Adaptation and translation

  • Importance of local versions
  • Adaptation possibilities
  • Adaptation process
  • Technical guidelines
  • Case Study

Importance of local versions

Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future is one of several programmes initiated by UNESCO’s programme on Educating for a Sustainable Future. It has been developed by UNESCO in its function as task manager for the International Work Programme on Education, Public Awareness and Training for Sustainability of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development.

The programme was developed after extensive consultation between UNESCO and teacher educators in many parts of the world. The Centre for Innovation and Research in Environmental Education at Griffith University, Australia, prepared the original drafts of the materials using resources from UNESCO and other international organisations as starting points.

The Importance of Regional and Local Versions

This module is to support planning for the adaptive use of regional and local versions of Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future.

UNESCO is aware that no single teacher education programme can suit the needs of all potential users. That is why Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future has been designed so as to facilitate translation into other languages as well as adaptation (i.e. changing the programme) to respond to regional, national, or local needs.

UNESCO is ready to work with government ministries, regional organisations, teacher education institutions and others responsible for the professional development of teachers to help facilitate these changes.

Once an adaptation and/or translation of the programme has been completed, the ‘open architecture’ used to create the files in Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future allows it to be reprogrammed with basic webpage creation and graphic design applications.

The Technical Guidelines provide multimedia programmers with the information they need to introduce the desired changes to the files in the programme.

To help plan for your own local adaptation, a case study about how Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future was adapted for use in the southern African region is provided.

Possibilities for adaptation

There are a number of options for using and adapting Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future.

Different kinds of adaptation of the programme are possible, from minor wording changes in the webpages and learning journals, to major changes in the number and sequence of activities and modules.

Basic adaptations

Basic, relatively straightforward adaptations involve changes to the webpages (including pop-up boxes) and learning journals. The types of text changes that could be considered include, but are not limited to:

  • Adding contextualising comments in the introduction to the module and providing additional local material to complement the international case studies provided in the programme.
  • Replacing the international range of examples and case studies with national or local examples, making the programme more relevant to the circumstances of users.
  • Replacing the examples of education policies provided in some modules with local or national policy initiatives
  • Keeping the existing case studies and policy examples in order to maintain the global focus of the programme but supplementing them with national examples to increase the local relevance of the programme.
  • Changing the learning journal questions e.g. by deleting some, adding others, etc.
  • Adding sample answers to additional learning journal questions.
  • Changing/adding Internet links and data to keep the programme current in terms of statistics and trends in sustainable development and/or education policy.
  • Deleting an entire activity from a module or adding an additional one.

Changes such as these can be made by a person skilled in the use of a webpage creation programme.

Extensive adaptations

More extensive adaptations could include:

  • Changing the name of a module.
  • Adding or deleting entire module/s and/or theme/s.
  • Changing the text or operation of an interaction.

Changes such as these require the skills of a multimedia programmer and a graphic designer.

The adaptation process

Resources Needed to Adapt and/or Translate the Programme

Two sets of resources are necessary for adapting and/or translating the programme:

  • The PDF files of the programme. These are available on the TLSF CDROM or can be downloaded from the website. Use Acrobat Reader to access these files.
  • A CDROM containing source files for graphics and other elements of the programme. This is available from:
    UNESCO, Educating for a Sustainable Future
    7 Place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris 07 SP, France

Steps in Adapting the Programme (without translation)

The first step is to print out the PDF files for each module. This print-out becomes the master document upon which all text and other changes can be made.

Normally, a team of educators would be involved in deciding of the changes to be made. The team would determine the nature of the adaptations to be made, collect relevant local materials and insert these into the print-out of the modules.

Many changes can be marked on the print-out by hand. Extensive changes should be prepared as a text file in a word processing programme.

After the team has prepared the desired changes, the edited master document and any text files can then be passed to a person with knowledge of html or how to use an html authoring programme – or to a multimedia programming and graphic design team or company – to make the changes in the source files.

Major adaptations such as deleting or adding new themes/modules or changes to interactions and navigational structure require the skills of a professional multimedia programmer A graphic designer will also be required to make any associated graphic changes.

The Technical Guidelines provide advice on making these kinds of changes.

Steps in Adapting and Translating the Programme

Translating the programme can be a relatively major task. It may be undertaken either in-house, or by a specialised web/multimedia translation company.

Specialist web and multimedia translation companies have been established in many countries. They provide a complete translation, graphic design and multimedia programming service. If the translation of the programme is managed by such a company, it is advisable to agree in advance upon a suitable process for also making any of the basic or major adaptations outlined above, if such changes are to be made.

