ESD – more on supply and demand

Posted in: Comment

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about supply- and demand-side approaches to ESD provision in formal education programmes.  Here's another dimension to the debate.

ESD is normally presented as a supply-side issue.  It concerns what teachers do, and how courses are framed, rather than what students do; it is concerned with teaching, with learning an after-thought.  As UNESCO’s key characteristics note:

ESD is fundamentally about values, with respect at the centre: respect for others, including those of present and future generations, for difference and diversity, for the environment, for the resources of the planet we inhabit.  It mirrors the concern for education of high quality, in that it is:

  • interdisciplinary and holistic;
  • values-driven;
  • fostering critical thinking and problem solving;
  • multi-method;
  • participatory;
  • applicable to daily life, whether personal or professional;
  • locally relevant in terms of context.

ESD is lifelong learning from childhood to adulthood in all potential spaces, whether formal, non-formal or informal.  The range of learning opportunities within these spaces reflects the wide scope of ESD and the challenges for achieving sustainability in society and assessing progress.

These issues are what teachers (rather than learners) worry about.  The 2010 UNKC report on ESD in the UK noted this ...

People learn in many different ways: whether in formal institutions at various levels, from watching television or reading books and newspapers, through informal conversations with community members, through the influence of local and global media in the daily environment, or through grassroots social movements that raise awareness of sustainable development in society.  Along with these typologies of learning, ESD is also widespread in its concerns – sustainable development is about economic, social and environmental concerns affecting our present and future. ESD embraces not only learning about sustainable development, but also its furtherance through the adoption of (and thinking about) practices in our daily and professional lives, that contribute to more sustainable (or more accurately, perhaps, less unsustainable) development.

... which places learners and learning more centrally.  In fairness, ESD is not all about supply, but professional educators tend to start from there, from what they know, and what they know is important.

Oddly, learners never do.

Posted in: Comment


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