Education & Careers

Sustainability Education for the Workforce

Image: Baim Hanif, Unsplash

Sustainability education is also known as Education for Sustainable Development. This education for sustainable development was initiated as a program by the United Nations. UNESCO defined it as that education, which encourages the acquisition of the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values which are instrumental in developing a sustainable future for the society as well as the environment.

In 2010, the Council of the European Union declared that education for sustainable development or ESD is needful to achieve a sustainable society in the future and should be incorporated in all levels of formal education and training as well as in different segments of informal education and training. The Sustainable Development Education panel report of 1998 put forward the definition of ESD as that form of learning that was necessary for the improvement of the quality of life while simultaneously ensuring the enhanced quality of life for future generations. This kind of sustainability education instills values and knowledge into people which allows them to take part in activities and decisions about doing things individually or collectively, on a local or global scale, that is bound to have a positive impact on the quality of life without being a detrimental cause to the planet.

Necessary practices included in Sustainability Education :

Education for Sustainable Development or ESD necessarily involves several crucial sustainable development issues into its folds. The few essential sustainable development issues included in the teachings and learnings which are promulgated via ESD comprise of :

  • Climate change
  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Biodiversity
  • Poverty reduction 
  • Sustainable consumption.

The sustainability education curriculum is also advanced in a way that incorporates necessary participatory teaching and learning principles, which are meant to inspire and positively influence learners to change their attitudes and adopt necessary measures that would promote sustainable development. Education for sustainable development is a precursor to the proliferation of skills and abilities to envision future scenarios, incorporate critical thinking and analysis, and make collaborative, unanimous decisions.

Education for sustainable development or sustainability education requires a colossal metamorphosis of the quality and structure of the education system, which is prevalent these days.

Sustainability issues that should be emphasized in the Curriculum :

The key sustainability issues that should be taught to people through Sustainability Education comprise of the following :

  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Economic Sustainability
  • Social Sustainability.

 These broad categories can again be classified into fundamental sustainability issues.

  • Environmental Sustainability includes Natural resources management, Food, and farming, Ecological systems, Systems involving water and energy, as well as wastes, Biodiversity, and Climate change.
  • The domain of Economic Sustainability comprises Alternative futures, Leadership, and change, Learning organizations, Corporate Social Responsibility, Consumerism and trade, Globalization of economy, Accountability and Ethics, International development, Sustainability, and ethical tourism and Population.
  • The field of Social Sustainability deals with issues like Sustainable communities, Cultural diversity, Intercultural understanding, Sustainability in the built environment, Travel, transport and mobility, health and well-being, peace, security and conflict, Citizenship, government, and democracy and Human rights as well as human needs.

Sustainability Education Programs from all over the world :

Back in 1977, UNESCO formally announced environmental education to be turned into a pedagogic mission. Respecting the environment by following careful recycling rules and thus turning into an environmentally responsible citizen was the chief objective that environmental education was meant to achieve. These days, environmental along with economic and social sustainability issues are incorporated in the educational curricula which are being followed in institutions like primary schools to universities.

  • The United States:
    The launch of the Edible Schoolyard Project in 1995 by Alice Waters was done to achieve a goal of assisting schools across the United States in developing active edible education programs which had their foundations in shared standards of practice and justice. The program is necessarily responsive to the social, cultural, institutional, and economic values. The science and humanity students were involved in the nurturing and maintenance of huge kitchen classrooms and teaching gardens, which in turn prepared delicious school meals using fresh, seasonal supplies. Since 2009, the project has seen the successful training of 897 teachers, administrators, food service staff, nutritionists, community leaders, and the integration of parents from around 367 schools worldwide and representing more than a million students across 42 US states.
  • Europe:
    The Scandinavian nation Finland was instrumental in triggering sustainable education efforts in the curricula of different schools across the continent. But these days, Sustainability is one of the foremost educational issues that are being inculcated in various institutions, from primary schools in London to Universities in Italy, Germany, and Ireland. These programs are generally in conjunction with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network Project and consist of interdisciplinary courses that encompass issues like the economy, sociology, energy, and transport. The program developed by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition named Food and Our Planet is aimed at educating teachers and students on sustainability issues. 
  • Asia:
    Diversity and globalization being the imminent threats to Sustainability in the Asiatic region, a number of universities in Japan and schools in different Asiatic countries have been providing the courses that propagate sustainable practices through education; meant to foster environmentally and socially aware individuals and in turn protecting the planet.

Employability and Career options arising out of Education for Sustainable Development :

The responsibility towards the community as well as the environment, which would, in turn, foster the future generations and protect the planet could be manifested through every bit of Sustainability driven professions or exclusive careers which had their foundations in Sustainability and sustainable development. Certain careers that are inherently sustainable in nature are summarized below.

  • Green design professionals 
  • Green builders 
  • Solar cell operators 
  • Urban growers 
  • Water quality technicians 
  • Clean car engineers 
  • Recyclers 
  • Natural scientists and others.

Green Schools Alliance :

The Green Schools Alliance has been successfully imparting sustainable education and boasts of around 13000 sustainability champions from across 9000 and above schools, districts, and organizations that hail from 48 US states and over 91 countries. Results have seen that sustainable schools are creating environmentally sound platforms, and almost 98% of the students and other associated staff are coming across as environmentally responsible.

Therefore it is the need of the hour to include Education for Sustainable Development in all the educational institutions across the globe to create responsible individuals who care about the planet and the restoration of its sanctity in the future.

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