Education & Sustainable Development

Sustainability is now being considered by Governments & societies globally as more of necessity than as an aspiration to be achieved. While the concept has evolved over the years, it was Brundtland Commission that articulated the concept in a way that led to its wide acceptance & understanding. In simple words, ‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (WCED, 1987).’ International organizations like the United Nations (UN) has worked extensively in this area right from the UN Conference on Environment & Development (UNCED) in Brazil (1992) to The World Summit on Sustainable development, 2002 to UN conference on Sustainable Development in Rio in 2012. It was in this conference in 2012, the agenda was set with a decision to establish an inclusive & transparent intergovernmental process open to all stakeholders, with a view to developing global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be agreed by the General Assembly.

Experts believe that merely setting targets will not be sufficient and it’s been recognized that global economies, especially developed nations, will have to change substantially to achieve the targets of sustainable development. The emphasis has gradually been moved from mere economics to all three pillars of sustainability i.e. environmental, social & economic. It is here that Education will have to play major role in training, capacity building, effective communication & creating awareness for achieving SDGs. Integration of education for sustainable development is the need of the hour.

SDG 4 is specific to education: “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.” It further states that, by 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development (www.un.org). With this reference, let’s assess the role of education in SDGs & the current state of affairs.

It is important to understand the meaning of Quality Education. It is not possible to explain quality education through one definition because one, the concept is ever evolving & dynamic in nature & two it is always contextual. It cannot be restricted to limited aspects as – economical, social, cultural & in some cases environmental factors will play major role in defining the relevance of quality education around the world. Quality itself is a concept with multidimensional facets. Despite of the impact of various contexts mentioned above, UNESCO (2004, p 17) has identified basic principles underlying quality education: the first identifies learners’ cognitive development as the major explicit objective of the education system & the second emphasizes education’s role in promoting values & attitudes of responsible citizenship & in nurturing creative & emotional development.

In this context, we now have to think about the purpose of Education. Over the years it has been to just education the workforce. Educate the workforce so as to achieve economic independence as an outcome. But the focus now has to be shifted towards Quality Education, which not only strives to achieve economical empowerment but also makes an attempt to prepare a responsible global citizen. Education is certainly more than literacy & numeracy – it is a means to shape a sustainable future for generations to come. We have to provide an education system which is beyond the narrow boundaries of evils like gender inequality, discrimination based on caste – creed, racism, violence & intolerance to name few. We as a society has to grow but the growth should not be at the cost of human values, integrity, social justice & democracy. It is only then we as society can achieve inclusive – sustainable future for generations to come.

Blog by

Prof. Manmohan Vyas,
Indira School of Business Studies, Pune

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