Education for Sustainability: How can Educators Address the Failure of Government?
Published: 31 October 2014 by MDPI AG 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