EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Mr Pravat Kumar Sahoo
Department of Education
Central University of Punjab, Bathinda
Email Id: [email protected]
“We hold the future in our hands. Together, we must ensure that our grandchildren will not have
to ask why we failed to do the right thing, and let them suffer the consequences.”
(UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 2007)
The most important issue for survival in the present situation is how to sustain the natural
environment and our planet’s resources at the same time as developing wealth and well-being for
a growing population (Pauw, Gerick, Olsson and Berglund 2015). The concept of sustainable
development was described by the 1987 Brundtland Commission Report as “development that
meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet
their own needs.” This means we want companies to expand, people to have the best jobs,
everyone to afford nutritious foods wherever they live, quality and affordable education for
everyone, freedom of speech without violence, our economies to grow exponentially and develop
innovative technologies while keeping the environment safe. Now the concept of sustainable
development is not only confined to the area of economic growth but also it includes two other
aspects i.e. environment and society. A sustainable world can be achieved if our developmental
process meets the issue and take responsible action for environmental integrity, economic
viability and welfare society for present and future generation. Sustainable development is not
just about the economic growth. It also meets the diverse needs of people in different
communities, social cohesion, creating equal opportunity, to ensure a strong and healthy society
and it is the process for finding better ways of doing things without affecting the quality of our
life. For environment integrity countries are recognizing the importance of conserving natural
resources, people are switching to cycling instead of driving that will improve their health,
farmers are practising climate-smart agriculture and industries are realizing as to how much they
can save through energy efficiency. All of the above situations can only be achieved through
education for sustainable development. According to Nelson Mandela “education is the most
powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. For developing a sustainable world
we have to restructure our educational system in a systematic way where we can empower our
future citizen to realize the importance of sustainable development in their lives and prepare
them to make informed decisions and responsible actions for environmental integrity, economic
viability and just society for present and future generation. So that the main aim of this paper is
to explain the basic concept of sustainable development and to design an educational platform by
including such learning contents and learning experiences which enable each and every learner
to think and to contribute towards sustainable development at his own level.
Concept of sustainable development
sustainable development is maintaining a delicate balance between the human need to improve
lifestyles and feeling of well-being on one hand, and preserving natural resources and
ecosystems, on which we and future generations depend. The term sustainable development
became fashionable in the 1980s in both the world conservation strategy and the book entitled
“Our Common Future”, known as the Brundtland Report, 1987. Who defines “sustainable
development is the development that meet the present need without compromising the future
generation to meet their own needs”. Traditionally the word sustainable development is only
used in area of economics but now it covers three important areas which are environment,
society and economic. The sustainable development is development which meet the economic
viability, welfare society and integrity environment. The folloing diagram best describes about
Principles of sustainable development
Sustainable development programmes must address the three important spheres of sustainability
– environment, society and economy and sustainable development also meet the local contexts of
these three spheres, it will take many forms around the world. The ideas and principles that
underlie sustainability include broad concepts such as equity among generations, gender equity,
peace, tolerance, poverty reduction, environmental preservation and restoration, natural resource
conservation, and social justice (UNESCO, 2012). The Rio Declaration contains 27 principles
out of them some important principles are given below. These are:-
• People are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.
• The developmental process must be fulfilled so as to meet developmental and
environmental needs of present and future generations in an equitable way
• Eradicating poverty and reducing disparities in living standards in different parts of the
world are essential to sustainable development.
• Environmental protection is an integral part of the development process and cannot be
considered in isolation from it.
• International actions in the fields of environment and development should also address
the interests and needs of all countries.
• To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, countries
should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and
promote appropriate demographic policies.
• Women play a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full
participation is therefore essential to achieving sustainable development.
• Warfare is inherently destructive to sustainable development. Peace, development and
environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.
Objectives of sustainable development
• Eradication of poverty across the world: – The aim to eradicate poverty across the
board by expanding social protection programs like school feeding, cash transfers,
targeted food assistance, social insurance and labour market programs such as skill
training, old age pensions, wage subsidies, unemployment insurance, disability
pensions and so on.
• Zero Hunger: – End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and
promote sustainable agriculture.
• Good Health and Well-Being: – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all
at all ages.
• Provision of quality education for all: -These bodies have realized that the level of
child school dropout is at an all-time high. This gap must be closed to ensure
sustainable future development even as international communities work to ensure
quality and equity in the education sector. In a nutshell, this goal seeks to ensure
equitable and inclusive quality education and promotion of long life learning
• Achieving gender equality:-In the past few decades, gender equality and women
empowerment have been agendas for most governments for long-term sustainable
development. Access to education for girls has since improved, the percentage of
child marriage has plummeted, and huge leaps have been taken in the domain of
sexual and reproductive health and rights such as dramatic reduction in maternal
health. Although there is still a long way to go to reach this milestone, organizations
are using every ounce of their energy and throwing in resources to ensure the dream
• Provision of clean water and sanitation: – Water and sanitation are on top of the
chart regarding sustainable development. They are critical to the survival of humans
and the planet. This goal aims to address aspects relating to sanitation, hygiene,
drinking water and the quality and sustainability of water resources across the globe.
