The Concept of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). What is ESD?

Welcome Colleagues to our discussion on Quality Education for a Sustainable Future, in other words, Education for Sustainable Development. In our 3 days of online discussion we will explore:

1. What is Education for Sustainable Development [ESD]?  – the concept of ESD -a quality education for a sustainable future

2. Why ESD?

3. How do we educate for sustainable development?

Our education has generally focused on developing worthwhile citizens who will contribute to a better society and a better future for all. Ian Boyne, however, in an article, entitled, ‘What’s an Education for?’ (The Sunday Gleaner, October 7, 2012) tells us that ‘no longer is there the dominant view that education is primarily about the development of the person and the creation of a virtuous society. It is about the development of the market… Education today is largely an instrument of production.’  His views reflect the global one that has acknowledged that as a global society we have educated citizens whose concept of development has led to a world social, economic and environmental crisis.The United Nations General Assembly declaration of 2005-2014 as the United Nations Decade for Education for Sustainable Development has been one of the essential ways nations have tried to address a seriously flawed concept of and practice of development and instead create a world in which people live sustainably.A good definition of what this means is found in the UNESCO Lens which is available online: ‘To live ‘sustainably’ means finding ways of developing which will improve everyone’s quality of life without damaging the environment and without storing up problems for future generation.’ It means attending to issues of social justice, equity and environment protection, in other words, learning to respect each other and the earth. Specifically, it means attending to knowledge of sustainable development, values supporting sustainable development, thinking and decision-making skills that strengthen sustainable development and integrating knowledge, skills and values to promote informed citizenship (UNESCO lens).What does ESD look like in practice and in concrete terms?  I invite you to share your responses to this – you may work in the field of education for sustainable development or you may have a vision of what a transformative education should be. Please share that with us as well as your questions and comments.

Comments (8)

Halden_Morris's picture

Thanks Lorna for starting this session. It is indeed a pleasure to observe so much attention being paid to the concept of Education for Sustainable Development Ironically, if we investigate education as we know it over the years it has always been geared towards sustainable development. The question we need to ask is sustainable development for whom, where? If the answer is FOR ALL then we will have major challenges as a world because our education, economies and social structures are not configured to achieve such goals. We are still configured as a world to take as much as you can from others for as little as possible in return to improve your situation in terms of health, wealth and other benefits to give you the competitive edge. It is only those who have the knowledge, skills and resources can accomplish this successfully. My view of ESD therefore is that we need to educate our people to be as sharp, smart, creative, highly skilled and cooperative to develop, harness and use resources in a responsible way to improve their social and economic wellbeing without damaging the eco-system. Just my initial thought! Halden

delrose's picture

To answer this question we need to ask and answer several questions:What is ESD?Why do we need  to have such a type of education system?Who will be the benefactors?At what stage of the educational pathway should we implement such a system?How will  such a development happen? Who will develop such a curriculum?How will we get "buying in" such a program?How do we know that such a program will have a positive outcome for the future? Our greatest fear --it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.

Lorna P Thompson
Education Officer/Mathematics Advisor
Ministry of Education (Jamaica)
Core Curriculum Unit
37  Arnold Road

Lorna_Down's picture

Dear Colleagues,We have raised a number of important questions and issues such as,Where do we begin  ESD? Delrose and Courtney make the point that we need to start with Early Childhood. Carol acknowledges the importance of Early Childhood but makes an equally valid point that we have to include all levels. Earlier, Halden pointed out that our world is not configured for sustainable living and therefore to become sustainable we need to make sure that our people are educated to be sharp, smart, creative, highly-skilled and responsible users of our resources.Delrose also raised the question of whether there are guarantees that ESD will make things better. My response was that I don't know for sure. I have seen how more aware my students are of their community/ society especially the natural environment, the need to take care of this and a sense that that they can. In Ja. we see 'every mickle mek a muckle' - who knows when there will a sufficiently critical mass that will turn things around.

Lorna_Down's picture

Courtney, I couldn't agree more but does this mean we shouldn't attend to sustainability issues with other levels of the system? Lorna

Joan Kethly's picture
Joan Kethly

Education for production is a good concept, but it must not be the focus of teaching education to the young ones. It should be the development of an individual for him to be ready when he has to face already the real world. But I personally think, that both can be the purpose though most of us believe that to become educated is the main reason why education is being introduced to someone.

pakermilar's picture

The aim is usually to assist transform how a entire world viewss education and also environmentally friendly progress, being sure that environmentally friendly progress will be included straight into curricula by any means amounts of education and also to all amounts of contemporary society.