With a world population of 7 billion people and limited natural resources, we, as individuals and societies need to learn to live together sustainably. We need to take action responsibly based on the understanding that what we do today can have implications on the lives of people and the planet in the future. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) empowers people to change the way they think and work towards a sustainable future. ESD means including key sustainable development issues into teaching and learning.
It requires far-reaching changes in the way education is often practiced today. This educational effort will encourage changes in behaviour that will create a more sustainable future in terms of environmental integrity, economic viability, and just society for present and future generations. It represents a new vision of education. A concept that helps people of all ages to understand better the world in which they live. ESD addresses the complexity and interconnection of problems such as poverty, wasteful consumption, environmental degradation, urban decay, population growth, health, conflict, and the violation of human rights that threaten our future.
It also requires participatory teaching and learning methods that motivate and empower learners to change their behaviour and take action for sustainable development. Education for Sustainable Development consequently promotes competencies like critical thinking, imagining future scenarios, and collaboratively making decisions.
UNESCO aims to improve access to quality education on sustainable development at all levels and in all social contexts to improve access to quality education on sustainable development at all levels and in all social settings, to transform society by reorienting education and help people develop knowledge, skills, values, and behaviours needed for sustainable development. It is about including sustainable development issues, such as climate change, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity into teaching, and learning. Individuals are encouraged to be responsible actors who resolve challenges, respect cultural diversity, and contribute to creating a more sustainable world.
What does UNESCO do on Education for Sustainable Development in Brazil?
UNESCO is the lead UN agency for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and is responsible for the overall management, coordination and implementation of the Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD.
The GAP focuses on generating and scaling up action, around five priority action areas. These are to advance policy, transform learning and training environments, build the capacities of educators and trainers, empower and mobilize youth and accelerate sustainable solutions at a local level. UNESCO in Brazil plays a primary role in promoting ESD.
UNESCO supports countries to develop and expand educational activities that focus on sustainability issues such as climate change, biodiversity, disaster risk reduction, water, cultural diversity, sustainable urbanization, and sustainable lifestyles through ESD. It advises policy-makers on how to integrate ESD into education policies, curricula, and teacher training — empowering learners to live responsibly and to address complex global challenges.
UNESCO encourages training teachers to ensure that schools integrate ESD. For instance, an online course available for secondary school teachers on climate change education and training for teachers on climate change and sustainable development in Portuguese, and a version of this course adapted to the Brazilian context.
UNESCO creates discussion around ESD through organizing and participating in international meetings and events; by publishing relevant resources such as the title Education for Sustainable Development Goals: Learning Objectives and videos for children on ESD for children.
ESD and youth mobilization
UNESCO also develops a relevant role in mobilizing youth about ESD.
This video shows students involved in the SDGs Mediators Initiative, who read part of the chronicle entitled "Saudade da Escola" (Missing School). This video was produced collectively by students of the School Coronel Romão Gomes, from São Paulo City (Brazil), amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. (Subtitles in English).
ESD at School - Teaching Material
It is important that children and young people are protagonists in changing lifestyles, contributing to creating a more responsible and sustainable culture.
UNESCO Brazil and the Ministry of Education (MEC) came together to produce an unprecedented series of pedagogical materials in order to disseminate Education for Sustainable Development (EDS) and the 2030 Agenda for students in the early years of elementary school, age group for which there are few educational materials on the topic.