Education for Sustainable Development allows every human being to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future. 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 behavior 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. Education for Sustainable Development requires far-reaching changes in the way education is often practiced today. UNESCO is the lead agency for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014)
Sustainable development is a difficult concept to define; it is also continually evolving, which makes it doubly difficult to define. One of the original descriptions of sustainable development is credited to the Brundtland Commission: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987, p 43). Sustainable development is generally thought to have three components: environment, society, and economy. The well-being of these three areas is intertwined, not separate. For example, a healthy, prosperous society relies on a healthy environment to provide food and resources, safe drinking water, and clean air for its citizens. The sustainability paradigm rejects the contention that casualties in the environmental and social realms are inevitable and acceptable consequences of economic development.
Thus, the authors consider sustainability to be a paradigm for thinking about a future in which environmental, societal, and economic considerations are balanced in the pursuit of development and improved quality of life A widely accepted definition is “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Currently we are not even meeting the needs of the present let alone considering the needs of future generations. The United Nations have declared 2005 – 2014 as the decade for Sustainable development, in an effort to reverse Sustainability is now recognize to be a key area of development for the education sector. In particular, the policy and practice context points to the need to consider how best to embed it into higher education learning and teaching strategies and curricula. The Higher Education Academy is currently undertaking a program of development activity and capacity building so as to better assist institutions and subject communities in their development of curricula and pedagogy to equip students with the skills and knowledge to live and work sustainably.
This recognize the importance of increasing ‘sustainability literacy’ among students and the growing demand for sustainability skills among employers. Current work includes a baseline research study to identify existing good practice in the sector. The impacts of global warming and climate change is said to be “the greatest injustice of our time”. The world’s poorest people have contributed least to its cause but they are the ones who suffer most from its devastating effects. Poor and developing countries are the most that are at risk due to long term flawed natural resource management practices and policies, increased population density and settlements in fragile eco-systems, increased demand on environment and natural resources, poor governance and prevalence of corruption.
The acceleration of changing weather patterns due to global climate change aggravate further the underlying risk that many poor and developing countries are facing. Poverty incidence is higher in areas where natural disasters occur. The poor are mostly located in the rural areas and are dependent on agriculture, fishery and livestock that are inherently climate sensitive. Farmers and indigenous peoples in upland communities live in landslide prone areas and the poor in the urban areas live in hazardous areas like along riverbanks. “Poor households and poor nations throughout much of the world face two disadvantages: the inability to generate income and the vulnerability to physical social and economic downturns.
Drought, flood, conflict, inflation, disease and recession hit these groups and countries hardest. Furthermore, repeated exposure to these downturns reinforces the conditions of poverty.” Whatever progress we make from our poverty reduction and community development initiatives; these are shattered the day after a disaster. These clearly states that disasters do not only worsen poverty in poor and developing countries but by the same token undermine past, current and future efforts to tackle poverty.
DRR, Literacy and Education
Over the past years, we saw the transformation of many disaster responses from emergency and relief response during or immediately after a disaster, towards a Mn ore comprehensive Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) approach. Likewise, Community-based Disaster Risk Reduction Programs using participatory approaches are being conducted in many countries by government and non-government organizations. Since the adoption by 186 UN member states of the Hyogo Framework for Action, promotion of DRR in education had been taken, specifically in the formal education sector. Policy guidelines, tools and methodologies had been developed to guide policy makers, implementers and practitioners in integrating DRR in education.
This includes not only integrating and mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in education but as well as developing guidelines in school building construction. The Philippines is one country where this initiative was pilot tested. Several materials related to this had been developed by the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) and other agencies and organizations. A wealth of DRR education materials had also been developed – the Asia-Pacific Cultural Center for UNESCO (ACCU) Planet 4 module on disaster preparedness is one very good example.
