Sustainable Development in the Context of Higher Education: Approaches for Achieving Transformation

Sustainable Development in the Context of Higher Education: Approaches for Achieving Transformation

Margaret Stella Ujeyo, Rovincer Najjuma
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9561-9.ch012
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Education for sustainable development (ESD) is one of the multiple approaches advanced in the last two decades to address sustainability challenges affecting the world. While all types and levels of education have a role to play, higher education institutions are seen as the main drivers of change, but actions remain fragmented and inadequate. This chapter attributes this to inadequate knowledge about suitable approaches that would bring about transformation for sustainability. Premised on the transformative learning theory and adopting an integrative literature review method, this chapter attempts to bring together ESD appropriate programmatic and pedagogical approaches. Findings reveal the whole system, curriculum, and competence-based programmatic approaches blended with the adoption of learner-centered, holistic, integrative pedagogical approaches as the best for achieving the transformative purposes of ESD.
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The Concept of Education for Sustainable Development

There are varied interpretations of the concept of ESD. Makrakis and Kostoulas-Makrakis (2012) considers it to be teaching and learning that equips people to live sustainably by providing an understanding of interactions of social, economic and environmental issues. According to Kedzierska et al. (2013), ESD is a strategy for achieving the goal of sustainable development. ESD is also explained as “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” (UNESCO, 2014, p. 5). Dannenberg and Gapentin (2016) posit that it is education that incorporates issues of sustainable development in different aspects of education in order to develop competencies that will enable sustainable living. This chapter considers ESD to be a mechanism of integrating the principles and practice of sustainable development in education so that learners can adopt essential values, skills and competencies for social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Historical Development of ESD

Education can cause changes in values and attitudes towards environment and development (Sims & Falkenberg, 2013) and is recognised as one of the multiple ways of achieving agenda 2030 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The objective of Target 4.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development through education for sustainable development (Waltner et al., 2018; UNESCO, 2017). The target builds on the achievements made during the UN decade for sustainable development (DESD) which was observed from 2004 to 2014. The UN’s aim of declaring a decade of ESD was meant to ensure that principles and practices of sustainable development are incorporated into formal, informal and non-formal education. Remarkable actions were taken during the decade that saw ESD move to another level but the theoretical and pedagogical shifts necessary for creating the conditions for transforming learners did not take place. Lozano et al. (2013) affirm this point when they explained that the much needed actions from education however did not take place during the DESD. In 2015 the Global Action Programme (GAP) was launched to take ESD to another level (Goolam, 2015). The Decade for Sustainable Development (DESD) and the Global Action Programme (GAP) for ESD both expressively communicated the role of higher education in Sustainable Development (Goolam, 2015; Laurie et al., 2016).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Programmatic: The overall strategies adopted to by higher education institutions to implement ESD. They include curriculum, research, and outreach programmes.

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD): Teaching and learning that provides an understanding of interactions of social, economic, and environmental issues in order to equip people to live sustainably.

Pedagogical: Plans and strategies adopted by educators that tie together different elements of the teaching and learning process (goal of teaching and learning, choice of content, teaching methods, subject, learning contexts and condition of learners) with an aim of facilitating change in learners.

Whole System: An approach of ESD integration that mainstreams ESD in all institutional policies, operations, programmes, core curricula, and pedagogical activities.

Problem-Based Learning: Self-directed learning strategy which focuses on complex problems in an interdisciplinary manner.

Project-Based Learning: Learners are assigned tasks to help them construct knowledge through practice, active participation, and experience. They could be school-based or work based projects.

Holistic: Intimate integration of different pedagogical approaches to achieve ESD goals.

Constructivist: An approach that enables active participation of learners through critical reflection on previous experiences in order to generate new knowledge.

Transformative Learning: Learning that uses techniques that can bring about a change in perspectives, values, and behaviour of learners.

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