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Reorienting Teacher Training for EFA and ESD



Teachers today are tasked with a challenging mandate. How do we create the best learning opportunities for students in our ever increasing globalized world? How do we teach students to become active and engaged citizens? How do we espouse critical thinking in our learners so they can work to advance their own lives, while also improving the standard of living of those around them in a sustainable way? And finally, how do we ensure that all students are treated fairly and given the opportunity to reach their fullest potential?

Two of UNESCOs key thematic areas, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Education for All (EFA), work to address these issues.  From a policy perspective, UNESCO supports decision makers in their quest to ensure all children have access to a sound education that is inclusive and enduring.  But when we think about how these practices are implemented, the most important people in education are educators themselves.  Teachers understand the importance of lifelong learning and also understand that in a world that is changing as quickly as ours, it is important to stay informed and connect with a new generation of learners and a variety of learning styles.


In the Asia-Pacific, understanding issues related to EFA and ESD is vital towards achieving development that is sustainable. In light of this, UNESCO Bangkok with the generous support of the Japanese Funds-in-Trust have organized a series of national and regional level workshops focused upon Reorienting Teacher Training to ESD and EFA, the most recent of which took place in Manila, Philippines and Bangkok, Thailand.  These trainings brought together educators and teacher trainers from respective countries to engage in a week-long training focused on issues of climate change, environmental protection, human rights education, child-friendly schools, and gender sensitivity. 

Over the course of five days, trainings and presentations showcased self-sustaining schools and learning environments, including the Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Centre in Mindanao, Philippines, Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Chi Hwa in Sandakan, Malaysia and Sa School in Thailand.  Administrators and educators at these schools recognize that sustainable thinking is an important value that is cross-cutting across all subjects.  These schools provide opportunities for students to show care and concern for the environments around them, and they task the children with recycling, composting and gardening duties so that they garner a sense of ownership and responsibility for the world around them.  In some cases, recycling and gardening has resulted in small economic growth, which teaches students that business can be sustainable, and that they can expand their environmental mindfulness from the school arena into other aspects of their lives.

Facilitators from Japan were invited to present about ESD school practices, which touched upon how field trips to parks and forests made environmental learning engaging, hands-on and tangible.  Practices on how schools in Japan conserve energy and water were also shared, emphasizing that schools should teach sustainability while also practicing it.


Another component of ESD and EFA is the issue of access to education during times of crises.  Teachers from Japan also shared stories about the recent earthquakes and tsunami, and discussed their experiences of how schools serve as the focal-point for the community in difficult times; they also highlighted the importance of school disaster preparedness. 

During the workshops, a transformation of the participants was evident.  Connections were made concerning educators’ roles in providing meaning, quality and value to education, and educators’ were encouraged to be reflective on how they personally and professionally display the values they hope to share with their students.  Teachers and teacher educators were asked to consider the relationship between human rights and education, and gender equality and education.