The advantage of an in-house translation is that adaptations may be made at an early stage to ensure that the text and activities are culturally and educationally appropriate before multimedia programming begins. Such an adaptation and translation process involves the following steps:

  • Print the PDF files for each module directly from the web or CDROM – ensuring that the URL is printed on each page and that the same URL is attached to the translation of all pages. This is necessary to ensure that the original English language pages and the translated pages can be matched up and provided to multimedia programmers to prevent mix-ups.
  • Decide whether the programme will be (1) translated in full and then adapted, or (2) adaptations are made to the English language print-out and then translated. This decision needs to be made at a local level, and will be influenced by factors such as the preferred working styles and language and translation skills of the team of educators working on the project.
  • Prepare a separate text file (i.e. word processing file) of each adapted/translated page (with URL attached).
  • Translate all the pages in the interactions and as well as any textual elements in the graphics.
  • After the adaptations/translation has been completed, provide all the text files (with URLs attached) to a (bilingual if possible) multimedia programmer to enter into the source files. A graphic designer will also be needed to adjust graphic images to suit any translated words/text.

Technical guidelines

These technical guidelines provide background information on the multimedia design and development of Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future. They have been prepared to assist IT and multimedia specialists involved in adaptations and translations.

The programme has been designed for optimal delivery on a specific hardware and software configuration.

Minimum hardware specifications:

  • A Pentium 200 MHz MMX computer or a Macintosh PowerPC with: 32 Mb RAM; SVGA monitor, capable of 800x600 resolution in 16-bit true colour; 16 bit stereo sound card and speakers; modem or network card; and a 16x CDROM drive.

The software that was used included:

  • Webpages: Macromedia Dreamweaver
  • Graphics: Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Flash
  • Interactions: Macromedia Director and javascript

A CDROM containing the style sheets and source files for the programme is available from:

UNESCO, Educating for a Sustainable Future
7 Place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris 07 SP, France

Programme elements

The programming of Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future involves five elements: navigation structure, webpages, learning journal, graphics and interactions.

Each of these may be adapted and/or translated.

Navigation structure
The programme utilises a frame-based navigational structure to facilitate movement between themes, modules and activities and multiple access points to information. Navigation is principally via a left-hand navigation ‘bar’ and top-of-page ‘banners’ for each module.
These have been developed as graphics and linked as image maps with the left-hand navigation bar and top-of-page banners using dynamic html. Changing the names or sequence of modules will involve editing the graphic images and navigational programming. Source files are available on request.
Deleting an entire activity from a module, or adding an additional activity, will require a change to the internal navigation structure of drop down navigation boxes and ‘previous’ and ‘next’ navigation icons.
Adding or deleting a module(s) and/or a theme(s) will require changes to the navigational structure of the programme (e.g. to the left-hand navigation bars and top-of-page banners) as well as changes to appropriate graphic images.
The main screen webpages can be edited with an html authoring programme such as Dreamweaver. The stylesheet for the specific layout of the text and icons (which is available with the source files) makes the addition and deletion of text relatively straightforward.
The addition or deletion of activities will require changes to the internal navigation structure of drop down navigation boxes and ‘previous’ and ‘next’ navigation icons.
The visual ‘web’, ‘interaction’, ‘journal’ and other icons are graphic images developed in Photoshop.
Learning journal
Learning journal questions are presented in the webpages of most activities. They are also presented as master rich text format (rtf) files that may be downloaded and printed. These are can be edited within a word processing programme.
The graphics have been designed using Adobe Photoshop. Any changes (whether they are textual or graphical) require change to the original source files.
Changing the name of a module will require changes to the graphic image for the theme page and the top-of-page banners for the module.
Changing the text or operation of an interaction will require changes in the javascript programming. Changes to interactions may be undertaken from the source files using Macromedia Director. A graphic designer will be needed to make any associated graphic changes.


A rigorous multi-platform testing process is recommended before commiting resources to the final pressing of a CD. It is important to check for problems in both Netscape and Internet Explorer browsers and in both PC and Mac computing environments. Testing may involve a manual check of every internal and hypertext link to ensure that all are active and direct the user to the desired location. This is particularly important in the themes, modules and activities where changes have been made.

Case Study – The southern Africa version


Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future was developed by UNESCO in its function as task manager for the International Work Programme on Education, Public Awareness and Training for Sustainability of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development.

