Think Piece. Re-badged Environmental Education: Is ESD more than just a slogan?

  • I Robottom


In the field of environment-related education, the period from the early 1970s to the present is marked by both continuity and contestation. There has been a remarkable continuity of interest in linking education and environment (especially, but not only, in schools); and there has also been contestation and resultant evolution in the language of the field, with terms like ecology education, environmental education and education for sustainable development becoming highly visible at different times. Environment-related education represents an interesting case in educational innovation – one being played out at an international level. In particular, we are currently in the throes of a situation in which the environment-related work formerly known as ‘environmental education’ (EE) is being aggressively and extensively ‘re-badged’ as ‘education for sustainable development’ (ESD). There are strong attempts internationally to supplant the use of the term EE with the newer term ESD; most of these attempts are associated with the current international United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. The Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) runs for the period 2005–2014, and is gathering pace across the world (Selby, 2006). Speaking at the international launch of DESD in New York in March 2005, UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura suggested that

The ultimate goal of the Decade is that education for sustainable development is more than just a slogan. It must be a concrete reality for all of us – individuals, organizations, governments – in all our daily decisions and actions, so as to promise a sustainable planet and a safer world to our children, our grandchildren and their descendants… Education will have to change so that it addresses the social, economic, cultural and environmental problems that we face in the 21st century. (UNESCO, 2005:2)

Now that the United Nations has taken this concept on board in such a significant way in proclaiming a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, ESD is clearly supplanting environmental education in the language of environment-related education.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2411-5959
print ISSN: 1810-0333