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According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (hereafter UNESCO) "sustainable development is a vision of development that encompasses populations, animal and plant species, ecosystems, natural resources and that integrates concerns such as the fight against poverty, for gender equality, human rights, education for all, health, human security, intercultural dialogue, etc." (UNESCO, http://www.unesco.org/en/esd/)
According to the literature there are three main aspects of sustainable development (Holmberg, 1992):
1. Economic. The system that is economically sustainable has to be able to continually generate a supply of goods and services, uphold governable amounts of debt, be it government or external ones, and to refrain from excessive sectored imbalances that can cause damage to agricultural or industrial production.
2. Environmental. The system that is environmentally sustainable has to sustain a "stable resource base, refraining from over-exploitation of renewable resource systems or environmental sink functions, and depleting non-renewable resources only to the extent that investment is made in adequate substitutes. This includes support of biodiversity, atmospheric stability, and other ecosystem functions not ordinarily classed as economic resources."
3. Social. The system that is socially sustainable has to "acquire distributional equity, adequate provision of social services including health and education, gender equity, and political accountability and participation."
So, as it was described above, the main aim of sustainable development is to build economical, environmental and social prosperity of the world. To achieve these aims it is necessary to form a profound and effective international education system which at all levels could shape the world of tomorrow, equipping individuals and societies with the skills, perspectives, knowledge and values to live and work in a sustainable manner.
The first step to form such a system was made during the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro when representatives of Governments, international and non-governmental organizations, and civil society were brought together to discuss the challenges of the next century and to adopt a global plan of action to meet these challenges. The action plan, known as Agenda 21, provided a comprehensive set of principles to assist Governments and other institutions in implementing sustainable development policies and programs. Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 affirmed education as essential for making progress toward sustainable development and defined it as a "dynamic concept that encompasses a new vision of education that seeks to empower people of all ages to assume responsibility for creating and enjoying a sustainable future". Besides, Chapter 36 identified four major tasks of Education for Sustainable Development (UNESCO, Education for Sustainability - from Rio to Johannesburg: Lessons Learnt from a Decade of Commitment, 2002):
ensure that basic education and functional literacy for all is achieved;
make environmental and development education available to people of all ages;
integrate environmental and development concepts, including those of population, into all educational programs, with analyses of the causes of the major problems;
involve schoolchildren in local and regional studies on environmental health, including safe drinking water, sanitation, food and the environmental and economic impacts of resource use.
Nowadays ESD integrates concepts and analytical tools from a variety of disciplines to help people understand better the world in which they live. Pursuing sustainable development through education requires educators and students to think in a critical manner on their own communities; distinguish unreasonable aspects in their lives; and analyze tensions between conflicting values and goals.
At the time of adoption of Agenda 21 (and particularly the Chapter 36), as an action programme for sustainable development in Rio, the economic and social situation in my native country, i.e. Lithuania, was primarily derived from the heritage of Soviet economic system as Lithuanian economy was incorporated into Soviet Union's system. It was constituted by inefficient management, and by unfair direction both to the use of raw materials from the former Soviet Union and to sending final products to the former Soviet market. Since the beginning of restoration of independence in Lithuania the attention has been focussed on targets of SD policy as well as ESD policy.
This paper is devoted to describe environmental education and the promotion of sustainable development in Lithuanian education system, i.e. in Lithuanian schools and universities. The paper is structured as follows. Section 2 identifies Lithuanian national policy aspects in the area of sustainable development. Section 3 observes and discusses the main aspects of education for sustainable development in Lithuania. Conclusions are contained in Section 4.
Lithuanian policy concerning sustainable development
According to the Lithuanian constitution, "every individual is responsible for nature and its biodiversity, environment and cultural heritage". (Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, 1992) Public authorities are responsible for defending people's right to a healthy surroundings and a possibility to be a part of making decisions about the surroundings they live in. Sector legislation distinguishes the areas of responsibility for different lines of business in respect to implementing sustainable development.
However, in Lithuania, as in other post-soviet countries, implementation of sustainable development principles started only a few years ago, the first steps towards the forming a decisive and effective SD policy in Lithuania was made since early independence. According to ÄŒiegis and ZeleniÅ«tÄ- (2008) Lithuanian SD policy has begun in 1992 when Lithuania's Environment Protection Programme was introduced. It included all major environmental problems at the given moment emphasizing on the possible ways of dealing with them in priority order. While the biggest part of actions that were included in the Programme have taken effect, some are still in the on the way.
