Following the UN-decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2004-2014) and the Global Action Programme that followed, there has been a growing demand for sustainability education to be embedded within curricula across the globe. International agencies, civil society organisation and some national governments have recognised the important role that education of young people can play in achieving sustainable development goals (in particular SDG 4.7 which aims that ‘all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development’ by 2030). Recent youth climate strikes highlight the potential to engage young people around these issues. Equally important is investment in infrastructure and training for the teachers who are expected to deliver education to these young people. UNESCO has released an online training resource for educators, but national governments need to do more to support teacher training.
SEEd has been campaigning for sustainability education to be included in section 78 of the Education Act (2002) with the following insertion after subsection (1) (b): (c) instils an ethos and ability to care for oneself, others, and the natural environment, now and in the future. To help support this goal, the short report below offers a brief overview of sustainability education within the UK and across the globe, drawing on a handful of studies that have examined this issue.
The following report has been written and prepared by Dr Katy Wheeler, University of Essex, Trustee of SEEd.
Recently countries such as Malta, Italy, Cyprus, Wales and Scotland, have been taking steps to embed Sustainability Education within their education systems. You can find out more about these countries programmes and initiatives in the links below
Malta has a successful programme, EkoSkola, which is dedicated to bringing ESD into all school education across the Maltese islands, and empowering students in sustainable decision making and actions. This programme implements a Whole School Approach that embed sustainability within the school, and has been awarded the Green Flag. It has been running since 2002. Read more here.
Very recently at the beginning of November 2019 Italy took a step forwards in making Climate Change lessons compulsory for all children. Lorenzo Fioramonti, the education minister, has announced all state schools will dedicate almost one hour per week to climate change issues from the start of the next academic year. Traditional subjects, such as geography, mathematics and physics, will also be studied from the perspective of sustainable development, said the former university economics professor. Read more here.
In 2008 Cyprus formed the Education Environment and Sustainable Development unit at the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute, which is the coordinating body for relevant issues in Cyprus and has the responsibility of formulating and implementing national policy on ESD. Read More here. Read Cyprus’ 2018 report.
Meanwhile, closer to home, Wales has placed sustainable development into its constitution through the ‘Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015, which requires ‘public bodies to do things in pursuit of the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales in a way that accords with the sustainable development principle’. Read more here.
And Scotland has introduced Learning for Sustainability as a curricular entitlement in 2011, following its Manifesto Commitment on One Planet Schools. This adopts a Whole School Approach to embed global citizenship education, outdoor learning and sustainable development education as a right for every child. Read more here.
It is time for England to implement sustainability education for all young people.