Literacy and education is crucial to Disaster Risk Reduction. Reducing risks and enhancing people’s resilient capacities to deal with disasters requires them to understand how they could best protect themselves. Literacy and education is a necessity in raising awareness on the nature and presence of natural hazards as well as the vulnerabilities and threats faced by the community. It plays a central role in building life skills that could make a difference in life threatening situations during disasters. DRR and ESD
Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, disaster reduction has been recognized as an integral component of sustainable development (Chapter 3 of Agenda 21) and the cross-sectoral nature of disaster risk reduction was again emphasized in 2002 during the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The linkage between disaster risk reduction education and sustainable development had been visible on other international agendas. Disaster Risk Reduction encompasses economic, political, cultural, social and environmental dimensions and that formal and non-formal education initiative under this theme is consistent with the frameworks of ESD in three important ways: 1. Education for disaster risk reduction is interdisciplinary.
Therefore, important consideration is given to the impacts on, and relationship between, society, the environment, economy and culture. 2. Education for disaster risk reduction promotes critical thinking and problem solving and other social and emotional life skills that are essential to the empowerment of stakeholder groups threatened or affected by disasters. 3. Education for disaster risk reduction supports the Millennium Development Goals. Without considering Disaster Risk Reduction in development planning, all efforts including, decades of development initiatives could be destroyed in seconds.
ESD in a Climate Changed World
The nature of disasters in our climate changed world placed us to come into terms with our past and current behaviors, lifestyle practices and our views of society, the economy, the world, the environment and humanity in general. It bared the flaws of our past and current development models and paradigms that gave birth to our current environmental and climate predicament. It exposed who are vulnerable and who are accountable and revealed the cause and effect relationship between disaster and development – from a global to local perspective. The risk posed by the threats of climate change to humanity is a strong urgent call for us to rethink the dominant views that influence the social, political, cultural, economic, and environmental dimensions of our lives. No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew. Our current challenges in the face climate changed induced disasters opens up an avenue to question the current dominant form of development and education that brought us these problems.
It gave us the reality of our current context to reflect on our current education frameworks and a platform to create the kind of education that will save us. Despite many International Agreements and Declarations on the Right to Education, millions of children and youth are still out of school and millions of adults are still unable to read and write. Without education, these children, youth and adults face a very bleak future and are denied of their ability to develop their full potential – a massive loss of human potential that could aid in eradicating poverty and in achieving sustainable development.
Understanding the Right to Education
As well as being a right in itself, the right to education is also an enabling right. Education ‘creates the “voice” through which rights can be claimed and protected’, and without education people lack the capacity to ‘to achieve valuable functionings as part of the living’. If people have access to education they can develop the skills, capacity and confidence to secure other rights. Education gives people the ability to access information detailing the range of rights that they hold, and government’s obligations. It supports people to develop the communication skills to demand these rights, the confidence to speak in a variety of forums, and the ability to negotiate with a wide range of government officials and power holders. Our Constitutions Bill of Rights provides that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.”
Lack of education incapacitates an individual to assert and protect his own rights. The Right of Suffrage provides that no literacy requirements shall be imposed on the exercise of the right to vote. However, lack of education compromises a voter’s position to exercise his right to vote wisely for his and his country’s benefit. Education is a powerful tool that can provide people, especially the poor and vulnerable groups with the necessary knowledge, awareness, skills and competencies to transform their conditions. It is a primary vehicle by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and obtain the means to participate fully in their communities. It has a vital role in empowering women, safeguarding children from exploitative and hazardous labor and sexual exploitation, promoting human rights and democracy, protecting the environment, and controlling population growth.
It is a tool for empowerment – a powerful means to beat poverty. Unfortunately, these ideas however explicit remain poorly understood and internalized by our “educated” policy and decision makers in government. Twisted priorities and distorted values even outright corruption have crept in such that construction of buildings, purchase of school facilities, task forces and even feeding programs have become the milking cow of those in certain higher echelons of government. Learning interventions, alternative education programs and other support services to address shortcomings of the educational system will remain as that – stop-gap, isolated and spotty no matter how heroic, noble and outstanding the efforts of certain public servants and civil society sectors are – because a makeshift solution can be sustainable only to a certain extent and can never take the place of a mandate and a policy on education bolstered by a Constitutional guarantee which is still to be fully implemented.