• Affordable and Clean Energy: – Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable
and clean energy for all.
• Decent Work and Economic Growth: – Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable
economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
• Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: – Build resilient infrastructure, promote
inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
• Responsible Consumption and Production: – Ensure sustainable consumption and
• Life below Water: –Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine
resources for sustainable development
• Life on Land:– Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems,
sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land
degradation and halt biodiversity loss
• Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions – Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for
sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective,
accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
• Partnerships for the Goals: – Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize
the global partnership for sustainable development.
Education for sustainable development
A fundamental change is needed in the way we think about education’s role in global
development because it has a catalytic impact on the well-being of individuals and the future of
our planet. Now education has a responsibility to be in gear with 21st-century challenges and
aspirations, and foster the right types of values and skills that will lead to sustainable and
inclusive growth, and peaceful living together (Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO).
The main aim of education is to enable all people to acquire the values, knowledge, attitudes,
skills and competencies required to shape their own life and society in a sustainable way and we
need to design such an educational platform where all individuals should act in complex
situations in a sustainable manner, which may require them to strike out in new directions; and to
participate in socio-political processes, moving their societies towards sustainable development.
UNESCO describes- “Education for Sustainable Development means including key sustainable
development issues into teaching and learning; for example, climate change, disaster risk
reduction, biodiversity, poverty reduction, and sustainable consumption. It also requires
participatory teaching and learning methods that motivate and empower learners to change their
behaviour and take action for sustainable development. Education for Sustainable Development
consequently promotes competencies like critical thinking, imagining future scenarios and
making decisions in a collaborative way”.
If you analyze the above definition we can see two essential features of education for sustainable
development the first deals with learning content and the second with pedagogy. As seen in the
UNESCO definition, education for sustainable contents covers diverse disciplines: climate
change, poverty reduction, consumption etc., and interdisciplinary is crucial to understand the
complexity of sustainable development issues. Education for sustainable development should
adopt a holistic approach which includes multiple perspectives on content. Education for
sustainable development emphasizes the necessity to include all three dimensions
(environmental, social and economic) and focus on their interrelationship, as well as interactions
over time and space. The holistic perspective of sustainable development recognizes that social
and cultural factors are often the cause of environmental problems and there is often a conflict of
interest between economic, social and environmental goals of individuals as well as societies.
Identifies three essential aspects of a holistic approach which connect environmental, social, and
economic dimensions of sustainable development issues, integrate their past, present, and future
implications, and focus on their local, regional, and global nature.
The second essential feature deals with the process of teaching and learning. Education for
sustainable development focusses on the development of skills and action competence for
sustainability. This pedagogy should engage students in different perspectives, views and values
when dealing with sustainable development issues. The progressive and transformative
pedagogical approach develops students’ critical evaluation of alternative perspectives and calls
for learner-centred teaching strategies (e.g., critical thinking, participatory decision making,
value-based learning, and multi-method approaches and social learning). Essentially, Education
for sustainable development aims to facilitate learning in such a way that learners understand the
world based on their own observations, and develop competencies to take action for
Curriculum for sustainable development
The curriculum is the soul of the educational system so we design the curriculum by including
such the learning contents and teaching strategies which create a sound learning environment for
promoting sustainable development among students. The learning contents which will prepare a
platform for students to think and realize the importance of sustainable development in the
present situation are peace and value education, environmental education, health education,
citizenship education, population education, consumer education etc. The successful and
effective transaction of the above learning contents depend upon the teaching strategies followed
by the teachers like experiential learning, enquiry learning, future problem solving learning,
learning outside the classroom and community problem solving etc. Which will help to promote
among students the ability to think and take actions for maintaining sustainable development in
three main aspects such as economy, society and environment.
Peace and Value education
The values and attitudes we live by affect how we relate to other people and to all our activities
in the environment, and so are a major influence on our prospects for achieving a sustainable
development. Values are generally long-term standards or principles that are used to judge the
worth of an idea or action. They provide the criteria by which we decide whether something is
good or bad, right or wrong and attitudes predispose us to respond in particular ways to people
and events. They are not so deeply felt as values and quite often change as a result of
All schools and Universities can function towards educating students for cultivating the seeds
of Peace. Curriculum and pedagogy to be followed at all levels of education can encourage the
development of Peace and international understanding (Ginsberg et al., 1995). The main
objective of peace education is to sensitize the learners towards the problems arising on the
Globe and to play a positive and effective role. The objective of sensitization would be
instrumental in struggling for social justice and other social problems at Global, National and
Regional level. Peace education creates a culture of peace, helping to build a non-violent and
just society and is essential for the survival of human beings on this earth. Robert Aspeshgh in
his write up on’ Peace education stated that “Peace education is feasible in a violent world
because there is a societal and educational necessity of Peace education”. The societal necessity
of Peace education focuses the need of insight to be given to Global issues and to bring changes
accordingly and the people in general needs to be educated in order to be aware of the fact that
the Global society should be made more peaceful (Nilima Bhagabati, 2009)
Every stage of education should promote, an active civic training which will enable every
person to gain a knowledge of the method of operation and the work of public institutions,
whether local, national or international level and to participate in the cultural life of the
community and in public affairs. Wherever possible, this participation should increasingly link
education and action to solve problems at the local, national and international levels. Student
participation in the organisation of studies and of the educational establishment they are
attending should itself be considered a factor in civic education and an important element in
international education (UNESCO Recommendation concerning Education for International
Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms, 1974). Through citizenship education, we prepare responsible citizens
who are committed to peace, human rights, democracy and sustainable development, open to
other cultures, able to appreciate the value of freedom, respectful of human dignity and
differences, and able to prevent conflicts or resolve them by non-violent means. Many civic
skills are involved in working for a sustainable development. These include:
• A willingness to investigate issues in the local, school and wider community.
