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Good practice examples of ESD


ESD is based on the premise of “learning by doing”. Each cultural/societal group will choose to address ESD in the context of its own aspirations for sustainable development. Thus there can be no “one-size fits all” approach to ESD. The challenges in formal education, for example, will be quite different to the challenges for engaging the private sector in ESD. How a small coastal community addresses ESD will, similarly, be different to how an urban community does. There are many examples of initiatives and programmes aimed at improving the quality of life. These initiatives already practice many of the principles and tools of ESD. However, many of these initiatives tend to occur in isolation from each other. As a result, the opportunity to build on the strengths inherent in each initiative is lost. ESD offers an opportunity to reorient such programmes to encompass the broader vision of sustainable development and thus improve outcomes and strengthen the groundswell for ESD. Some examples of ESD in action and the potential of ESD are provided below:

In small communities throughout the Pacific islands, ESD approaches are helping to engage communities in decision-making about their own lives. Drama and comedy are used to help communities share their concerns about their economic and social well-being. As a result, communities have been encouraged and empowered to take action and interact with government bodies and non-governmental organisations in eliciting change in areas such as health and environmental protection.  

In Vanuatu many villages are visited periodically by a traveling theatre group known as Wan Smolbag. This group puts on plays that simultaneously entertain and inform villagers about important issues such as HIV/AIDS and malaria-reduction through mosquito control. In 1995 the theme of the main play was concerned with the need to conserve sea turtles. This play initiated selecting ‘a turtle monitor’ in over 100 coastal Vanuatu villages to help encourage turtle conservation. 

© Angsana Chuamthaisong /UNESCO Bangkok

Formal Education

Programmes such as Peace Education, Human Rights Education, Environmental Education and “Young Entrepreneur” schemes are carried out in many schools. “Whole school” approaches to such initiatives help students and teachers gain an understanding of the inter-linkages that need to be addressed for sustainable development to become a reality. Within the curriculum itself, interdisciplinary approaches are being trialed whereby illustrative ESD examples are integrated into each subject area.

In Thailand Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn has, since 1980, undertaken numerous projects to develop the well-being of disadvantaged children and youth in remote areas of Thailand.  The implementation of the projects has focused on “Total School Development” by addressing multiple dimensions of development – food and nutrition, health and hygiene, education, training in vocational skills and cooperatives, as well as environmental and cultural conservation.  The emphasis has been on education to provide life and occupational skills.  The philosophy behind this approach is to use the school as the centre of learning for the community and to use the community as a learning resource of the school.  The royally-initiated projects have yielded a positive impact in enhancing the potential of many children, reinforcing their self-sufficiency and improving their quality of life.

Training and Research
In many European nations, universities and technical colleges are training students of science, economics and business management in skills that may help to build more sustainable societies through energy-efficient buildings, socially-conscious businesses, waste-efficient production technologies, and so on.

These examples are some of many initiatives that have in common a desire for a better future and a willingness to participate in “action research” or learning by doing. They aim to find solutions for current problems and innovate for alternatives to our current lifestyles. They challenge people’s values and belief systems and rely on discussion and dialogue with all of us to ensure that the whole community is able to learn together as we work towards a common vision of a sustainable future.