Learning and Education for Sustainability

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2004 See Change: Learning and education for sustainability
Education for sustainability is an emerging concept that “encompasses a new
vision of education that seeks to empower people of all ages to assume
responsibility for creating a sustainable future.

Key points from this chapter are:
• Education for sustainability is an emerging concept that has many of its
roots in the environmental education movement. Environmental education
is still important, but education for sustainability is broader in scope. It
recognises that human rights and social justice are just as essential to
sustainable development as environmental sustainability.

A wee rant…

The thing to be careful with here is that because “education for sustainability” has developed a “broader” scope, we do not muddle this up with issues that have nothing to do with education for sustainability. I believe that here in the institution that I work, many people don’t understand that “sustainability” is about
the environment! It is NOT about workloads or how to keep the Polytechnic financially viable – It is still about – Consumption of resources, Climate change, waste/pollution, population growth, peak oil and the ramifications of that.

The words “creating a sustainable future” – are about protecting the planet on which we live, not about protecting our jobs.

• It is imperative to develop some common understanding around education
for sustainability, or close siblings of this term.
Here here!!!! – Lets get on the same page here. I am getting sick of having debates with my colleagues about what “sustainability” is all about.

• Like all education, education for sustainability is not value-free. It encourages
people to extend their boundaries of concern and to critically think
about and reflect on their own values. It also encourages people to ask lots
of questions, challenge underlying assumptions, and to think for themselves
about sustainability issues.
But not forgetting the ecological principles that underpin sustainability

• Education for sustainability needs to focus on the underlying causes of
unsustainable practices, instead of just concentrating on their symptoms.

Underlying causes of unsustainable practices? – Greed, addiction, ignorance (Think oil) I don’t think we are even thinking about the symptoms of peak oil yet because they have not hit us yet – we still all drive around in our cars and import food and goods from far away places.
• It is important to be future-focused and develop a mandate within communities to make changes that support sustainability.

• People need to share knowledge, recognise the limits of their own expertise, and work together on many different issues.

• Both individual and systemic changes are needed to resolve unsustainable practices. This will require redesigning many systems that currently exist in society.

• International conferences on sustainable development consistently emphasise the vital need for education for sustainability. New Zealand’s government has taken part in many of these conferences and has made
commitments to education for sustainability.

So what does it mean in practice? Does it mean this?


The problems that
exist in the world
today cannot be
solved by the level of
thinking that created
– Albert Einstein

Knowledge is being
more effectively used
today to justify wrong
being done, than to
prevent it
– John Ralston Saul


One response to “Learning and Education for Sustainability

  1. a very passionate set of statements Helen. all sound education needs underlying passion and the discussion around what sustainability is will contintinue. (Just look at all the difinitions!!!!).

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