Educating for a Sustainable Future

© UNESCO/D. Willetts

A green society is an educated society in all of its dimensions. Investing in education is crucial for achieving sustainable development, poverty eradication, equity and inclusiveness. Education holds the key to productivity and sustainable growth, improves health and nutrition, income, and livelihoods, creating a condition for achieving all of the MDGs and the EFA Goals. No country has ever climbed the human development ladder without steady investment in education.

A second critical factor is the quality of education. Years of schooling alone do not guarantee that students will receive an education relevant for their lives and careers. Quality – that is the content of the education provided, the excellence of teachers, actual attainments and achievements – matters as much as quantity. There is a positive feedback loop between education and innovation as a prime mover of sustainable growth in a green economies, where innovation, green skills and the capacity to cope with change will be significant drivers of each economic sector. Education is a sound investment; quality education is a smart investment for building inclusive, green societies.

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a particularly important dimension of quality education.  It provides people at all levels of education, but in particular youth, with the skills, competencies and knowledge needed to impart values indispensable for behavior and practices conducive to sustainable development, and for multicultural and multi-ethnic societies aspiring to democratic citizenship. It is fundamental for preparing young people for green jobs, for adapting to a changing physical environment, and for changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns.  ESD must be strengthened and promoted at all levels and in all educational settings throughout life. This calls for mainstreaming education for sustainable development comprehensively into relevant national education policies and practices. It equally calls for developing effective mechanisms to link green growth labour market objectives to educational programmes, particularly through technical and vocational education and training. It entails reforming formal, informal and non-formal education systems so as to prepare young men and women for a green labour market and to retrain the existing workforce.

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