Environmental problems such as global warming, land degradation and loss of biological diversity, transboundary disputes linked to the use of water and other natural resources, the effects of unsustainable consumption – addressing these challenges requires a change of attitude in society. Education is a key catalyst of any such change for the present and next generations.
Five years ago, on 18 March 2005 Ministers of education and of environment from the UNECE region adopted a Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). The region’s flagship in the implementation of the UN Decade on ESD, the Strategy is a roadmap for reform of education systems in over 50 participating countries.
It promotes a shift from traditional environmental education to integrating sustainable development issues into each discipline. It also relies on life-long learning and learning in non-formal and informal ways (e.g. through on-the-job training, industry sustainability schemes, community projects and the work of civil society organizations).
ESD implies a change from teaching about “what” to learning about “how” - how to live in a way that balances our economic, social and environmental needs. It also relies on participatory learning and moving from memorizing facts to learning how to analyze the ever faster changing information, learning to be flexible and to adapt.
A collection of several hundred successful ESD examples carried out by UNECE and UNESCO shows how much is already happening on the ground (www.unece.org/env/esd/GoodPractices/list.html). The challenge now is for the national education systems to adopt the new approach and to build on each-other’s experience.
“A lot of progress has been made in the first 5 years: 18 National Action Plans and 13 National Strategies on ESD have been or are being adopted and ESD has been incorporated into the national sustainable development policies in the region” noted Marco Keiner, Director of the UNECE Environment, Housing and Land Management Division, welcoming delegates at the 5th ESD Steering Committee. “The priority should now be given to practical implementation”.
The review of implementation by countries, due to be completed in October 2010, will help to identify what has been achieved and which areas of work the program should focus on in the next 5 years. The Steering Committee has reviewed progress in work on educator competences in ESD and discussed some implementation challenges such as modification of curricula, teacher training, strengthening cooperation between environment and education authorities and technical assistance needs of the countries with economies in transition.
The Committee also initiated a coordination process for capacity-building initiatives in the region. A joint meeting of UN agencies, international and non-governmental organizations, held back-to-back with the Steering Committee, discussed ongoing projects, possible links and synergies and the needs identified by beneficiary countries.
For more information, please visit: www.unece.org/env/esd
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