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A new vision for education
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a dynamic concept that encompasses a new vision of education that seeks to empower people of all ages to assume responsibility for creating and enjoying a sustainable future. The overall aim of ESD is to empower citizens to act for positive environmental and social change, implying a participatory and action-oriented approach.

ESD integrates concepts and analytical tools from a variety of disciplines to help people better understand the world in which they live. Pursuing sustainable development through education requires educators and learners to reflect critically on their own communities; identify non-viable elements in their lives; and explore tensions among conflicting values and goals. ESD brings a new motivation to learning as pupils become empowered to develop and evaluate alternative visions of a sustainable future and to work to collectively fulfil these visions.

Major thrusts of ESD
Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 identified four major thrusts of ESD:

1. The promotion and improvement of basic education: Access to basic education remains a problem for many – especially girl children and illiterate adults. Simply increasing basic literacy and numeracy, as currently taught, will not significantly advance sustainable societies. Instead, basic education must focus on imparting knowledge, skills, perspectives, and values that encourage and support citizens to lead sustainable lives. 

2. Reorienting existing education at all levels to address sustainable development: Rethinking and revising education from nursery school through university to include more principles, skills, perspectives and values related to sustainability in each of the three realms – social, environmental, and economic – is important to our current and future societies. 

3. Developing public understanding and awareness of sustainability: Making progress toward more sustainable societies requires a population that is aware of the goals of sustainable societies and has the knowledge and skills to contribute toward those objectives. Informed voting citizenry and knowledgeable consumers can help communities and governments enact sustainability measures and move toward more sustainable societies.

4. Training: All sectors of the workforce can contribute to local, regional and national sustainability. The development of specialized training programmes to ensure that all sectors of the workforce have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform their work in a sustainable manner has been identified as a critical component to ESD.

Source: Education for Sustainable Development information briefs, UNESCO

See also FAQ: Education for Sustainable Development and the UN Decade on ESD. 

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