functioning of the DESD in terms of structures and provisions it seeks to put in place around the world, a monitoring and evaluation process has been designed that is not so much evidence-based as learning-based. This process results in a review that uses a mixture of narratives and other data from questionnaires and interviews, as well as key inputs from the many UN reports that have been written on ESD and ESD-related fields since the start of the DESD in 2005.

5.2.1 United Kingdome (U.K) Perspective

Misconceptions of Sustainable Development within the Design Curriculum

There has, in recent years, been a drive to embed sustainable development into the design curriculum within international university programmes. Despite this, and the clear reference to the social sphere of sustainability within the wider literature, this aspect does not appear to have embedded into the design curriculum of Higher Education (HE) within the UK. As is common across the HE sector, there are misinterpretations over the very concept of sustainable development within design education. A study by Ramirez showed that (in the opinion of the lecturers questioned) 72% of Industrial Design students understood "sustainable design issues and strategies". Ramirez, however, identifies that the lack of distinction by those academics between ecological design or green design and sustainable design. This aspect of misconception extends into the business environment and was explored by surveying academics (Institution of Engineering Designers accredited courses), students (Product Design; Bournemouth University) and employers (placement and graduate) within the UK. Respondents believed they had a working knowledge or high understanding of sustainable design issues and strategies. However, academics, students and employers alike generally had a poor understanding of sustainability. Definitions were at best about minimizing environmental impact, recycling and reducing the carbon footprint; essentially eco-design. The misconceptions over sustainability may be understandable given the limited scope within undergraduate design courses for adding additional units to explore the topic in depth and the fear of dilution. However, it can be argued that it is not a matter of providing additional units or diluting the existing content, rather a change in culture, with emphasis upon the reflected values and goals of the students design process and output. The engineering department at Cambridge University found a familiar set of barriers to change: "...perceived threats to the integrity of subject material, ...low intra-departmental interaction, ...successful tradition ...and a skeptical attitude to change.". They also found a tension caused by the introduction of "subjectivity and judgment" while traditional engineering methodologies were challenged by the broader scope or open ended nature of sustainable development.

Approaches to Embedding Sustainable Development Approaches to integration of sustainable development have varied across and within universities. Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands has adopted a three stage strategy:

1. All students take an introductory course "Technology in sustainable development".

2. The concepts of sustainable development are embedded into all regular courses.

3. Provide a "sustainable development specialization" within each faculty.

Provided within the specialization programme, is a compulsory course that Delft term "boat week". Here final year students of various technical background and discipline take part in lectures, seminars and various group activities. Since it is on a boat, no one can leave and full participation is assured. After the boat week the students are taught basic participatory back casting techniques as part of a follow up course. Boat week itself frames the context for the follow up as it is during this exercise that students appreciate the complexity and depth of sustainability problems. Although the course does not purport to create experts, it does offer a flavor or light version of back casting. Although the scheme appears to work well, a study of Industrial Design Engineering students at Delft examined the integration and uptake of sustainable development methodologies into regular design courses and found that "unless specifically asked to integrate sustainability issues, students have no incentive to proceed with them. During the course students had to be reminded that sustainable development was more than the environment, defining it as "beneficial to society". Engaging students was particularly difficult when related to social issues; only through emphasising the social nature of "safety issues" could some students contribute to this aspect. The problem with engaging the students at Delft with the concept of sustainability is not uncommon. Indeed, a recent study of 200 undergraduate design students found the design priorities of students to be a direct reflection of their purchasing aspirations with quality, aesthetics and cost factors outweighing sustainability issues. At Cambridge University (UK) the process of embedding sustainable development within the engineering department has evolved "opportunistically" over time. Key to their implementation was the establishment of a core of expertise in sustainable development teaching. Although early focus was placed upon postgraduate this was expanded to include undergraduate courses. Within this context sustainable development lecturers are given to first year undergraduate students as well as integration with a compulsory project unit. In formalising the process they believed that embedding required "...a cultural shift, not just the provision of an extra optional course or two." Essentially, the approach has been to encourage students to question their own assumptions and reflect upon a wider range of perspectives. At the University of Manchester (UK) an interdisciplinary course on sustainable development has been introduced to engineering and physical sciences programmes. Cross disciplined groups of third year undergraduate students work on a range of sustainability problems. Problem based learning (PBL) rather than formal teaching is used, with the responsibility for learning resting with the student. Each problem set is a "wicked problem" in that there is no definitive answer and while the groups are assisted by facilitators, students learn through investigation, collaboration and reflection. A number of issues arose from the pilot study, significantly: The course was not formally assessed while many wished it had been, all students were drawn from the third year yet drew comments such as "why couldn‟t we learn this way before?" The Authors suggest that students should be engaged with sustainable development through PBL from an earlier stage. At Bournemouth University (UK) sustainable development has been integrated within the design curriculum through two distinct paths: embedding within the existing framework and developing discrete Sustainable Design courses. This approach has been adopted for both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes within the Design Group as well as at doctoral and post-doc through the Sustainable Design Research Centre (SDRC). At undergraduate level, sustainability has been introduced through specific units such as "sustainability in the built environment", project units and a specific course "BSc Sustainable Design" although this has subsequently been withdrawn. Within the postgraduate framework specific units and courses have been offered for several years, "MSc Sustainable Product Design" includes three sustainability orientated units and requires the final dissertation to reflect a relevant issue. Both the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes have benefitted from the interactive online learning and assessment environment detailed below. There has also been a move to provide a framework for teaching staff involving an internal network interfacing with external stakeholders.

