Education for Sustainable Development

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Education encompasses teaching and learning specific skills, imparting of knowledge, positive judgment and well developed wisdom. It has one of its fundamental aspects of imparting culture from generation to generation. It is an application of pedagogy, a body of theoretical and applied research related to teaching and learning. The basic aim of the education system for sustainable development is ‘education of a new man', ‘a man of a sustainable type of thinking’ a man of Cosmo-planetary consciousness with a holistic world outlook, who has a culture of sustainability, high socio-cultural needs and deep moral ethical values, who is capable to solve global tasks facing by the mankind and to promote the forming of sustainable society.

Education in its contemporary development should be aimed at the future, should “foresee” and form in a certain way and satisfy needs of future generations of people. That means that education should be anticipatory to social, economic and cultural life, it should form desirable sustainable future. But such ideas could not be realized in old organizational forms of education system. We need new organizational forms and educational institutions mobile, synergetic, creative, future-oriented- which could provide the implementation of new objectives and new historical functions of education. For that it is necessary that all spheres of life of society be incorporated whenever possible upon the principles of sustainable development. “Education is critical for promoting sustainable development and improving the capacity of people to address environment and development issues…It is critical for achieving environmental and ethical awareness, values and attitudes, skills and behavior consistent with sustainable development and for effective public participation in decision making” (Chapter 36 of Agenda 21,Rio Declaration 1992).


Sustainable Development is a complex concept with its origin in the natural and social Sciences that has been developed through international dialogue in response to the challenges facing the world today. According to Brundtland Commission (1987), Sustainable Development is “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

A core principle behind sustainable development is the idea that economic, social and environmental conditions play a major role. ESD has five components; knowledge, skills, perspectives, values and teaching issues which are to be addressed in a formal curriculum for sustainable development.

The Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD, 2000), proposed the Decade of Education for sustainable Development (DESD). It considers the year 2005-2014 as the United Nations Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD). The basic vision of the DESD is a world where everyone has the opportunity to benefit from education and learn the values, behavior and life styles required for a sustainable future and for positive societal transformation. Some of the proposed DESD objectives are to facilitate links and networking, exchange and interaction among stakeholders in ESD; provide a space and opportunity for refining and promoting the vision of, and transition to sustainable development through all forms of learning and public awareness; foster increased quality of teaching and learning in education for sustainable development; develop strategies at every level to strengthen capacity in ESD. The decade provides an opportunity for countries to define for themselves the kind of path they wish to follow. There is no universal model of education for sustainable development. While there will be overall agreement on the concept, there will be nuance differences according to local contexts, priorities and approaches. Each country has to define its own priorities and actions.

The principles that were identified in the Tsibili conference (1977) stated that Environmental education should consider the environment in its totality, be a continuous life-long process, beginning at the pre-school level and continuing through all formal and non-formal stages; Be inter-disciplinary in approach; Examine major environmental issues for local, national, regional and international points of view, so that students receive insights into environmental conditions in other geographical areas, Focus on current and potential environmental situations while taking into account the historical perspective; Promote the value and necessity of local, national and international co-operation in prevention and solution of environmental problems; Enable learners to have a role in planning their learning experiences and provide an opportunity for making decisions and accepting their consequences; Relate environmental sensitivity, knowledge, problem solving skills and value clarification to every age but with special emphasis on environmental sensitivity to the learner’s own community in early years; Help learners discover the symptoms and real cause of environmental problems; Emphasize the complexity of environmental problems and thus the need to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills; Utilize diverse learning environments and a broad array of educational approaches to teaching/ learning about and from the environment with due stress on practical activities and first hand experience.


In India, since the mid 1980s efforts have been on to bring Environmental education (EE) in formal education at all levels. In 2003, the Honorable Supreme court of India directed that EE should be a compulsory subject at all levels of education. It further directed that the NCERT should prepare a model syllabus for class I to XII, which shall be adopted by every state in their respective schools

If government officials or school district administrators are unaware of the linkage between Education and Sustainable development, re-orienting education to attain sustainable development will not occur. When people realize that education can improve the likelihood of implementing national policies, regional land and resource management programs, then education is in a position to be reoriented to help achieve sustainability. This awareness forms the first step in the reorienting process. Thus the importance of ESD must reach beyond the delegations and permeate the educational community and general public.

Pacific Education for sustainable development framework (2006) have identified a priority area in formal education and training which focused on structured learning initiatives for improved knowledge and understanding to support implementation of sustainable practices where the objectives of promoting quality education in all member countries was given focus. It will be through development of education policies and strategies research and development of innovative models and resources that support ESD in pacific contexts, inclusion of learning outcomes that focus on sustainability, development of strategies to assess student understanding of sustainability, development and identification of appropriate ESD resources to support this priority area using appropriate information and communication technology tools

Since ESD involves a comprehensive approach to educational reform, it should extend beyond the boundaries of individual school subjects and requires the attention of teachers, educational administrators, planners and curriculum agencies. Integrating the objectives, concepts and learning experiences of education for a sustainable future into syllabuses and teaching programmes is an important part of such reform, indeed: “A basic premise of education for sustainability is that just as there is a wholeness and interdependence to life in all its forms, so must there be a unity and wholeness to efforts to understand it and ensure its continuation. This calls for both interdisciplinary inquiry and action. It does not, of course, imply an end to work within traditional disciplines. A disciplinary focus is often helpful, even necessary, in allowing the depth of inquiry needed for major breakthroughs and discoveries”

Source: UNESCO (1997) Educating for a Sustainable Future: A Transdisciplinary Vision for Concerted Action, paragraph 89.

A Diagram

Inclusion of materials and experiences to develop a conceptual understanding of the phenomenon of change and the problems related to Sustainable development and to develop minds that cope with change and reasonable techniques for doing so is required. Content and outcomes needs to be in tune with the social and cultural realities of the times. Orientation to cultural and social realities also involves value bearing concepts and experiences which encourage examination of value and value conflicts. Hence ESD should be incorporated in the entire curriculum starting from pre-schooling to higher education which should be transacted in a meaningful manner.

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Send the Completed Activity Sheet to:'


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Answer any one in detail.

1.List out four activities to prevent Ground water depletion?

2.Write a justification for using Vermicompost instead of chemical fertilisers

      “No one need to wait for anyone else to adopt 
      a humane and enlightened course of action”
                                       - Mahatma Gandhi

3.Have you ever taken up any initiative as mentioned above that may lead to a sustainable society? Explain?

4.List a few activities for developing proper habit of disposal of Degradable and Non- Biodegradable wastes among school students?

Activity Sheet on Education for Sustainable Development