Educating for Sustainable Development

Image: UNESCO

Image: UNESCO

At the 17th session of the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development a Finnish representative shared a new educational effort in Finland: integrating sustainability directly into the Finnish school system.

In Finland–a country whose constitution states the responsibility of all for nature and the environment–a national framework of education for sustainable development (ESD) program has been drawn up by the National Board of Education (NBE) proposing measures for schools and other educational actors to promote awareness of the necessity for sustainable development, positive attitudes, the acquisition of sufficient knowledge and the skills to act. The country has set up a national working group and a commission to facilitate development of local and regional networking among educational partners. It has also created piloting schools with distinct development-strategy goals for ESD, an evaluation system, teacher training and a national ESD certificate that schools could apply for. These implements help facilitate innovative learning approaches and set standards for quality education.

One example of ESD and knowledge sharing is Finland’s 34 Agricultural Institutes. Its school farms share information on best practices through a Web Village where schools compare production inputs (e.g. fertilizers) and outputs to find which school farm is most sustainable through the lowest level of inputs. Students, as well as farmers, can benefit from this virtual learning portal.

Finland’s national commitments to ESD make us hopeful that if Finland can do it, so can countries with larger industrialized footprints, such as the United States. Several U.S. schools have started their own ESD initiatives from growing food to habitat restoration, but the scale of such programs is nowhere near a nationwide level. These model initiatives should inspire and orient educational directives to include sustainability as a core component in educational systems across the country. After all, education and knowledge sharing should be one of the greatest strengths of a country not only blessed with many natural and technological resources, but one that has the greatest urgency in reducing its consumptive impact on the world.

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