A belief that no centrally prepared programme could be relevant to all countries was paramount in the design of Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future. Thus, the programme was designed as a demonstration project to illustrate:

  1. Ways of meeting the professional development needs of educating for a sustainable future. For example:
    • How interdisciplinary approaches can be applied in education in order to better understand the interconnectedness of life and the complexity of the problems of the planet.
    • How to combine training about sustainable development issues with training in how to teach about them.
    • How to deal with the values laden nature of sustainable development issues in an educationally worthwhile and professionally ethical manner.
    • How to encourage ongoing reflection (via a learning journal) as a key aspect of on-going professional development.
  2. The potential uses and benefits of multimedia technologies in pre- and in-service teacher education. For example:
    • How multimedia approaches can be used to provide professional development experiences for a wide range of educators at various phases of their professional career.
    • How a professional development resource may be prepared to allow maximum flexibility for individual and small group use.
    • How such flexibility can allow for the use of the multimedia resource for both independent study and use as part of a tertiary course.
    • How capacity building in the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can be enhanced as a ‘by-product’ of professional development in other fields.
    • How the scale of impact of a programme may be maximised for a large audience (60 million teachers) through the effective use of ICT and innovative multimedia design.

As a demonstration project, Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future is a catalyst for similar programmes by member states, agencies, educational systems and organisations and civil society organisations. People and organisations planning an adaptation can approach the task with confidence, knowing that:

  • The program was prepared initially in English with an ‘open architecture’ (i.e. technical structure) and guidelines to facilitate adaptations to suit different national and regional contexts translation into additional languages. As a result, UNESCO has made maximum efforts to ensure that the program can be translated or adapted with a minimum of technical expertise and basic webpage creation and graphic applications.
  • Extensive consultation and evaluation were a feature of the development process. This has ensured that Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future is educationally sound, accurate and up-to-date, fair in its treatment of issues, and culturally appropriate for use in international settings.
  • Detailed guidelines to guide the adaptation and translation of the programme are provided.

A Southern Africa Version of Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future

A partnership between UNESCO and the South African Ministry of Education has produced an English language version of the programme adapted to the educational and cultural conditions of South Africa and the SADC countries.

The initiative was managed through The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa and the National Environmental Education Programme, General Education and Training with the support of Griffith University, Australia. The project was coordinated through Share-Net and the Southern African Development Community Regional Environmental Education Centre (SADC-REEC).

Following two consultative interactions at the National Environmental Education Project Teacher Education Forum (27 September & 30 October, 2001) and a workshop at the University of South Africa (29 October, 2001), a task team was assembled to review and adapt the International Version of the UNESCO CDROM for use in southern Africa.

An adaptation workshop, to make and compile changes to the computer files was held at Rhodes University, South Africa from 2-7 December, 2001.

Interview with the Project Coordinator

The Project Coordinator for the southern African adaptation was Rob O’Donoghue from the Rhodes University Environmental Education Unit. Here he reflects on the experience of putting together a regional team and the adaptation process. This case study provides insights that may be of value to others who are planning similar projects.

