Efs Notes

John Huckle


EFS notes 

Education for sustainability

Education is critical for promoting sustainable development and improving the capacity of the people to address environment and development issues . . . it is also critical for achieving environmental and ethical awareness, values and attitudes, skills and behaviour consistent with sustainable development.

Agenda 21, chapter 36 

We consider that environmental education for equitable sustainability is a continuous learning process based on respect for life. Such education affirms values and actions which contribute to human and social transformation and ecological preservation. It fosters ecologically sound and equitable societies that live together in interdependence and diversity. This requires individual and collective responsibility at local, national and planetary levels.

Treaty on Environmental Education for Sustainable Societies and Global Responsibility - from Alternative Treaties from the International NGO Forum, Rio de Janeiro, June 1992 

Education for sustainability is a process which: 

  • enables people to understand the interdependence of all life on this planet and the repercussions that their actions and decisions may have both now and in the future on resources, on the global community as well as their local one, and on the total environment; 
  • increases people's awareness of the economic, political, social, cultural, technological and environmental forces which foster or impede sustainable development; 
  • develops people's awareness, competence, attitudes and values, enabling them to be effectively involved in sustainable development at local, national and international levels, and helping them to work towards a more equitable and sustainable future. In particular, it enables people to integrate environmental and economic decision-making; 
  • affirms the validity of the different approaches contributed by environmental education and development education and the need for the further development and integration of the concepts of sustainability in these and other related cross-disciplinary educational approaches, as well as in established subjects.

Good Earth-Keeping, Education, Training and Awareness for a Sustainable Future, S Sterling (ed.), UNEP-UK, 1992 

Education for sustainable development is about the learning needed to maintain and improve our quality of life and quality of life of generations to come. It is about equipping individuals, communities, groups, businesses and governments to live and act sustainably; as well as giving them an understanding of the environmental, social and economic issues involved. It is about preparing for the world in which we will live in the next century, and making sure that we are not found wanting. 

Education for sustainable development enables people to develop the knowledge, values and skills to participate in decisions about the way we do things, individually and collectively, both locally and globally, that will improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet for the future.

Key concepts of sustainable development 

  1. Interdependence – of society, economy and the natural environment, from local to global 
  2. Citizenship and stewardship – rights and responsibilities, participation and cooperation 
  3. Needs and rights of future generations 
  4. Diversity – cultural, social, economic and biological 
  5. Quality of life, equity and justice 
  6. Sustainable change – development and carrying capacity 
  7. Uncertainty, and precaution in action

Education for Sustainable Development in the Schools Sector, 
Report to DfEE/QCA, 1998 

Citizenship education has three strands: social and moral responsibility; community involvement; and political literacy. Schools should:

  • Educate young people to think of themselves as active citizens, willing, able and equipped to have an influence in pupil life and with the critical capacities to weigh evidence before speaking and acting; 
  • Build on and extend radically to young people the best in existing traditions of community involvement and public service; 
  • Make pupils individually confident in finding new forms of involvement and action among themselves. 

Citizenship education should cover an understanding of democratic practices and institutions both local and national, including the work of parliaments, parties, pressure groups and voluntary bodies; the relationship of formal political activity to civil society in the context of the UK and Europe; and an awareness of world affairs and global issues. 

Pupils should know about the world as a global community and pupils, at different key stages, should understand concepts and issues relating to such topics as the diversity and dissent, the economic system, human rights, and sustainable development and environmental issues.

Education for Citizenship and the teaching of democracy in schools, QCA, 1998

So, in the move towards a more sustainable local authority, education should achieve changes in the community which: 

  • lead to changes in work and lifestyles and consumption patterns which are more sustainable; 
  • build on people's existing knowledge, understanding and concern; 
  • encourage people to consider alternatives, help them to make appropriate choices and empower them to bring about change; 
  • encourage and enable people to take part in the decision-making process, offering them the tools (skills, values, knowledge and confidence) to be effective; 
  • enable people to find and use information effectively; 
  • give opportunities to participate - leading people to take responsibility and gain a sense of ownership; 
  • help people to understand the links between issues and see connections with their own lives; 
  • encourage principles leading to a fairer society and more equitable distribution of resources - both within and outside the authority; 
  • enable people to identify practices that are relevant to sustainability and to monitor their own actions in relation to them. 

Educating for a Sustainable Local Community, Local Government Management Board, 1994 

In 1997 QCA published new draft guidance on the promotion of pupils’ personal, moral, spiritual and social development. The Statement of Values covers the self, relationships, society, and the environment. 

We value the environment, both natural and shaped by humanity, as the basis of life and a source of wonder and inspiration. 

On the basis of these values we should: 

  • accept our responsibility to maintain a sustainable environment for future generations; 
  • understand the place of human beings within nature; 
  • understand our responsibilities for other species; 
  • ensure that development can be justified; 
  • preserve balance and diversity in nature wherever possible; 
  • preserve areas of beauty and interest for future generations; 
  • repair, wherever possible, habitats damaged by human development and other means.

At Key Stage 1 pupils come to know and understand the beauty of natural symmetries and regularities (eg. environmental) and how we benefit from taking them into account. They come to be able to reflect upon and talk about their experiences of the environment, attempting to understand what things are like and how places/environments differ. 

At Key Stage 2 pupils come to know and understand how natural processes and human thoughtlessness are endangering certain species, landscapes and environments, and what they might do about this. They come to be able to contribute to the building of consensus, expressing their own ideas and preferences, but recognizing when compromise is necessary. 

The promotion of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, QCA, 1997