is not just “development” that needs
to be redefined...
It has taken a long time to realize
that the paradigm of development that largely
ignored the environment was a disaster. The journey
from Stockholm to Rio, and onto Johannesburg took
thirty years. Now, at long last, there is the
acceptance that we need to move towards a more
sustainable form of development.
It is also being recognized that
in order to achieve sustainable development, there
need to be policy changes, changes in the systems
of work, changes in the technologies we use, etc.
What is also getting better recognition is that,
for this to happen, we need to use education and
communication to raise awareness, capacity build
communities to vision and participate in bringing
about the change, and equip societies with the
kinds of expertise required to make the change.
But what is, perhaps, not as widely
recognized is that it is not only the paradigm
of development that needs to be changed to achieve
sustainability, but that the paradigm of education
also has to change in certain fundamental ways.
Some of these changes are listed below. The various
points are interrelated and form part of a single
paradigm shift which is needed as we move towards
education for sustainable development.
- Learning rather than
This change is fundamental to the way one thinks
of education—Education, from being something
that society determines for its citizens, or
adults decide for their children, will have
to become "seeker" oriented. The classical
"guru" concept of ancient India where
the guru would teach, as strictly as a teacher,
but recognize that the pupils would someday
seek their own path. Teaching, therefore, needs
to be focused on making the student a better
learner, rather than filling the student with
information per se. And ESD is not only about
learning individuals, but learning institutions
- Life long and continuous rather
than confined to a specified period
Education was something thought of as an activity
you essentially did during the first quarter
or so of your life. It aimed to give you the
knowledge and skills required for the rest of
your life. With the rapid pace of change today,
this is obviously not quite enough. Institutions
have started a variety of in-service courses.
Increasing adult education programmes are available.
Non-formal opportunities, and opportunities
for community education have increased manifold.
But the older paradigm still remains largely
intact. In a new world through internet and
other emerging educational opportunities, it
is likely that certification will no longer
be based on "residency" factors. Technology
is also driving people to learn new skills.
But there are still many who have a diffident
attitude towards new learning. "I’m
too old" to learn. Distance learning is
emerging as a major alternative way for learning.
But issues such as access for all, digital divide,
are continuing concerns.
- Multi-sourced and accessed
rather than top down, controlled,
The school and the textbook no longer have the
virtual monopoly they had on the child’s
mind. Most children have independent access
to information, without "gate keepers".
Even parents can’t "control"
the educational exposure the child has. And
this is only going to increase. The teacher
now has to "compete" with other sources.
The student can verify information given in
the class room.
- Empowering rather than socializing
ESD is about individuals and communities, questioning,
visioning and making changes. It is, in that
way, contrary to conventional education which
is a process of a system meant for fitting people
to fit in and not upset the status quo, to a
process where people are empowered to change
- Global and yet locale specific
Education today needs to give people the global
perspectives and connections, at the same time
enable them to interpret generic learnings in
their local context, and to not only act locally,
but see the wider impacts of their actions.
- Capacity building to build
abilities for critical thinking and problem
With the onslaught of information from various
sources and ever increasing amounts of data,
the issue is often of being able to select and
process information, critically analyze it,
and take decisions based on this. It is these
skills that ESD attempts to develop.
- Multi-disciplinary approach
as opposed to a single new discipline
Real world problems need integrated, multi-disciplinary
solutions while most institutions—from
school education on, and including government—are
organized sectorally. This compartmentalization
starts with school education. An important task
for ESD is to break these barriers, and help
in seeing connections and the holistic linkages.
- Sensitive to gender, diversity
ESD needs to not only be sensitive to, but also
support and enhance the celebration of diversity—of
cultures, languages, societies, and diversity
in the natural world. Sensitivity to gender,
equity and other issues, needs to be an integral
part of ESD, and it needs to be inclusive of,
as against discriminatory on, gender, caste,
and other factors.
- Participatory and based
on learning with peers
Conventional education dictates what and how
learners should learn. In an increasingly complex
world, people will decide what they need to
learn and how best, and when, they need to learn.
ESD needs to empower and enable learners to
learn when, where, what and how they choose,
as opposed to one-directional teacher to passive
The UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development
(ESD) is an international recognition of the key
role that Education and Communication can play
in enabling and enhancing sustainable development
efforts, and processes leading towards these.
The recognition that education is a critical agent
of transformation in terms of changing lifestyles,
attitudes and behaviour, in increasing participation
in visioning and realizing a sustainable world,
and facilitating the use of Communication, Education,
Participation and Awareness (CEPA) to foster the
change needs in different sectors, needs to be
further strengthened. Reflection, visioning and
sharing are the crucial elements of ESD.
The International Conference, ‘Education
for a Sustainable Future’, looked at these
issues generically in the plenary sessions, and
discussed the paradigm shift required for ESD.
In addition, the links of DESD to other global
commitments like Millenium Development Goals,
Education for ALL and UN Literacy Decade and how
these can work synergistically, were considered.
The various workshops discussed the specific Education
and Communication related issues in relation to
the specific sectors.
Kartikeya V. Sarabhai
Director, Centre for Environment Education, Ahmedabad,