Topic 5. Overview
Topic 5. Table of contents
b. Educating for living with the earth [+]
c. Learning for change [+]
d. Knowledge for a new paradigm [+]
e. Research and teaching for sustainable livelihoods [+]
f. Open to society: building sustainability together [+]
g. Universities in transition [+]
Education for sustainability first gained widespread attention during the UN conference on the environment and development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 (WCED, 1998) described ESD and identified the need to reorient current national educational systems to it and in order to promote and achieve this purpose, the United Nations has implemented the Decade of ESD (2005-2014) to help build commitment and skills across the world’s education system so that children and youth can develop an enhanced understanding of what it means to work for a sustainable future, a sense of responsibility for next generations, and a spirit of optimism and hope for a sustainable future.
To achieve a sustainable development, according to the Johannesburg principles (UN, 2002), requires to be aware of the challenge, to act voluntarily and have the collective responsibility and create a constructive partnership, and to believe and respect the dignity of all human beings, with no exception.
These principles for a long lasting human development imply different types of learning that match Delors' four pillars of Education (DELORS, 1996): learning to know, learning to do, learning to be and learning to live together. Within the UN-DESD (2005-2014), UNESCO added a fifth pillar: learning to transform oneself and society (UNESCO, 2008).
At the international level, there are two main challenges: the first is the role of supranational organizations such as UNESCO in advancing the prospection of trends and improvements, as well as in promoting networking and twinning programs among institutions. The European Union (EC-JRC, 2010), for example, has stressed that higher education must change and adapt to economic and social needs; that institutional change is essential to educational innovation for sustainability. The second international challenge is to encourage cooperation between distant institutions in order to share knowledge across borders and facilitate collaboration, which, furthermore, represents an essential element for the construction of a planetary (Morin, 2009) and post-cosmopolitan sustainable citizenship (Dobson and Bell, 2006): the assumption of interdependence, “de-territorialisation”, participation, co-responsibility, and solidarity among all inhabitants of the planet.
At national level, the State must provide the necessary financing so that universities can carry out their public-service function. The State may also enact laws to ensure transformation for sustainable development. There is also a call for change from the university stakeholders to the HEIs.