UNESCO Chair on Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability: International Network

The International Network of Teacher Education Institutions is associated with the UNESCO Chair on Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability at York University in Toronto, Canada.  The International Network is comprised of teacher education institutions from about 60 nations around the world.  The member institutions work to incorporate sustainability into their programmes, practices and policies.  Each member institution addresses environmental, social, and economic contexts to create locally relevant and culturally appropriate teacher education programmes for both pre-service and in-service teachers.

The teacher education institutions (TEIs) that are members of the International Network (IN) are engaged in a wide variety of activities in teaching, research, and outreach all related to education for sustainable development (ESD).  Some have created ESD courses or certificates and others new graduate programmes in ESD.  A few have started journals and organized conferences.  Others have created centres and learning opportunities for school children and members of the community as well as professional development opportunities for teachers and school administrators. 

The IN meets biennially in countries around the world in even numbered years. Biennial meetings have been held in Canada (2000), South Africa (2002), Sweden (2004), Finland (2006), Turkey (2008), France (2010) and Canada (2012).



In 1998, the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development work programme on ESD called for UNESCO to develop guidelines for reorienting teacher training to address sustainability. In order to accomplish this task, UNESCO and York University (Toronto, Canada) agreed to establish a UNITWIN/UNESCO Chair in 1999 to provide advice to UNESCO and institutions of teacher education. The task of developing guidelines and recommendations for reorienting teacher education and associated realms of pedagogy, curriculum, and other related issues was given to the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chair at York.

To accomplish this, the Chair established an international network of more than 30 teacher education institutions. The International Network first met in Canada in October 2000 and began planning strategies and methods for moving forward. At the first meeting, the Chair used the Education for Sustainable Development Toolkit (McKeown, Hopkins, and Rizzi, 2000) to share a common understanding of ESD. As a result of the first meeting, the International Network undertook many types of initiatives in their efforts to reorient teacher education, and decided which themes or sustainability goals to emphasize so as to ensure that teacher education programmes fit the environmental, social and economic conditions and goals of their communities, regions, and countries. Members of the International Network made recommendations for reorienting teacher education to address sustainability from ministerial and national levels to the local level. The recommendations involved curricula, pedagogy, policy, practice, programmes, rewards, research, information and computer technology, partnerships, networking, communications, etc. This led to the creation of a document entitled Guidelines and Recommendations for Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability.

Many institutions have been able to develop new courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In general, each institution decides upon its own avenues for experimentation, based on the contexts of its community and nation. The Guidelines and Recommendations, as well as the continued efforts of the members of the International Network, serve as a vital foundation for reorienting teacher education to address sustainability. As the next phase begins, the experience and recommendations of the members of the International Network will continue to encourage and inform efforts around the world.


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