Why was a southern African version of Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future seen as desirable?
We thought that Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future was an excellent product and that adapting it would provide access to good quality international materials for use in teacher education courses in southern Africa. Teacher educators and ministry officials in southern African countries are very busy and have often complained that they don’t have the time to prepare materials suitable to local needs – and copyright costs for adapting overseas materials is always very high.
The fact that Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future has been produced by UNESCO after extensive international collaboration meant that here we had a product that would suit our needs for teacher education materials without the burden of expensive copyright requirements. UNESCO has borne all the development costs and we just had to pay for the adaptation.
We also thought that the process of adapting the programme would be a good opportunity for teacher educators and other education officials in our countries to share our ideas and materials and integrate them into the UNESCO programme.
What sort of cultural and educational issues did you need to think about before you got down to work on making an adaptation of the programme?
Education for sustainability had been widely debated in the region and some people had taken up strongly held viewpoints for and against different approaches. In the early phases of planning the adaptation we had to open up these issues and reach agreement on the important ideas, content, and teaching methods that teachers in our part of the world need to consider when teaching for a sustainable future.
We wanted to make sure that the interesting and innovative work that educators in southern Africa have been doing was integrated into the adaptation. This would help us make sure we got the best of both local and international ideas. We also wanted to make sure that local examples of environmental, social and development issues were included so that the adapted version would be seen as having local relevance. However, we needed to balance this with the exciting international examples in the original UNESCO programme. We did not want to make our version too parochial because this would detract from the vitally important global education dimension that we liked in the UNESCO programme.
The UNESCO programme was prepared for both primary and secondary teachers and to be used in both pre-service and in-service teacher education. This meant that one of its key design features was flexibility of use. We wanted to make sure we maintained this high level of flexibility so that it would also be relevant to different countries in southern Africa and could also be adapted further by individual countries or even individual universities/colleges.
Here in southern Africa we have a strong commitment to local and indigenous perspectives and so we were very careful to ensure that any changes we made would reflect this commitment. So we paid particular attention to Module 10 – Culture and Religion and Module 11 – Indigenous Knowledge.
We were also careful to check that the modules in the Curriculum Rationale section used the educational vocabulary and concepts that are currently in use in our countries, and that they matched current syllabus requirements. We looked carefully at the modules in the Teaching and Learning Strategies section in a similar way.
What groups did you consult for advice? Why them?
We consulted with the National Environmental Education Programme (NEEP) of the Ministry of Education and with all Universities and institutions we knew that ran professional development programmes in related areas. This was initially done by phone and email to assess which groups had technical expertise on the production and use of educational multimedia materials and might be interested in working on a adaptation project.
The consultation process was assisted by NEEP’s regular communication with the educational community and by the Southern African Developing Community (SADC) Regional Environmental Education Centre which has a growing network of centres and institutions across the region.
What types of groups or people did you involve as members of the adaptation team?
We needed people with skills in writing course materials and in multimedia programming. Few people had both – so we negotiated the roles that different people would play, either on a writing/editorial team or on a technical support team. Participants nominated themselves in terms of their skills and interests.
All participants were given copies of the UNESCO version of the CDROM and were asked to identify sections that they had materials and expertise on and in which they were willing to take a lead role.
How did you organise the adaptation?
A co-ordinator was appointed to manage the adaptation process. Members of the writing/editorial team reviewed all the modules and provided suggestions for adaptation and additional or replacement examples. They did this on printouts of the PDF files we downloaded from the CDROM.
A small core project team analysed these suggestions and edited the modules on paper ready for the technical support team. However, because we had so few people with multimedia skills we invited people from writing/editorial team to join it.
This enlarged technical support team then met together for one week in a university computer centre to make the adaptations to the computer files. We were lucky to have the support of Clayton White of Griffith University. He had been on the original UNESCO project team, was familiar with the architecture of the CDROM and assisted us with training and technical guidelines that allowed us to develop our skills and make all the technical changes ourselves. We now have a team of ten experienced educators capable of making regular updates and revisions of the southern African version of the programme.
What changes were made?
A key orientating change was an opening up the question of ‘education for sustainability’. So one of the changes we made was to replace the word ‘for’ with ‘towards’ because this more philosophically consistent with educational thinking in the region.
We added a lot of southern African examples. At first we thought we would use these to replace international examples. However, we decided to keep the international examples because they contributed to the global understanding of teachers and to supplement them with additional local examples.
Another change we made was to expand Module 7 on citizenship education to also include human rights education, and we integrated Module 22 on assessment with the Active Learning Framework that is being promoted in the region.
[Compare these changes of theme and modules names with the titles in the international version of Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future.]
In hindsight, is there anything about the adaptation or editorial process you would do differently?
In our enthusiasm, we took on a process of localising adaptation that was nearly too big for us. Were it not for the dedication of the teams to their tasks and the hours of work that they and Clayton did, were would not have got the job done.
A lot of this work could have been avoided had we undertaken an ‘add in’ and ‘reflect on’ approach, where we ‘added’ local contextualising ideas to the introduction and reflection section of each module.
We came to this at the end of the project when we reflected on how our regional version would still need to be revised for each country and even each province or university. This helped us to develop a strategy to support a resource-based and local cases approach to use of the programme in the region. To support this we also incorporated a regionally developed e-learning resource (e-Info) onto the CDROM. We are also providing a regional support service for users so that they can add further local examples and materials as they go along.
What plans do you have for dissemination and training?
The CDROM is being made available through the SADC Regional Environmental Education Centre and three universities in the region. It will also be a core resource in a new training programme for curriculum developers that the SADC Regional Environmental Education Centre is running in 9 institutions across 5 SADC countries (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho). Once the dissemination and training materials are available these will be used with the southern African version of the CDROM.
What lessons did you learn?
The project enhanced cooperative links between institutions that seldom interacted with each other about course materials and professional development issues. Also a key outcome of the process was the enhancement of regional expertise in the use of computer technology and multimedia design in environmental education.