Neither the call for Charter Change nor the lip service of those in the business of education can bring about substantial change in the education system. Enlightened sectors in public and civil society need support and encouragement to enable them to show the way and serve as models for the process of education. Various issues affecting local populace can be opportunities for people’s organizations, community and area groups to galvanize and demand for their education needs and other rights. There has to be a consistent lobby for the state to deliver on its obligation on the right to education. For so long as structural and material projects are given precedence in public investments by government to the detriment of education and other social development projects, the quality of education and, consequently, even our overall economy will remain poor and stunted.
It is not unusual to encounter a study expounding that there is something terribly wrong with the country. But we don’t know exactly what it is that we’re doing wrong. Thus the appeal of events like this launch. I must admit that in reading the Report, I can’t help but feel alarmed. It is particularly stressing to read that the state of education continues to deteriorate. One of the most striking observations in the Report is made in its companion paper. It points out that the issues we confronted in the colonial times persist today. This strikes me deeply. Education has always been one of my core advocacies. So I found it personally illuminating that the Report used the education sector as the model for analysis. The significance of education is highlighted best during times of crisis. A well-educated citizenry is our best bet in taking advantage of the eventual rebound of world economies. When the upswing starts, our people must be there to compete.
And the key here, as the Report points out, is to break the stasis in education. What drew my attention in the report was the presence of success stories. It is wonderful that out of all the issues, we do have successful endeavors to share. The Third Elementary Education Project (TEEP) and Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao (BEAM) are welcome developments. But beyond this, we should take note of the Report’s more insightful points. For one, it is enlightening to read that contrary to traditional thinking, funding, may not be the biggest obstacle to educational reforms. This is a good point. Greater changes can happen if we address organizational culture, and improve professional managerial expertise. By saying this, the Report gives us the chance to effect reforms that are not heavily dependent on funding.
Yes, the report is quite distressing. But I can’t help but agree with its main points. If we are to do some good, we must change institutions. Piecemeal reforms produce piecemeal results. The same philosophy pushed me to spearhead the creation of COMSTE, which works through a Technical Advisory Council of which Doctor Balisacan is a prominent member. Its job is to undertake a national review and assessment of the science, technology and engineering research and development system of the country. The intention is to make reforms that will boost competitiveness in key areas: science, math and engineering education, health services, energy and environment, food and agriculture, IT and IT-enabled services, and semiconductors and electronics. COMSTE operates on certain key assumptions.
There have been technological, socio-political and economic trends that have changed the nature and practice in the targeted sectors. However, the laws and rules governing the regulation and practice of professions have not kept up. Indeed, these laws have not been updated for decades. In addition, our laws and structures governing the development of educational curricula and the hiring of experts have become too rigid. In a way that mirrors the theme of the Report, our curricula ended up being so tied down with “formal rules”, they suffocated. This gave rise to a “culture” of instruction that is unbending and incapable of adapting to rapid development.
3. RELATED TO THE LESSON
From the time sustainable development was first endorsed at the UN General Assembly in 1987, the parallel concept of education to support sustainable development has also been explored. From 1987 to 1992, the concept of sustainable development matured as committees discussed, negotiated, and wrote the 40 chapters of Agenda 21. Initial thoughts concerning ESD were captured in Chapter 36 of Agenda 21, “Promoting Education, Public Awareness, and Training.” Unlike most education movements, ESD was initiated by people outside of the education community. In fact, one major push for ESD came from international political and economic forums (e.g., United Nations, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Organization of American States).
As the concept of sustainable development was discussed and formulated, it became apparent that education is key to sustainability. In many countries, ESD is still being shaped by those outside the education community. The concepts and content of ESD in these cases are developed by ministries, such as those of environment and health, and then given to educators to deliver. Conceptual development independent of educator input is a problem recognized by international bodies as well as educators.