• A readiness to recognise social, economic, ecological and political dimensions of issues
needed to resolve them.
• The ability to analyse issues and to participate in different activities aimed at achieving a
Developing these skills is the realm of citizenship education. Indeed, active democratic
citizenship is one of the defining features of a sustainable society.
The issues of development, environment and health are closely interrelated. This reflects the
complex links between the social, economic, ecological and political factors that determine
standards of living and other aspects of social well-being that influence human health. A healthy
population and safe environments are important pre-conditions for a sustainable development.
However, at the beginning of the 21st century, the education of many children and young people
around the world is compromised by conditions and behaviours that undermine the physical and
emotional well-being that makes learning possible. Hunger, malnutrition, malaria, polio and
intestinal infections, drug and alcohol abuse, violence and injury, unplanned pregnancy,
HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections are just some of the health problems we
face. So that education must embrace health promotion activities to achieve their goals. Schools
must be not only centres for academic learning but also supportive venues for the provision of
essential health education and services ( Improving Learning Outcomes by Improving Health and
Nutrition: Incorporating the FRESH Approach in National Action Plans for Achieving Education
for All, UNESCO, 2001).
Traditionally, consumer education was seen as the study of prudent shopping habits, family
budgeting, and ways of avoiding advertising and credit trap. Now it entrenched as one of the key
defining processes of economic and social life around the world in contrast with the values of
sustainability that are characteristic of indigenous communities. According to Aziah Hashim
et.al, (2002), consumer education is a means of providing knowledge to consumers so that the
individual consumer would be able to develop or acquire the skills, aptitude and values needed to
become a responsible and responsive consumer in market place as well as in the society.
Consumer education is also a means towards achieving a harmonious and civilized society based
on these principles of fairness to all, equity and truth. Through consumer education, consumers
are taught not just their rights but also to be more responsible towards their own consumption
and environment (Mazlan, Redzuan, Bakar, 2014 ). This education should include in curriculum
in order to develop knowledge, skills, values and aptitude among the learner to became a
responsible consumer not only for market but also for environment and society.
The successful and effective transaction of the above learning contents depend upon the teaching
strategies followed by the teachers like experiential learning, enquiry learning, future problem
solving learning, learning outside the classroom and community problem solving etc., which will
help to promote among students the ability to think and take actions for maintaining sustainable
development in three main aspects such as economy, society and environment.
Experiential learning:- At the heart of all learning is the way we process our experiences,
especially our critical reflections on our experiences. Experiential education as a key approach to
learner-centred learning for a sustainable development. Experiential learning engages students in
critical thinking, problem-solving and decision making in contexts that are personally relevant to
them. This approach to learning also involves making opportunities for debriefing and
consolidation of ideas and skills through feedback, reflection, and the application of the ideas
and skills to new situations.
Enquiry learning:- UNESCO defines the development of thinking and problem-solving skills is
an important objective of Education for Sustainable Development, especially given the urgency
of problems facing the world today. These skills can be taught and enhanced among the students
through enquiry learning. Enquiry learning is a learner-centred approach that emphasises higher
order thinking skills. It may take several forms, including analysis, problem-solving, discovery
and creative activities, both in the classroom and the community. Most importantly, in enquiry
learning students are responsible for processing the data they are working with in order to reach
their own conclusions (UNESCO report). The above learning contents should taught through
enquiry learning which enable to develop higher order of thinking among learners.
Community problem solving:- The main aim of education is to prepare children for maintaining
a smooth life in their society as perfect social being. Community Problem Solving provides
students with an opportunity to practice the skills that are needed to participate in finding
solutions to the local issues that concern them. This helps to develop the important citizenship
objectives of learning for a sustainable development and integrates skills – for both students and
teachers – of using experiential and inquiry-based strategies. It also integrates skills in the
planning of values clarification and values analysis with the possible solutions so students can
take action to help achieve a sustainable development.
In the above discussion, I observed that sustainable development is crucial aspect for present
situation which need to achieve in three main aspects such as society, environment and
economics. For achieving the above aims we have to restructure and rechange our education
system by including such learning contents and learning experience in order to develop the
skills, values and attitudes among the children which help them to think rationally about the
importance of sustainable development for present and future society.
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