Education for Sustainable Development in Pakistan


Pakistan is the second largest country in South Asia with a land mass of 796,096 square kilometres. Home to approximately 157 million people, Pakistan ranks as the sixth most populous nation in the world. Like other South Asian countries, the literacy rate — estimated at 49 percent of total population by the Asian Development Bank’s Pakistan 2007: A Fact Sheet — remains low. The literacy rate is even lower in rural areas where a majority of the population is concentrated. The rural population relies more on indigenous knowledge passed from one generation to another by word of mouth. As indigenous knowledge, especially in South Asia, is usually pivoted on eco-friendly practices, the principles of environmental education (EE) are not altogether new. However, at the formal education level, EE is still relatively novel.

As a concept, EE started to engage the attention of textbook writers and curriculum developers in the mid 1980s. In the late 1990s, the principles of EE began featuring in textbooks, mainly due to individual efforts. Around the same time, environment was introduced as a cross-cutting theme as well as a standalone subject at the bachelor and master’s levels. Currently, environmental sciences, environmental studies and environmental engineering are well-established departments at many universities. Meanwhile, environmental knowledge and imperatives have also been integrated into subjects as varied as education, chemistry, microbiology and psychology. 

In contrast to EE that has gained currency over the years, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) remains a relatively untapped discipline. Though the concept of sustainable development has enjoyed unanimous acceptance as key to responsible living since the 1992 Earth Summit, promoting the concept through education and learning only came to the forefront after the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).

The launch of the Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) in 2005 has provided much-needed lift-off to ESD. For their part, IUCN Pakistan (IUCNP) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Islamabad are working together to promote the concept in the country. Various


collaborative initiatives have been undertaken under this partnership.

First Consultative Workshop on Education for Sustainable Development
Taking the cue from the recommendations of the 1992 Earth Summit and the WCCS in 2002, IUCN worked towards raising awareness about ESD at the global level through e-debates and publications, collaborating with UNESCO, the lead agency for DESD, to promote the concept as a means to achieving sustainability. Given IUCN’s global mission to advocate sustainable lifestyles, IUCNP reoriented its EE programme towards ESD.

As a first step toward achieving this goal, the programme decided to get suggestions from stakeholders regarding the way forward for ESD. To this end, the First Consultative Workshop on ESD was organised in June 2005 at the IUCNP Country Office in Karachi. The workshop brought together key educators and communicators working in the environment and sustainable development sector to discuss the concept of ESD and suggest initiatives to promote DESD in the country.

At the workshop, a Communication and Education for Sustainable Development (CESD) Forumwas also established. The main brief of the Forum was to provide educators and communicators with an opportunity to discuss ideas, share lessons and collaborate for initiating joint activities on awareness raising and capacity building for sustainable development.

DESD Launch in Pakistan
The efforts of the core group culminated in the national launch of DESD in September 2005 by IUCNP and UNESCO Islamabad together with the ministries of environment and education. Held at the UN offices in Islamabad, the launch brought together educators, communicators, civil society representatives, among others.An ESD toolkit titled Taleem Barai Payedar Taraqqi: Tarbiyat Kaaron aur Asatiza Keliay Rahnuma Tarbiyati Mawad (Education for Sustainable Development: A Training Guide for Teachers and Trainers) was also launched during this event.


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