Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in Higher Education

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in Higher Education

Margaret Stella Suubi Ujeyo
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6331-0.ch008
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Criticisms abound regarding the quality and relevance of higher education. Addressing these criticisms requires innovative approaches including Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). This chapter examines the contribution of ESD to the quality and relevance of higher education. The chapter explains the concepts of quality, relevance, sustainable development, and education for sustainable development in higher education. Applying the concepts of systems theory and transformative learning, the chapter explores the contribution of ESD to improvement of higher education through strategies that empower learners with higher order skills. Many of the ESD learning outcomes and competences could translate into success in the lives of graduates in the workplace. The challenges to the adoption of ESD in higher education are also discussed.
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Conceptualisation Of Quality, Relevance, Sustainable Development, And Education For Sustainable Development In Higher Education

Quality and Relevance in Higher Education

Quality in higher education has several definitions depending on the perspective used to define it. Thus it can mean exceptional excellence; transformative when dealing with learner empowerment; value for money when it is linked to efficiency and effectiveness; fitness for purpose which concerns fulfillment of institutional mission and perfection when it means zero-defect (Krcal, Glass & Tremblay, 2014). Quality has also been explained by Nikel and Lowe (2010) as embracing the dimensions of effectiveness, efficiency, equity, relevance, responsiveness and sustainability. However, what is important is that the discussion of quality has to encompass the tripartite mission of the university, that is, quality should involve good teaching, research and community engagement. Good teaching must be informed by the latest research and new knowledge (McAleese et al., 2013). A whole mark of quality teaching, according to McAleese and colleagues, is when both teacher and learner are actively involved in the educational process, begin to question and become critical thinkers. These are skills that are highly sought after by employers and external stakeholders of higher education.

Relevance of higher education refers to its fulfillment of the social, economic and political role (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 1991). It is discussed in relation to application of knowledge. Knowledge is said to be relevant when it can be applied. Relevance means ensuring that the intellectual and educational functions contribute to social, economic and political development of society.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Systems Theory: The assumption that quality of a part of a system can only be understood in its relationship to the whole and investigating the parts in isolation cannot explain their combined effect on the whole system.

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD): A process of integrating the principles and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning, to encourage changes in knowledge, values and attitudes with the vision of enabling a more sustainable and just society for all.

Relevance: Ensuring that the intellectual and educational functions of higher education fulfill its social, economic and political role.

Paradigm Shift: A change in standards, practices and ways of operations.

Quality: High standard teaching and learning, research and community engagement.

Higher Education: Post-secondary or tertiary education conducted in universities and other tertiary institutions.

Sustainable Development: Using resources in such a way that the present generation of people meets its needs without compromising and endangering future generations in meeting their needs.

Transformational Learning: Learning that brings about a change in perspectives, values and behavior.

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