The Manifesto we all want – the call to governments

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

This is the second post focused on the "Enabling the future we want: education for sustainable development in the UK – a manifesto for dialogue, collaboration and action post Rio+20". It looks at who the manifesto is trying to influence.

The document itemises a range of "supporting mechanisms" that governments and civil society should put in place to enable and strengthen UK delivery of the educational commitments agreed in The Future We Want.  There are 4 headings:

  • Governmental responsibilities
  • Formal learning (in education and training sectors)
  • Informal learning
  • Emphasise the connection between ESD and the economy
For each of these, the manifesto sets out a number of outcomes that are being called for, and identifies a set of recommended actions.  Some of these are clear, and do-able; others are just as opaque as the above list suggests they would be.  The manifesto begins with government. It says:

Governmental Responsibilities the UK government and the devolved governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have a responsibility to articulate and support the important role that education plays in achieving poverty eradication in the context of sustainable development, and in meeting the United Kingdom’s targets for the reduction of greenhouse gasses.  We acknowledge that some parts of the UK have made more progress than others in advancing policy for ESD.

The manifesto calls for three outcomes:

Outcome 1. Better coordination of efforts and collaboration between governments and across government departments on formal and informal learning for sustainable development

Here, the recommended actions are ...

  • The Environmental Audit Committee to regularly put ESD related issues on its agenda and facilitate dialogue
  • UK government departments (BIS, DEFRA, DECC, DFT, DoE, and DfID) and devolved government agencies to identify how they will support ESD in formal and informal learning settings to meet their own targets for SD

Outcome 2. Improvement of dialogue between the education sector, civil society and government departments

Here, the recommended actions are ...

  • Offer incentives and opportunities for collaboration and partnership building across education sectors, business, and environmental, developmental, educational and faith-based NGOs
  • Funding to focus on the long term
  • Ensure youth and student voices play an active role in this dialogue

Outcome 3. Enabling education sectors to develop an appropriate curriculum to meet current and future sustainability challenges through a realignment of funding with The Future We Want in mind

Here, the recommended actions are ...

  • Inclusion of ESD in education ministers’ portfolios
  • Endorsement and support for those institutions and organisations that lead the way with good practice


So; a comment or two ...

  1. A picky, if rather fundamental, point to start with: the Environmental Audit Committee is a body of parliament, not of government.  How constitutionally crass to make that mistake.
  2. It's not at all clear who is to "offer incentives and opportunities".  Is this 'governments'?  If so, do they know?  And whose job is it to "ensure youth and student voices play a role"?  Not governments', surely?  This sounds more like a job for the likes of the NUS.  These are not so much "recommended actions" as a vague wish list of things that someone else really ought to be doing if they are inclined or have a moment.  As such they will surely have little effect.
  3. It is also not clear who those "those institutions and organisations" are who are to receive "endorsement and support" (I guess this means tax-payer cash) – other than those supporting the manifesto.  This all looks very cosy and self-serving.  As Bob Geldorf so memorably said, "********************".

My guess is that there will be a considerable dollop of skepticism in government (and the EAC) as to whether ESD and its supporters can deliver the sustainability goods – or whether there is enough time for us to wait to see whether they can.  Government is likely to put its faith (and money) into more direct action.  After all, they will argue, when there's an inferno raging, your priority isn't funding more fire-safety training.  Sadly, this is the dilemma at the heart of EE / ESD / EfS / LSD / SDE / CCE / DTE / ***, and every other adjectival education ever known to humanity.

Posted in: Comment, New Publications


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