Education for Sustainability

In 1992, at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, for the first time, discussions of sustainable development paid specific attention to the educational system. Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 of the Rio Declaration directly addresses issues of education in relation to sustainable development in four main areas: (1) improve basic education, (2) reorient existing education to address sustainable development, (3) develop public understanding, awareness, and (4) training (McKeown et. al, 2002).

Responding to the call to implement Education for Sustainable Development, in 1994, the Earth Charter was formed to reorient educational goals with respect to Chapter 36 of Agenda 21. As a result, many organisations, educators and individuals began to refine the original goals of Agenda 21 into their own practices.

Education for Sustainability (EfS) is defined as a transformative learning process that equips students, teachers, and school systems with the new knowledge and ways of thinking we need to achieve economic prosperity and responsible citizenship while restoring the health of the living systems upon which our lives depend. EfS was formed out of the recognition that there is a distinct difference between “education about sustainable development and education for sustainable development.” The former was seen to be a theoretical exercise while the latter asked for the educative process to be used as a tool to achieve sustainability (McKeown, 2002).