Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Definition of ESD Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a vision of education that seeks to empower people to assume responsibility for creating a sustainable future. It aims at improving access to quality basic education, reorienting education curricula, training and raising public awareness as well as helping people to develop the behaviors, skills and knowledge they need, now and in the future. (UNESCO, Education for Sustainability – from Rio to Johannesburg: Lessons Learnt from a Decade of Commitment, 2002)

Related Links
The Bruntland Report (Our Common Future)
Agenda 21
Bonn Declaration

History of ESD Sustainable development has its roots in United Nations history in the environmental movement. Much of today’s work in sustainable development can be traced back for several decades. By the mid 1980’s the United Nations launched a search for a larger strategy to address both the needs of society and the environment. In 1987 with Our Common Future, the Report of the Brundtland Commission, sustainable development was endorsed as an overarching framework or construct for future development polity at all levels of government. From the time sustainable development was first endorsed in 1987, the United Nations General Assembly explored the parallel concept of education to support sustainable development. From 1987 to 1992, the concept of sustainable development matured as committees discussed, negotiated, and wrote the 40 chapters of Agenda 21. Thoughts concerning education and sustainability were initially captured in Chapter 36 of Agenda 21, “Promoting Education, Public Awareness, and Training”. In addition, education as an enabling or implementation strategy was embedded in each of the 40 chapters of Agenda 21 and each of the negotiated Conventions arising from the Earth Summit. The Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002, helped in deepening the commitments toward sustainable development at all levels, from the local to the global. The Summit proposed the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD), signaling that education and learning lie at the heart of approaches to sustainable development. (UNESCO, 2005, International Implementation Scheme) History of ESD at a glance Characteristics of ESD Education for Sustainable Development: • is based on the principles and values that underlie sustainable development; • deals with the well being of all three realms of sustainability – environment, society and economy; • promotes life-long learning; • is locally relevant and culturally appropriate; • is based on local needs, perceptions and conditions, but acknowledges that fulfilling local needs often has international effects and consequences; • engages formal, non-formal and informal education; • accommodates the evolving nature of the concept of sustainability; • addresses content, taking into account context, global issues and local priorities; • builds civil capacity for community-based decision-making, social tolerance, environmental stewardship, adaptable workforce and quality of life; • is interdisciplinary. No one discipline can claim ESD for its own, but all disciplines can contribute to ESD; • uses a variety of pedagogical techniques that promote participatory learning and higher-order thinking skills. (UNESCO, 2005, International Implementation Scheme) Five Pillars of ESD ESD supports five fundamental types of learning to provide quality education and foster sustainable human development, namely;

  • Learning to know
    - To recognize the evolving nature of the concept of sustainability
    - To reflect the ever-growing needs of societies
    - To acknowledge that fulfilling local needs often has international effects and consequences
    - To address content, context, global issues and local priorities

  • Learning to be
    - To build on the principles and values that underline sustainable development
    - To deal with the well-being of all three realms of sustainability – environment, society, and economy
    - To contribute to a person’s complete development: mind and body, intelligence, sensitivity, aesthetic appreciation and spirituality

  • Learning to live together
    - To build capacity for community-based decision making, social tolerance, environmental stewardship, adaptable workforce and quality of life

  • Learning to do
    - To contribute to a concrete reality for all our daily decisions and actions
    - To build a sustainable and safe world for everyone

  • Learning to transform oneself and society
    - To integrate the values inherent in sustainable development into all aspects of learning
    - To empower people to assume responsibility for creating and enjoying a sustainable future
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