Education for Sustainable Development: From Environmental Education to Broader Views

Education for Sustainable Development: From Environmental Education to Broader Views

Liz Jackson (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9634-1.ch003


Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is an important educational agenda at the international level, with significant implications for both formal and nonformal education. Though a relatively new topic in modern education, ESD frameworks have evolved and grown in number over the last few decades, from an early concern with education for development and environmental education, to more critical orientations that focus on the relationship between individual and social factors and between environmental and political factors contributing to challenges today for ecological sustainability and global development and flourishing. In this dynamic field, priorities may vary with social context, as a critical interrogation of the importance of place in education is considered fundamental to modern ESD frameworks. This chapter explores and assesses the development of ESD over the past few decades as a formal and nonformal educational policy and practice across world regions, before considering future directions for research and practice.
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Some argue that the diversity of definitions and understandings of ESD across research and education contexts can be attributed to its early definition being given not by educational (or research) communities but actually by people within the policymaking field. Indeed, education for social development and environmental sustainability has its roots not in the educational community, but in larger social debates over environmental ethics which emerged in developed Western contexts in the 1960s and 1970s. Before this time, environmentalism consisted largely of land conservation, such as in the formal establishing and protecting of lands as modern public parks in western societies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Yet as Light and Rolston note (2003), Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, published in 1962, heralded a new ecological consciousness in western societies, which rejected the liberal Enlightenment view of the natural environment as infinitely exploitable for human purposes. With the book notably increasing public awareness of the toll of pesticides on animals, plants, and human health, a critical and postmodern environmental movement emerged alongside peace and civil rights movements that argued for reorganizing of human life with greater consideration of the natural world.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Education for Sustainable Development 1: A traditional model of Education for Sustainable Development, that prioritizes disseminating and using knowledge from various disciplines in order to enhance sustainable development.

Education for Sustainable Development 2: An alternative orientation to Education for Sustainable Development, that prioritizes skills and attitudes people need to continually gather, analyze and make decisions collaboratively based on values and new information and situations of the unforeseen future.

Nonformal Education: Education that takes place outside of formal schooling.

Sustainable Development: Economic, political, and/or cultural development that meets the needs of the current generation without risking the needs of future generation.

Education for Sustainable Development: An umbrella term that captures formal and nonformal education initiatives that aim to provide people with knowledge, skills, attitudes, and/or training for sustainable development.

Environmental Education: Education about learning about place, ecology, and the natural environment. Often has a place-based component and explores local forests, rivers, and other natural features.

Decade of Education For Sustainable Development: An initiative of the United Nations, led by UNESCO practically, for promoting Education for Sustainable Development around the world in formal and nonformal education from 2005-2015.

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