Think Piece: Re-thinking Education for Sustainable Development as Transgressive Processes of Educational Engagement with Human Conduct, Emerging Matters of Concern and the Common Good

  • R O’Donoghue


The modernist expansion of Education is examined to explore how the concept of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has emerged, is being worked with, and is being assessed in imperatives intended to foster social-ecological change on a global scale. The opening review sketches how education developed as a mediating process in modernity, tracking some recent shifts that are shaping ESD in more and more diverse contexts of education practice. It scopes an ESD terrain where knowledge and ethics-led learning in relation to valued purposes might enable citizens to become engaged in change that secures a  sustainable future for generations to come. Within these processes, competence specification is  examined as a useful but under-theorised social imaginary for framing learning for future sustainability, primarily in teacher education and curriculum contexts. Here, ESD presents as an open process of situated social learning where emergent  competences steer social innovation towards a more sustainable future (SD). The paper attempts to navigate some of the current tensions in relation to knowledge and participation in these processes of learning-to-change. It probes ESD as praxiological processes of dialectical reflexivity that can become situated in contexts of risk and develop as transgressive1 expansions within many conventional learning sequences in curriculum settings. The paper notes that current discourses on ESD and its assessment have often come to stand outside, and in contrast with, conventions of teaching and learning. These discourses also often conflate  education and sustainable  development in ways that ascribe change to ESD without adequately theorising the expansive and reflexive learning of citizens and how these processes might produce the desired change towards  sustainable development (SD) in diverse contexts of learning in and about a changing world.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2411-5959
print ISSN: 1810-0333