Education for Sustainability
Learning for many lifetimes
Few would argue that education, training and public awareness are crucial to moving society toward sustainability.
Education, in particular, is advocated by governments around the world as essential for advancing environmental sustainability and to sustain the social, cultural and economic well-being of people living now and in the future. But beyond that, there is little agreement.
People argue about the meaning of sustainable development and whether or not this is a contradiction in terms. They have different visions of what sustainable societies will look like and how they will function.
While there is difficulty agreeing on a vision of a sustainable world, we have no difficulty identifying what is unsustainable. We can easily create a list of problems such as inefficient use of energy; decreasing water quality and quantity; increasing pollution; abuses of human rights; overuse of personal transport; rampant consumerism; and ballooning global population.
Lack of clear definition should not hinder progress in sustainability however. Many important concepts of the human world – among them democracy and justice – are hard to define and have multiple expressions throughout the world and yet are strong principles that guide human societies.
There are a number of terms that are essentially synonymous and interchangeable:
- education for sustainable development (ESD),
- education for sustainability (EfS),
- sustainability education (SE)
- learning for sustainability
We tend to use the term ‘education for sustainability’ (EfS) most often because the idea of ‘development’ can be seen as being at odds with other sustainability notions such as ‘conservation’, ‘protection’, ‘prevention’, ‘mitigation’ and ‘restoration’. A definition of ‘sustainable development’ can conceivably include all of these concepts and when it does should simply be called Sustainability – a term which encompasses a lasting balance between development and protection.
Another important distinction is the difference between education aboutsustainability and education for sustainability.
Education about sustainability is about creating awareness and challenging current systems as well as learning about theoretical solutions. Many ‘environmental education’ programmes include education about sustainability. Education for sustainability is the use of education as a tool to achieve sustainability, and is therefore more practical and solution-seeking. Our programmes will encompass both types of education with the ultimate focus on positive practical solutions – and therefore on Education for Sustainability
Education for Sustainability indicates a strong purpose. It empowers all types of people to contribute to a better future.