Education for Sustainable Development

Sustainable development cannot be achieved by technological solutions, political regulation or financial instruments alone. We need to change the way we think and act. This requires quality education and learning for sustainable development at all levels and in all social contexts.

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is about enabling us to constructively and creatively address present and future global challenges and create more sustainable and resilient societies.

UNESCO has been recognized globally as the lead agency for ESD. It coordinates the implementation of the Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD, as official follow-up to the United Nations Decade of ESD (2005-2014).

In a world of 7 billion people, with limited natural resources, individuals and societies have to learn to live together and take responsible actions based on the understanding that actions here and today can have implications for the lives and livelihoods of people in other parts of the world, as well as for future generations.

Empowering learners to live responsible lives and to address complex global challenges means that education has to promote competencies like critical thinking, imagining future scenarios and making decisions in a collaborative way. This calls for new approaches to learning, the development of vibrant green economies and societies, and the emergence of a “global citizenship”.This calls for new approaches to learning, the development of vibrant green economies and societies, and the emergence of a “global citizenship ”.

UNESCO supports countries to build ESD capacities, generate and scale-up actions, focusing on three key issues - climate change, biodiversity and disaster risk reduction - as entry points for promoting sustainable development practices through education.

It advises policy-makers on how to integrate ESD into education plans and curricula. It develops ESD tools and materials  for decision-makers, teachers and students to contribute to making education relevant for today’s world. It also helps link learning in schools to real life experience.

UNESCO encourages reorienting teacher education to ensure that ESD is integrated into teaching practices, for example through the new online course for secondary school teachers on climate change education. ESD success stories and many projects of UNESCO Associated Schools   are other examples of how ESD works in practice around the world.

The 2014 UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (10-12 November 2014, Aichi-Nagoya, Japan) marked the end of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD, 2005-2014). The conference saw the launch of the Aichi-Nagoya Declaration on ESD and of the Roadmap for the implementation of the Global Action Programme on ESD. The Global Action Programme, endorsed by UNESCO’s 37th General Conference and the 69th session of the UN General Assembly, is intended to make a substantial contribution to the post-2015 agenda.

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