Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a process of transformative, lifelong and holistic learning. ESD enables learners of all ages to make responsible decisions and thus contribute to a more sustainable and equitable shaping of the environment, the society, and the economy. By reflecting the impact of one's own actions on the world, the development of sustainable ways of thinking and acting is promoted.

The United Nations regard education as a key factor for the transformation of society towards more sustainable, equitable and peaceful ways of thinking and acting. Against this background, the UN Decade of "Education for Sustainable Development" was proclaimed in 2005, the work of which has been continued since 2014 by the UNESCO World Action Programme "Education for Sustainable Development". The international education campaign is supported by various actors in different countries. The aim is to implement a sustainability-related perspective in existing education systems. In this way, individuals should acquire skills that enable them to make informed and responsible decisions. As a basis for sustainable global decisions, ESD involves the acquisition of interdisciplinary knowledge about global interrelationships and ways of sustainable development. The individual, collective and political implementation of decisions and goals is to be guaranteed by the acquisition of acting competences.

With its interdisciplinary courses on various facets of sustainability, the Virtual Academy Sustainability makes a significant contribution to the implementation of ESD in German higher education. Through competence-based teaching and examination formats, the approach of transformative and holistic learning of ESD is implemented.

UN-Decade „Education for Sustainable Development“ (2005–2014)unesco

The proclaimed goal of the United Nations Decade was to anchor the principle of a sustainable development in all areas of education. Funded and supported by the German Ministry of Education and Research, the German Commission of the UNESCO undertook this task for Germany. During the decade numerous actors and organizations contributed to the achievement of this objective.

The World Conference at the halfway point of the Decade took place in March 2009 in Bonn. In its final declaration, universities were once again reminded to meet their responsibilities and include competences for sustainable development in their educational goals. In 2010 the German Rectors’ Conference and the German Commission of the UNESCO called in a joint statement on the universities to actively promote the integration of sustainability as a topic in research and teaching.

The UN-Decade of 2005–2014 has brought Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into focus and made the emergence of many projects in this area possible. Meanwhile ESD receives increasing recognition on international level as an essential part of a quality-oriented education and a key factor for sustainable development.

UNESCO-Global Action Program “Education for Sustainable Development” (2015–2019)

After completing the UN-decade it has become clear that – despite many achievements of the different projects and actions – ESD still lacks a long term implementation into education systems on a structural basis. Due to this fact and to continue the current results, the United Nations decided to start the Global Action Program “Education for Sustainable Development”.

A detailed roadmap has been developed to explain the objectives and main areas of activity of this program. The following fields of action were identified as those who promote the ESD:

  • political support
  • Holistic transformation of learning and teaching environments
  • Competence development among teachers and multipliers
  • Strengthening and mobilizing the youth
  • Promoting sustainable development on a local level

You can find all information about the UNESCO Global Action Program and its implementation in Germany on the BNE-Portal.