Education for Sustainable Development


With the concept of sustainable development gaining credence and acceptability, the environmental community traditionally focussed on natural resource conservation felt the need to change tack and become more inclusive in their outlook by integrating economic and social perspectives in their agendas. As the concept of sustainable development was formulated, it became apparent that education is the key to sustainability. Accordingly, the EE canvas was broadened to incorporate values espoused by the proponents of sustainable development. To this end, themes such as gender equality, health, livelihoods, rural development, urbanization, consumption patterns, cultural diversity, peace and human security were included. This effort resulted in the gradual evolution of EE to ESD.

Unlike most educational initiatives, people outside the education community initiated the ESD movement. In fact, the major push for ESD came from international political and economic forums such as the United Nations Organization for Economic Cooperation in Development.

The importance of ESD was highlighted in December 2002 when the United Nations declared 2005 — 2014 as the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) and appointed the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as the lead for implementing the plans for the decade. Today, many educational organisations around the world are exploring ways to reorient their curricula and programmes to address sustainability as an essential component of education. ESD is becoming a key pedagogical and learning tool for promoting sustainable development in formal, non-


formal and professional development circles, including the private sector, media, clergy and civil society.

From EE to ESD
Though EE and ESD are successive stages of the same evolutionary process there are subtle differences of scope between the two (See Figure 1.1). In brief, despite including sustainable development perspectives over time, EE focuses only on individual behavioural change. ESD, on the other hand, advocates change in socio-economic structures and lifestyles in addition to emphasizing values individuals learn throughout their lives. A detailed analysis of both approaches reveals that in practice EE does not deal adequately with the socio-economic and cultural dimensions of environmental problems. Owing to this gap, educationists have turned their attention to ESD

EE (Positivist)
ESD (Constructivist)
Based on deficiency model: people need knowledge, skills Values what people and communities know, do and value
Top-down approach Bottom-up approach
Content-oriented Process-oriented
Instrumental values Intrinsic values
Teaching Learning
Control Empowerment
Adapted from ‘ESD Debate: International debate on ESD’,

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