Clarifying differences and similarities between Environmental Education and Education for Sustainable Development

The UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) charges educators with a key role in developing and ‘securing sustainable life chances, aspirations and futures for young people’. Environmental Education (EE) and ESD share a vision of quality education and a society that lives in balance with Earth’s carrying capacity, even as they differ in terms of expectations of how that vision is realized, and what might need to be balanced. Rather than treat EE and ESD as sparing partners or fellow travellers towards the same destination, this paper analyses EE and ESD from the perspective of transformative educational goals. Using these goals as a benchmark transcends immediate problems with either form of education, while also helps to clarify policies and practise formations, appropriate to a diversity of educational contexts.

UNESCO’s mid-Decade review has successfully documented the diversity of approaches to planning and implementing education programmes that also reflect different understandings of human–nature (environment–development) relationships. Some programmes use a narrow interpretation of the environment and essentially promote an ecological content-focused education (environmental education in a narrow sense); others interpret environment in a broader way and include social aspects into educational considerations; still others use an ESD framework or include ESD themes and approaches to reframe existing curricula and nevertheless still call it EE.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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