Another huge step in the genesis of Lithuanian SD policy probably was the approval of the State Environment Protection Strategy in 1996. The Strategy contains an environmental status assessment, it formulates environmental protection goals and objectives, priorities, action plans and forecasts future results (Lithuanian Environmental Strategy, 1996)
Eventually, in the year 2000, the National Commission on Sustainable Development under the Prime Minister's chairmanship was formed in Lithuania with the main objective of ensuring the management of sustainable development process at the highest level. The main practical aim of the Commission was the preparation and implementation of the national strategy on sustainable development. The Commission work lasted 3 years and in 2003 the Government of Lithuania by the Resolution No. 1160 has approved the National strategy for sustainable development. According to the Strategy "the main objective of sustainable development in Lithuania is by 2020 to achieve the developmental level of EU by such indicators as economic and social development as well as the efficiency in consumption of resources, and not to exceed the allowable EU standards of environmental pollution, while observing of international Conventions, which regulate environment pollution". (National Strategy for Sustainable Development, 2003)
Besides, in the Strategy, there were established main long-term, mid-term and short-term objectives and tasks, and conceptualized the most important implementation measures in various sectors and their branches. Along with that, an efficient monitoring system of the Strategy's implementation is planned to be created, which will give a chance to evaluate the progress achieved and determine possible problems and obstacles. At the Ministry of Environment there was a group of experts in various fields has formed with a goal of routinely estimating outside and inside changes, assessing the process of the Strategy's implementation and preparing recommendations for the removal of emphasized weaknesses at the right time. To follow the development of and supervise the Strategy, there was made a list of sustainable development indicators. The indicators are there to help and outline the connection between the tasks and objectives stated in the Strategy. These indicators are published in the Statistical Yearbook of Lithuania since 2004. (http://www.am.lt/VI/files/0.063911001049192382.pdf) Complete information on changes of sustainability indicators is presented on the website of Statistics Lithuania: www.stat.gov.lt.
So, the Republic of Lithuania has done a huge work in the area of forming and implementing the national policy for SD. Particularly, the strong legal base for the implementation of SD was formed.
In the next part of the paper will be introduced the main aspects of education for sustainable development in Lithuania.
The main aspects of education for sustainable development in Lithuania
First of all, it should be noted, that according to the Constitution, the Government of the Republic of Lithuania decides on the common nationwide objectives of education in Lithuania. "The Ministry of Education prepares the framework curricula for different types of schools. These curricula contain the definition of the objectives and core contents of educational work, and advice both on assessment and on how schools can make their own curricula." (http://www.uncsd2012.org/files/response-EU/Questionnaire-Lithuania.pdf)
So, in 2007 the Government has approved Resolution No. 1062 National sustainable development education programme 2007-2015. "The Ministry of Education and Science is responsible for the coordination of the implementation of the programme. Other institutions responsible for the implementation of the programme are: Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Health, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Agriculture, municipalities and the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists." (http://www.uncsd2012.org/files/response-EU/Questionnaire-Lithuania.pdf)
The prime goal of the programme is to "promote sustainable development through formal, non-formal and informal education" with a specific highlight on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) competences (Programme, 2007). In 2007 Lithuanian Government accepted the plan for employment of the National Sustainable Development Education Programme for the period of 2007-2010. We will be able to see the outcome of this programme in 2011.
In Lithuania, education curricula have been supplemented with environmental education based on principles of sustainable development at all levels.
"So, the content of environmental education is provided in such pre-school programmes: "VÄ-rinÄ-lis" (String), "Ikimokyklinio ugdymo gairÄ-s" (Guides for Preschool Education), "Etninio ugdymo programa" (Programme for Ethnical Education) as well as in additional methodical material (publications for teachers and parents, exercising notebooks for children, etc.)." (http://www.un.org/esa/agenda21/natlinfo/countr/lithuan/social.htm)
At the same time in 1996, the General Education Curricula for Comprehensive School was approved. It envisages continuous environmental education through the integration of environmental issues into different subjects. There are various programmes for different grades, e.g. "Gamta ir Å¾mogus" (Nature and Man) for the fifth grade, "Ekologijos pagrindai" (Bases of the Ecology), "Chemija ir aplinka" (Chemistry and Environment) for the tenth grade, etc.
It is essential that environmental knowledge is integrated into different courses of college education. While the course "Aplinkos plÄ-tra" (Environmental development) is available for many students in technical colleges, there is a variety of such options at colleges of agriculture.
Nonetheless, higher education is to be mentioned as environmental and ecological subjects are taught there too. There are seven higher schools that educate professional environmental specialists in Lithuania: Vilnius University, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, Kaunas University of Technology, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuanian University of Agriculture, Klaipeda University, Kaunas Medical Academy (http://www.un.org/esa/agenda21/natlinfo/countr/lithuan/social.htm#edu).
