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Enabling the future we want: A manifesto on Education for Sustainable Development in the UK

What is the future we want, and what role does education have to play in its development?  

The Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) has gone some way toward answering these questions by way of a Manifesto for dialogue, collaboration and action Post Rio+20.  Following its UK-wide consultation held between November 2012 and May 2013, the EAUC has released a Manifesto in response to the Rio+20 outcome document, ‘The Future We Want’.  The Manifesto serves as a call to action across the UK, seeking cross-sectoral collaboration for the strengthening of education within sustainable development.

The Manifesto suggests seven mechanisms for government and civil society by which they can strengthen UK delivery of educational commitments towards The Future We Want.  These are proposed within four areas:  governmental responsibilities, formal learning, informal learning, and emphasising the connection between ESD and the economy. Most focus on improved dialogue, collaboration and coordination between government, NGOs, educational institutions, community groups and businesses.

Manifesto’s 7 mechanisms for government and civil society
 Governmental responsibilities
  • Better coordination of efforts and collaboration between governments and across government departments on formal and informal learning for sustainable development
  • Improvement of dialogue between the education sector, civil society and government departments
  • 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
Formal learning (education and training sectors)
  • Six curriculum change recommendations including: teacher training, incentives from education quality enhancement bodies, national curricula objectives, Natural Environment White Paper implementation, student involvement in curriculum design and interdisciplinary learning opportunities
  • Three institutional change recommendations including: institutional leadership in SD, strengthened links between education institutions and local communities, support for young people not engaged in formal further education
 Informal learning
  • Increased collaboration between NGOs and formal education providers
  • ESD and Economy Connections
  • Increased collaboration between governments, NGOs, business and education sectors to ensure young people are sufficiently prepared for the opportunities and challenges of a Green and Fair Economy

At the launch on 17 December, 2013 at the House of Commons, more than 80 people from these different sectors, and representing all forms of education, gathered for an event hosted by Joan Walley MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Select Committee.  Speakers included the Shadow Schools Minister, Kevin Brennan MP, and a number of individuals providing ‘witness accounts’ of ways that education can support sustainable development.  These ranged from primary school pupils and NGO representatives to university youth ambassadors and a Director from HEFCE. During this portion of the launch, the University of Bristol’s Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Coordinator Aisling Tierney  gave a presentation.  Aisling presented ways in which the ESD unit helps support University lecturers and professors to incorporate aspects of ESD into their teaching.  Following the witness accounts, all attendees participated in a round table discussion about how and why they can commit to taking the agenda forward.

Cabot Institute at Big Green Week
educating the public about overfishing
and climate change
The Cabot Institute can do its part in the fulfilment of the Manifesto through the Informal Learning route, which calls upon Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to support community learning about sustainable development.  Cabot pursues continued engagement with the public to share the university’s latest research on risks and uncertainty in a changing environment. Examples include Cabot’s participation the Festival of Nature and planned activities surrounding Bristol’s position as the 2015 European Green Capital.  Such initiatives continue to help to raise awareness within the wider Bristol area on topics including climate change, natural hazards, food and energy security and human impacts on the environment.

Read the ManifestoLearn more about ESD at the University of Bristol

This blog was written by Terra Sprague, Research Fellow, Graduate School of Education.

Terra Sprague


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