5.2.1 Japan Perspective

Various approaches have been advocated and practiced to address sustainable development. Among these, education has been recognized as one of the key measures for achieving sustainability (UN, 1992; UNESCO, 2005; WCED, 1987), particularly since the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) published Our Common Future in 1987. In supporting the global initiative for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), the Japanese government has been an active advocate in stressing the importance of combining sustainable development and education by establishing a number of ESD programs across the country (Japan Environmental Education Forum, 2000). Among these, the Learning and Ecological Activities Foundation for Children (LEAF) initiative based in the city of Nishinomiya has served as a particularly influential model; its predecessor, the Earth Watching Club (EWC), was adopted by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment in 1995 as the nation-wide environmental education program. Its membership currently numbers over half a million persons.

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the key elements necessary for realizing ESD by examining the case of a successful program in Nishinomiya City. The paper begins by presenting a brief overview of the historical context of ESD, and then introduces LEAF within this context. By examining LEAF's various initiatives, key elements for achieving sustainable development are explored and analyzed in relation to the UNESCO framework for implementing ESD (UNESCO, 2003). The case suggests that creating a mutual learning environment is central to achieving sustainable development.


The concept of sustainable development first emerged in the 1980s with the well-known WCED publication Our Common Future (1987), and in response to a growing awareness of the need to balance economic and social progress with concern for the environment and the exploitation of natural resources. The Commission defined sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

The first time that the sustainable development concept formally met education was at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. The conference gave high priority to the role of education in pursuing the kind of development that would respect and nurture the natural environment. In particular, Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 emphasized that education is critical for promoting sustainable development and improving the capacity of people to address environment and development issues (UN, 1992).

The Johannesburg Summit in 2002 broadened the vision of sustainable development and re-affirmed the educational objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (UN, 2000) and the Dakar Framework for Action (UNESCO, 2000). The Summit proposed a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, with UNESCO spearheading the initiative. In December 2002, the United Nations General Assembly's 57th Session proclaimed the Decade for the period of 2005 to 2014.

According to UNESCO, the vision of ESD is to realize "a world where everyone has the opportunity to benefit from quality education and learn the values, behavior and lifestyles required for a sustainable future and for positive societal transformation". In addition, UNESCO states that ESD has four major domains:

(1) Basic education

(2) Reorienting existing education programs

(3) Developing public awareness and understanding of sustainability

(4) Training

Here, basic education does not mean simply increasing basic literacy and numeracy; rather, it entails sharing knowledge, skills, values and perspectives throughout a lifetime of learning for public participation and community decision-making to achieve sustainability (UNESCO, 2003). Reorienting existing education programs requires transdisciplinary understandings of social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Training implies that all sectors of the workforce can and should contribute to local, regional and national sustainability. In particular, UNESCO states the following regarding training: "Business and industry are thus key sites for on-going vocational and professional training so that all sectors of the workforce have the knowledge and skills necessary to make decisions and perform their work in a sustainable manner" (UNESCO, 2003, p. 5).

Given the breadth of this vision, a universal model of education for sustainable development does not exist. While there may be general agreement on the concept of ESD, there will be nuanced differences according to local contexts, priorities and approaches. Regardless of these variations, however, ESD seeks to provide an environment where children, youth, the elderly, and other stakeholders, such as nonprofit organizations (NPOs), the public sector, and the private sector, can mutually learn about and transfer knowledge and values for sustainable development. The case of LEAF in Nishinomiya provides an illustration of how one Japanese city has attempted to tackle these issues to implement an ESD model anchored in a holistic approach to economic, social, and environmental understanding and the principle of mutual learning.