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Education for Sustainable Development

Introduction

To begin with this paper will aim to provide an overview of the diverse meanings of sustainable development, and seeks to focus on education for sustainable development and global citizenship as a community of practice dedicated to embedding education for sustainable development and global citizenship in local and global context.

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This paper will compare and contrast out the global and UK policy context for education for sustainable development and outline the differing government support and guidance for education for sustainable development and global citizenship (ESDGC) across UK.Hence, the author will attempt to develop an argument for change in the way human exploits the planet.

First and foremost, sustainable development often pays a profound attention to the environment due to it becoming one of the major standing obstacle on human progress, also sustainable development goal which others also prefer to view it as an organising principle and a process has been to find solutions on how the world can continue to supply humans with natural elements such as enhancing and preserving the environment and natural resources for future generations as our wants grow more and become more demanding (U.S Congress, 1994:8).

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So what is sustainable developmentAccording to Fowke and Prasad (1996) they have located at least eighty different meanings, and therefore have argued that the definition of sustainable development is extremely problematic, unreliable and is still-evolving concept to pin down. Nonetheless, the notoriously best known definition which has a strong international recognition was presented by the Brundtland Report published by the intergovernmental commission set up by the UN system in the mid-1980s it is suggested that sustainable development means development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (WCED, 1987: 8 & 43). Thus far, this definition of sustainable development is almost a universal worldview agreement that there is no single model for sustainable development and that is a resisted and contested concept by many.

However, a second and broader definition was presented by Huckel and Sterling (2005) both argued that the widely accepted meaning offered by Bruntland report is one of the many definitions and that it was impossible to have a one universal definition for sustainability development and maintained that SD is an ill defined concept and can be approached from various perspectives and therefore they defined sustainable development as a process that develops people’s awareness, competence, attitudes and values, enabling them to be effectively involved in sustainable development at local, national and international levels, and helping them to work towards a more equitable and sustainable future (Huckel & Sterling, 2005:1).

Furthermore Sterling (2001) put forward three notions related to education for sustainable development (EDS). Namely; education about sustainability which highlights a broad sustainable concepts and possibly having knowledge on injustices and this is known as a starting point to make initiatives and head towards education for sustainability (EfS). At this stage of EfS there is emphasize on learning for change, critical and reflective thinking and conceivably possess values and capability of injustices. Therefore, as a result of learning about the environment in schools and the social transformation achieved by students facilitate a real transition towards education as sustainability whereby it focuses on the process and quality of learning to be creative, reflective and participative (Wade, 2007:106-107).

Why is sustainable desirableFirstly, according to former secretary general U Thant and others are to be believed, humanity have only an exceedingly minimal amount of time such as ten to fifteen years to drastically convert into major positive trends rather than negative lifestyles move ( Mchale, :122). Whilst, on the other hand, some experts argue that it is too late to change people attitudes in regards to sustainability in fact they stress that sustainable development is pointless. With this, it is worth pausing momentarily to consider developing countries for instance; china with economic progress is quickly rising into first world status with a prediction from the International Monetary Fund that U.S. could lose its status as the world’s biggest economic power to china in the next five years. Therefore, as a result it is believed that the carbon footprint will only escalate global warming issues and it could heighten the climate change into uncontrollable events with no way out (Sobkiw, 2008:91).

Secondly, other researchers have stated that the planet earth can only hold eight billion people and preferably two billion people effectively. So what happens to the rest of the populationOne could argue that research indicates that a hundred years ago our science and technology could only support a few hundred people on the earth. So what happenedWhat changedHow did we get six billion people on the planetWith the total still rising and with estimated every nine months, another eighty million are added. Interestingly, humanity rose to the challenge and made it possible through education and research in order to develop sustainable targets (ibid).

That being the case, one would argue that one of the greatest instruments to educate citizens of environment issues has to be the education for sustainable development (ESD) and mass awareness in order to create environmental consciousness either through formal, non-formal and informal education which has been recognised as a powerful and viable tool for bringing about behavioural change, as it has the potential to make people wiser, knowledgeable, informed, intelligent, ethical and responsible citizens now and in the future (Singhal, 2004:16). Infact according to UNESCO report published in 1997 maintains that in order for humanity to alter its course of growing difficulties and possible catastrophe thus desired changes in behaviours, values and life styles and promoting public support for continuing and fundamental changes will be required. And, consequently humanity should start the uphill climb towards education for sustainability as it’s the best hope and most effective means in the quest to achieve sustainable development. Likewise, agenda 21 endorsed the agreement that education is critical for promoting sustainable development and improve the capacity of people to address environment and ethical awareness, values and attitudes, skills and behaviour consistent and therefore education for sustainable development is an important asset in today’s world for generating effective public participation in decision making (Singhal, 2004:16).

