ESD is an evolving concept that encompasses a new vision of education seeking to empower people to assume responsibility for creating and enjoying a sustainable future (UNESCO). It has evolved from environmental education, experiential learning, development education and several other key fields of learning and education, is simply understood as education, awareness raising and training that aims to develop the necessary knowledge, skills and values for building a sustainable world.

ESD does not address only environmental concerns, but also social and economic issues (natural resources, climate change, gender equality, citizen participation, corporate social responsibilities…). It is well-accepted that ESD means different things to different people and that each cultural/societal group will choose to address ESD within the context of its own environmental, economic and ethical aspirations.

ESD is not only about leaning in schools, but ESD is for everyone, at all stages of life and in all possible learning contexts. Although labeled as ESD, it may be preferable to speak of learning for sustainable development. It must encompass and promote all forms of learning, learning in education systems, in social settings, in community institutions and in the workplace.

The core characteristics of ESD:

  • Education that is interdisciplinary and holistic
  • Education that is values-driven
  • Education that promotes critical thinking and problem solving skills
  • Education that centered on a systems thinking approach
  • Education that uses multi-method approaches
  • Education that encourages and stresses participatory decision-making responsibility
  • Education that is locally relevant and culturally appropriate