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26 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 26 March, 2018 01:25:48 AM

Education for sustainable development

the implementation of ESD is facing a huge challenge in many developing countries like Bangladesh
Polin Kumar Saha
Education for sustainable development

Quality education is now being considered as an essential requirement in achieving sustainable development. The issue of education quality is first highlighted in 2002 at the UN World Summit in Johannesburg, where reorientation of the present education system is outlined as a key factor of sustainable development. The subsequent pathways towards quality education are recognised as “Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)”, which aims to integrate our actions over generating new values, understanding, knowledge and skills for the sustainable world. Afterwards, the idea of ESD is largely reflected in environmental education rather than developing our knowledge and skills on many other sustainability issues like social justice, equity, accountability, or other socioeconomic aspects. So, we observe that the ESD approaches are apparently making the society aware of the environmental protection and conservation only in a narrow mindset. Thus, the process is negatively influencing our overall quality of education and now, it has been very important to know how the ESD should be planned throughout all dimensions of sustainability principles imposed over the quality life without compromising the needs of future generations.

Ensuring quality education is one of our major agendas to be achieved in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A number of targets and indicators of quality education are referred broadly to the SDG 4, where the ESD itself is not properly explained in terms of analytical points and decision making process over the definitive criteria of quality education. According to the SDGs, the pathways of quality education are conceptualised mainly through developing indicators and achievements in student enrolment, early childhood development, equal access to all levels of learning, and infrastructure of educational institutions. In this regard, all levels of our learning processes are yet to be integrated with the proper concept of ESD as it is guided in the SDGs. However, the only indicators of quality education of SDGs cannot be accomplished literally unless some more steps of the ESD are taken into consideration in our educational curriculum.

As we achieve the SDGs through developing our government policies, rules, regulations and programs; therefore, a review of ESD may be considered in those reformations. An expertise effort is required at different levels of policy making in the country. Moreover, new programs might be offered presently providing a good basis of sustainable development criteria in inter-sector collaboration, e.g. managing interlinked opportunities among educational policies, curricula, teachers’ capacity and student appraisal. Sometimes on development of quality education issue, the debate is raised from the confused relationship between three development aspects - Development Education (DE), Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and the Environmental Education (EE). However, all these aspects are desired for sustainable development that looks set to continue as an integrated approach to get a quality education.

In the context of ESD in Bangladesh, our education curriculum usually includes the environmental education. The focus on this particular subject wrongly interprets the ESD as a means of narrow prosperity and, which has been adopted in the country’s education system. Subsequently, we have been away far from the real purpose of education for sustainable development. Particularly, environmental education is designed under the course titled “Poribesh Shiksha” in our primary and secondary education. Environmental science and its management related issues are being taught at the university level education. A recent study shows that the relevant ESD is also being implemented throughout the country’s non-formal education systems and the activities are mostly organised at grass root level different organisations, e.g. NGOs, or community-based organisations (CBOs). From other studies, it is also clarified that Bangladesh did not consider a significant level of ESD at different learning institutions while the curriculum and other academic activities were initiated. In contrast, many developed countries have either started, or revised their national curriculum for the long term educational journey under drawing the ESD agenda to the forefront of the UN World Summit in Johannesburg in 2002.

The overall reviews show that the present situation of our education sectors needs “planning towards scenarios” since the basic principles of sustainable development has not yet integrated in framing the country’s education objective. But before the sustainability integration in all the identified four development agendas (e.g. policies, curricula, teacher and student), we must explore a list of four potential limitations of these educational sectors:

1. It is difficult for central monitoring and evaluation of all the levels of different educational sectors. The executions of policies through proper channel and sufficient manpower are both problems to clarify a desired function of future education.

2. Our mindsets to the result based education system rather than building the learning process for achieving emotional intelligence (e.g. ethics, honesty, transparency, accountability etc) in the career path. The unrealistic curriculum is imposed at many levels, which is not found at all for the life oriented implications in future, or not satisfying the learning objectives purposively. The process sometimes foolishly locks our creativity when we find a lack of brainstorming activities in the learning process.

3. It is hard to know the standard eligibility and recruitment process of teachers at all levels, either in teaching or the related administrative matters. The present scenario is truly not satisfying the standard outcome of the learning process towards achieving sustainable development.

4. It is also hard to know the average or standard quality of students in terms of individual dynamism in the international market and get various competitive advantages.

Over these limitations, we have to be prioritised now, where ‘integrated curriculum’ can be the first choice to implement ESD in our existing education system. Every educational institution must have an own strategic plan in their systems aligned with the demand of SDGs. This integrated approach would have a vision to make contribution to the country’s sustainable development. Here the educational institutions can broadly be categorised as primary, secondary, higher secondary, vocational, or non-formal education etc.

The strategy of institutional ESD may allow the institutional own creative vision to help the national policy making and strengthening. However, to develop the quality education system, some quality contents of the ESD might be incorporated in the future learning process such as: a) sharing the individual values, understanding and sustainability principles that fortify sustainable development; b) encourage critical reasoning, problem solving, industrial research collaboration and necessary actions, which may build confidence in overcoming the challenges of sustainable development; c) make a use of numerous educational methods, which may debate to demonstrate the processes; d) facilitate learners to participate the decision-making process on the intended content and design of educational programs; e) deal with local and global issues comparatively, so that the jargon of language and different complex terms are avoided; and f) thinking about the future, which may ensure the educational content purposeful in the case of short-term, mid-term and long-term perspectives.

Finally, the implementation of ESD is facing a huge challenge in many developing countries like Bangladesh. We have found out a general four sectors of educational challenges all over the country’s educational system. These sectors are already mentioned above, which are as our national educational policies, competitive curricula, teachers’ teaching capacity and proper student assessment. These segments are becoming under poor structures in some contexts, through which we have already observed different hateful scenarios in Bangladesh, e.g. teachers’ recruitment, teachers’ eligibility assessment, teaching methods, design of exam question, public exam system, marking on exam paper, or student evaluation system etc. However, we cannot let go the education system as it goes towards the drastic poor outcome for the future generations. The existing system must seek for the ESD integration in many ways to overcome the education challenges.

In implementing the ESD, the challenges may also correlate some crosscutting issues over the country’s different characteristics, e.g. infrastructures, governance system, population density, frequent disasters, or different impacts of climate change on our livelihoods. Practically, all of these matters should be kept in mind when a development phase is initiated in our education sector direct or indirectly.

The writer is Senior Research Associate and Sustainability professional at BRAC Research and Evaluation Division

[email protected]; [email protected]





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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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