Therefore, it is never too late. Clearly, it is vitally important for ESD to educate and offer opportunities to all citizens in order to understand the earth constant changes and the complexity of environment challenges and build students capacity to take appropriate action. Nevertheless, ESD will not only play as a critical role in meeting the challenges for sustainability but will also seek to transform communities to focus on positive change while working towards sustainability. In addition, it intends to educate citizens and explore on the importance of sustainability and consequences of unstable sustainability. Whereby students are taught to act upon environmental issues and learn to live in a sustainable way (Lang, 2008:8).

Firstly the vision for education for sustainability is to emphasize learning for change to create sustainable futures. Consider social and environmental aspects for instance they are one of the major attributions into global alterations and yet they are mostly ignored. Therefore, ESD purpose is to set up a way for students to learn how to re-vision and benefit from the education and learn the values, behaviour and lifestyles required for a sustainable future and for positive societal transformation (http://www.desd.org/About%20ESD.htm). Secondly, health development and environment is another major risk to the planet as unhealthy population endangers economic and social development and triggers a vicious cycle that contributes to unsustainable use of resources and environmental degradation (Council of Europe, 2010:271). Thus, ESD is fundamentally important in helping to shape a better society by motivating humanity to develop their responsibility in order to maintain a quality dignified human life. Furthermore, it will also increase the capability of people to transform their vision of society into operational realities (UNESCO, 2001a:1).

Thirdly, it is sad, but true that the preservation and restoration of the earth’s environment is crucial. Yet, globally humanity depends hugely on these as one of the earth life support systems in accordance with its natural resources. Therefore developing the understanding of the interdependence and its fragility lies at the heart of education for sustainable development. Hence, it is expected that the links between societal and economic considerations will encourage people to adapt new behaviours to help preserve the world’s natural resources and behaviors which are essential for human development and survival (Council of Europe, 2010:271).

Undoubtedly, without education for sustainability (EfS) none of the above limitations will go away. Here is an example of a quote presented by Einstein he stated that;

“No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. We have to learn to see the world anew.” (Einstein)

It is obviously that the quote suggests that it is important for ESD studies is one of the greatest resource that will prepare students who in the future will become teachers, bankers, managers, biologist, lawyers, and leaders to name a few create a more sustainable world. Surely, it would be arrogant if humanity with holds ESD to progress as it is crucial to all humans to have a sound knowledge on issues of sustainability. As a result, this will in fact bring environmental awareness which is decisively important for public to foresee critical milestone in the history of our planet and universe and urgency for the need of promoting such education. Besides, since it is individuals who make up the society and all the institutions are human made. It is inescapably to say what man can make, man can unmake as quoted by Frederick Douglass (Zinn, 1996:6).

However, according to David Elgin (1991) he quoted that we cannot build a future we cannot imagine and therefore suggests that the first requirements is to create for ourselves a realistic, compelling and engaging vision of the future that can be simply be told by creating a sustainable future ( Elgin, 1991:77). It is understood that in order for the sustainable development to be successful individuals must imaginatively develop and apply the vision of a sustainable way of life locally, nationally, regionally and globally ( Earth Charter Commission, 2000:6).

Although, the vision for Education for sustainable development was crystallised when world leaders agreed that the concept of sustainable development should be actively pursued as a global context (Tilbury, 2002:18). Still, there are misconceptions on whether ESD is achievable. With many researchers and studies confirming that the ESD is considered challenging and there are barriers in regards to educating the world on sustainability in a global context. So how would a sustainable globe look likeAccording to Roosa it would be a world where everyone has the opportunity to live environmentally safe, ecologically appropriate, maintain physical development, and possess efficient use of natural resources with a framework which allows improvement of the human condition and equal opportunity for current and future generations and manageable urban growth (Roosa, 2008:44). Nevertheless, As specified by Harken (1993) he claimed in reality most global problems cannot be solved globally because they are global symptoms of local problems with roots in reductionist thinking that goes back to the scientific revolution and the beginning of industrialism ( Harken, 1993:211).

Despite the challenges UN-CSD (1998) argues that it is of prime importance to make space in the curriculum for the interrelationship between ecology, economy, culture and social development. They maintain that the education should include the transmission of ethical values, co-operative behaviour and solidarity of action and that these changes ought to be carried through at all levels such as school, vocational training and during professional development (UN-CSD: 1998). I believe sustainable development is attainable. But I am also convinced that such profound change cannot be achieved without giving priority attention to the role of knowledge and education. For instance, consider several developing countries the global defined goals for SD is lesser to a certain degree compared to other developed countries who are actively attempting to live sustainability. In particular, certain parts in Africa and Asia those who live in worst slum areas which the parameter of the area is still small and yet surprisingly half a million people live in it. Until recently, these people did not have a school, hospital or even a police station. Therefore, it is unfortunate and inevitable because the top-heavy global issue on sustainability seems unachievable.

