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Education for Sustainability: How can Educators Address the Failure of Government?
* 1 , 2
1  School of Education, University of Northern British Columbia
2  Director, Human Security Institute (Canada)

Published: 31 October 2014 by MDPI in The 4th World Sustainability Forum session Sustainability Education and Approaches
Abstract: In many respects education systems worldwide still contribute more to the obstacles than to solutions in humanity's quest to implement acceptable forms of sustainable living. The same appears to be the case with governments, especially at superregional and national levels. We summarise the evidence suggesting that many governments fall short of their own broadly stated commitments towards sustainability. Their achievements are evaluated in relation to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and currently discussed notions about the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Also, widely advocated transition strategies, in the educational sector and elsewhere, have met with only partial success. Our findings confirm our previous critical assessment of the UN's Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and of the dominant interpretations of sustainable development per se. We describe the extent of the shortfall and offer some explanations for it. In the classroom, efforts to educate for sustainability are dominated by contingencies, norms and possibilities that differ fundamentally from governance in their dynamics and contingencies. It is therefore possible for teachers at all levels to take the initiative in ways that can compensate to some extent for the failures of governments. This possibility is documented by example cases and further expanded conceptually to describe a productive operating space for educators to help prepare learners for the inevitable challenges of the transition. We refer specifically to the goals of making communities more resilient, reducing their ecological overshoot, and maximising their human security. It is the level of community that offers the greatest potential for mitigating the failures of government as well as of education.
Keywords: Sustainability education; learning outcomes; resilience; overshoot; human security; governance
Comments on this paper
Ben Liadsky
Lots of good points
Certainly there is lots of room for further study of the impact and potential of local governments and communities to make progress on a variety of environmental challenges. On the topic of education, how do we bridge what is learned in a formal education setting into the "real world"? In other words, while it is undoubtedly true that education is critically important to shaping a person's identity and their values, there is also the question of how to ensure that those lessons learned and those values are reinforced and strengthened outside of the classroom.

Alexander Lautensach
Education in and for the Real World
Thank you, Ben - This is of course a very important requirement for any element of sustainability education.

Educationists talk about a hierarchy of learning outcomes that is to be compiled by the teacher
before and while planning the event. Obviously real world relevance has to rank high on this list.
Making sure that relevance is achieved and understood by the learners is tricky.
Learning through experience, practical exposure to real-world problems and collaboration with like-minded 

peers have been shown to carry powerful potential. Travelling helps in most cases, but it needs to include 
deliberate contact with learning opportunities.
How does that sound?