ESD is reflected not only in the field of environmental education. For example, the Concept of Cultural Education of Children and Young People and the Plan of Implementation of the Concept for the period of 2008-2012 were adopted by the Ministry of Education and Science in 2008. The Concept addresses the interaction of cultural and artistic education of pupils, development and traditions of cultural education, approaches towards the development of cultural competences also related to ESD, and the organisation, opportunities and prospects of cultural education. The stages of implementation of the Concept are projected as preparation of a long-term plan of measures for the implementation of the conception of cultural education of children and young people, which would provide for:
Conducting the dissemination of the Concept in order to promote a wide-scale discourse on the issues of cultural and artistic education on different levels of education;
Initiation of advanced training programmes for teachers necessary for the implementation of the purpose provided for in the Concept;
Pursuing to create a mechanism for the competences acquired in the course of informal education to be recognised;
Pursuing to enable the artists who have knowledge of artistic subjects and creative work experience to become educators after finishing the course of pedagogical and psychological knowledge;
Providing the conditions for and pursuing to enable private businesses and foundations to support cultural and artistic education in formal and informal education, and to find additional sources of support.
Implementation of the Concept is correlative to the reform for funding system for schools (Concept, 2008).
Sustainable development education is included in vocational education and training programmes. 95 vocational training programmes were renewed and approved by the Ministry of Education and Science in 2010 (http://www.smm.lt/veikla/dv_svietimas.htm).
National documents regulating higher education state that there is obligatory providing of supplies (material and human) for ESD from government. There is also continuous training held for educators, leaders and administrators of education institutions that deal with ESD.
Schools are involved with many national projects, like "Green lesson", "Green kindergarten", "From knowledge towards responsibility," etc. that are closely related to ESD and provide a lot of activities for students.
In addition to formal education, there is a big variety of non-formal activities held be non-governmental and other organizations that help raise public awareness of SD. There are annual projects organized by Lithuanian public institutions that support sustainable development and environmental issues. Every year the youth initiative Green generation organises the Green Lesson in Lithuanian schools during which ESD is widely promoted. Probably the best known initiative is â€žDarom" (â€žLet's Do"), which is held every spring and gathers people to clean public polluted spaces all over the country. Whilst cleaning is their main prerogative, different talks and workshops on related topics are available as well, ESD not to be forgotten. Schools that participate in many a project on environmentalism are united under the action "Eco-school". The principles of ESD are widely reflected during different environmental activities they may hold.
Lithuania as a country also partakes in different ESD related international networks and projects. Different non-formal education projects, among those also addressing ESD, are being held by Lithuanian Young Naturalists Centre. "The Centre is the main coordinator of the Baltic Sea Project, Baltic 21, the GLOBE Programme, etc. The Baltic Sea Project is an international network among schools for a better environment in the Baltic Sea area. The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) programme is there to gather schools from all around the world." (http://www.uncsd2012.org/files/response-EU/Questionnaire-Lithuania.pdf) It is a very practical science and education programme for children in primary and secondary education. GLOBE's vision is to stimulate and maintain cooperation of students, teachers and scientists studying environment and the Earth system (http://www.uncsd2012.org/files/response-EU/Questionnaire-Lithuania.pdf).
Environmental problems are the greatest challenge facing humankind. When schools, universities and other educational institutions commit their work and themselves to putting sustainable development into practice, young people will learn how to live with it, bring it home and eventually pass it on to different parts of society.
So as we see, the education for sustainable development on a national level is essential here. Lithuania has experienced huge work in the area of forming and implementing the national policy for SD since the regaining of independence. Particularly, the strong legal base for the implementation of SD was formed.
At the same time objectives of education in Lithuania have to be specified and precisely indicated in national documents. Framework curricula have to create a base for inclusion of sustainable development in different schools and university subjects and educational fields. There is also a need of training for creating environmental programmes.
Teacher training and in-service training for teachers has to face changes too. Since environmental issues are interdisciplinary, and relate to lifestyle, dealing with them in a varied way requires cooperation in work communities of schools, universities and other educational institutions, and with partners from outside these institutions. For being so complex, this part is in need of further development and finding different solutions to make it work and train large parts of work communities.
One of the biggest problems we are facing today is lack of teaching material for promoting sustainable development. An individual is not capable of collecting such great amounts of material by himself/herself due to lack of time and energy. Thus there should be more cooperation and networking among educators giving them a possibility to share ideas of incorporation of sustainable development in classroom or promoting it at school. As such ideas are being shared, it becomes not only a way of making it easier for teachers to find solutions, but also to take action or find further connections among other professionals outside of school and so incorporate bigger amounts of people into solving sustainable development issues.
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