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Harnessing ICT to enhance Education for Sustainable Development

The Asia and Pacific region is one of contrasting realities – small and large countries, sparse and dense populations, poor and rich economies. It is also diverse in terms of historical and cultural backgrounds, political systems and stages of development. More than 4.2 billion people lived in the Asia-Pacific region in 2011, representing 60% of the world’s population. In 2010, 57% of the world population living in extreme poverty lived in Asia and the Pacific, a marked decrease from 71% in 1990. Limited natural resources, access to clean water, climate change, food security, rising costs of fuels, social and religious conflicts, and rapidly changing values are but some of the concerns that face many international organizations, donor agencies and national governments in the region. 

These are challenges to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Education for All (EFA), United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD) and the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD). To meet the objectives of these initiatives, innovative approaches and concerted efforts are required.

In 2002, the United Nations General Assembly launched the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a dynamic and expansive concept that envisions a world where every person has a chance to benefit from educational opportunities and to learn lifestyles, behaviours and values necessary to create a sustainable future. UNESCO has been tasked to lead the DESD.

In the early stages of the DESD, the concept ESD was still evolving and not clearly understood. To increase understanding and awareness of sustainability, promote values closely linked to ESD, and communicate ideas, norms and standards, innovative practices and lessons learned, UNESCO Bangkok proposed a project to optimize the use of ICT to facilitate the sharing of information, networking, linkages and interactions among ESD stakeholders throughout the region. ICT also present multiple options for sourcing, synthesizing and sharing both verbal and non-verbal experiences, thus enabling the construction of knowledge based on valid and relevant information.

Unfortunately, the proposal was stalled. It eventually fell through the crack and was never seen again.

Still, with 1.1 billion internet users in the region, accounting for 49.7% of the world's internet user population in 2011, the potential of ICT to share and disseminate ESD contents was harnessed by UNESCO and others, even without project funding. As we near the end of the DESD, we can see that ICT has been used in many ways to promote and support ESD throughout the region.

A simple Google search will show numerous websites related to ESD accompanied by links to e-forums, e-newsletters, RSS newsfeed and blogs. Commendable ESD practices can be viewed through many online videos and podcasts. Networks and alliances to promote and enhance joint ESD projects and activities can be mapped and found easily through the internet.

Amid concerns that the DESD goals may not be completely achieved by the time the Decade ends in 2014, UNESCO and other collaborating agencies would like to highlight that education about and for sustainable development should not be set by arbitrary timelines and will have to continue beyond the Decade.

With the support of the Japanese Funds-in-Trust, UNESCO Bangkok has developed a project on Reorienting Quality Teacher Education towards EFA and ESD to enhance the capacity of teachers who play a major role in transmitting knowledge, values, principles and skills to their students. One component of the project is to assist teacher educators and teachers to integrate d ESD concepts and contents into their curriculum and teaching materials. Several workshops have been organized to provide teacher educators and teachers with in-depth knowledge of ESD themes, as well as introduce innovative pedagogies and tools to improve their teaching practices.

UNESCO Bangkok recently organized a workshop to introduce the principles of project-based learning and telecollaboration to teacher educators and teachers, and to encourage them to incorporate these pedagogies into their teaching practices. By working collaboratively on projects of common interest, they will be able to draw upon and learn from a larger community of practice to increase their knowledge of ESD, while improving their skills in using ICT to expand their networking opportunities.

The Telecollaboration Workshop on Reorienting Teacher Education towards EFA and ESD was held on 7-9 November 2012 in Bangkok involving about 60 participants from 17 countries. This workshop drew on the experiences of the Korean Funds-in Trust (KFIT) International School Project (KISP) implemented by the ICT in Education Unit in UNESCO Bangkok. Designed to increase the capacity of teacher educators and teachers to enhance student-centred learning, KISP enabled more than 500 students from Bangladesh, Canada, China, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines to prepare and implement projects collaboratively between March and July 2012.

Participants from the Telecollaboration Workshop developed several joint-projects which will be implemented over the next six months. Examples of some of the projects include:

  • Marine Life Conservation (universities from Malaysia and the Philippines)

  • Food for Life (Mongolia State University of Education and Suan Suanadha Rajabhat University, Thailand)

  • Plastic Usage Reduction: A School Campaign (schools in Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines)

  • Reducing Ecological Footprint (Malaysia, Philippines and Viet Nam)

The participants are linked together through the Education Community portal facilitated by UNESCO Bangkok’s ICT in Education Unit. As the collaborators proceed to implement their projects, they will communicate with their team members through various ICT tools and platforms. The plan is for everyone to share their progress virtually through the Education Community portal over the next few months.

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Programme (pdf, 240kb)


Overview of ESD, Molly Lee (pdf, 1.7mb)

Overview of EFA, Abdul Hakeem, UNESCO Bangkok (pdf, 1.1mb)

Overview of Project-based Learning and Telecollaboration, Nachamma Sockalingam, UniSIM, Singapore (pdf, 1.8mb)

Social Media for Learning, Jonghwi Park, UNESCO Bangkok (pdf, 1.3mb)

Overview of KFIT International School Project (KISP), Jonghwi Park, UNESCO Bangkok (pdf, 900kb)

Expectations of JFIT Telecollaboration Activity, Lay Cheng Tan, UNESCO Bangkok (pdf, 620kb)

Experiences with PBL and Telecollaboration, KISP – Rhea Febro, MSU-IIT, Philippines (pdf, 1.1mb)

Teacher’s Perspective – Li Nihong, Nonglinxia Primary School, PR China (pdf, 2.1mb)

Teacher Educator’s Perspective – Termit Kaur Ranjit Singh, Universiti Sains Malaysia (pdf, 1.3mb)

Designing / Planning a Collaborative Project, Jonghwi Park (pdf, 1.2mb)

PBL Activity Plan, Mel Tan, UNESCO Bangkok (pdf, 870kb)