In Wales there are various projects that have been implemented for the youth and are required to work in guidance with the curriculum statement for Wales which states that youth work should be educative, enabling young people to gain skills, knowledge, understanding, attitudes and values needed to identify, advocate and pursue their rights and responsibilities as individuals and as members of groups and communities locally, nationally and internationally (Youth work curriculum statement for Wales, 2001). This statement was reinforced in September 2005 by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) by establishing education for sustainable development and global citizenship (ESDGC) strategy for action which stated that it is statutory commitment to ESDGC and sets out a Wales wide strategy for all educational sectors including the youth work sector (ibid). One example of the project working towards ESDGC is global youth work which incorporates principles and practices of sustainable development and global citizenship.

This project responds to some of the most important issues facing humanity today, environmental issues such as climate change, international wars and terrorism, trade and the global jobs market, poverty and injustice, asylum seekers and refugees, international business and identity and the survival of minority language and cultures. Therefore, it aims to empower people to be aware responsible and active by empowering them to make better decisions and supports young people to explore and take action on the global issues that matter to them and practising something positive about the issues they have learned about. The action ranges from making personal change to their lifestyles such as buying fair trade goods and so on, raising small funds, campaigning and advocating on issues at local, national and international level. Therefore, global youth work (GYW) has great recognition that young people should be encouraged to think critically about the world around us rather than just accepting the face value messages given to us from the media or politicians for example. In addition, GYW identify that the members of global society have global rights and global responsibilities and thus it is a process that we ought to realise that our lives are connected with the lives of others throughout the world. Finally, (GYW) seeks to foster active participation in order to bring change towards greater equity and justice (Development Education Association Global Youth Work training and practice manual, 2004).

Eco-schools (EC) is another example of how schools are working towards ESDGC. It is a program that is managed by the foundation for environmental education (FEE). Eco-schools currently is practiced in twenty eight countries including some African countries and being implemented in forty seven countries around the world and is based on the principles of agenda 21. This program is coordinated by the international non-profit organisation and schools are expected to work through seven steps to achieve green flag certification (Jacobson, 2006:122). Additionally, the eco-schools process is holistic it works by involving a whole school approach whereby pupils, teachers, local community, local authority, media and local businesses, parents, and other staff are all involved. This encourages teamwork and helps create a shared understanding of what it takes to run a school in a way that respects and enhances the environment (Hicks, 2007:183).

Practical examples of how schools work towards Education for sustainability: e.g. use of Forest School, Green flag….other initiatives?

Conclusion

Sustainable development has brought many changes in every sector of our society. It is understood as a development that encourages us to conserve and enhance our resource base, maintaining a reasonable balance between the desired goals and the available means n this is the way the endurance of the process can be established. Education for sustainable development is the educational manifestation of the concept of sustainable development and it faces a difficult task to put the principles of sustainable development into practice. Transforming the concept of sustainable development into reality is not a short-term process n producing greater lasting effects requires long-term strategies that would support changing the values of the whole community. Only this approach can achieve sustained health benefits and environmental protection in accord with the principles of sustainable development. (Epidemiology 1999;10:656-660). Therefore, as sustainable development is a concept that has ethical, moral, and spiritual connotations in it requires attitudinal and behavioural changes. The success of sustainable development will ultimately depend on the decisions individuals and groups make regarding their own behaviour and the bottom-line of these decisions is their value system (ARIC, 2000; Mang, 2005). Today, education for sustainability is positioned to enter the national stage as a priority for the coming decade. Taken together, the initiatives and framework laid out in An Agenda for Action offer a starting point. The hope is that the Agenda will stimulate further dialogue and action on these initiatives. How we meet the future is in our hands. Education for sustainability provides an opportunity to craft the future we want for a sustainable America. According to former prime minister Gordon Brown he suggested that globalisation has become one of the increasing significance and identified it as one of the six priorities resulting in global interdependence ( http://www.nya.org.uk) s to build a stronger and fairer Britain in reference to world coming together due to closer, economic, cultural, environmental, political and technological interaction

Bibliography

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Roosa, R., S. Sustainable development Handbook, London: Taylor and Francis Ltd, 2010.

Versita, Warsaw. Characteristics of Sustainable Changes for Schools. Journal of Teacher Education for Sustainability, 9, 9, 2008, PP. 35-54 . [Online]. Available at: http://www.metapress.com. [Accessed: 7th April 2011].

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