Education for Sustainable Development: Teaching and Learning for a Better World

Sustainability is a buzzword of our time. In order to shape one's life and the future in a sustainable manner, appropriate education is required. The UNESCO World Action Program “Education for Sustainable Development” has therefore been in place since 2015. ESD is also part of zdi.NRW. We explain what this looks like in concrete terms in the topic dossier.

“ESD will not work without STEM. And if we want to keep this planet worth living in, MINT cannot do without ESD either,” says Markus Real from the zdi network MINT.REgio.

He has been committed to environmental protection and sustainability since his youth. And he is happy to be able to continue this commitment in his role as zdi network coordinator.

Mark Real

But what is Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) actually?

conceptual classification

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is intended to enable people to think and act in a way that is fit for the future. The understanding of problems should be linked to the ability to act. ESD describes the entire education chain and sees itself as a lifelong learning process. ESD should make visible how important education is so that everyone on this planet can lead a good life - without destroying the planet and our habitat.

Definition & didactics

Sustainable development describes the balanced interplay of social justice, economic efficiency and ecological compatibility. The term Education for Sustainable Development, on the other hand, describes an international education campaign and a didactic concept.

At the didactic level, ESD is action- and solution-oriented, interdisciplinary and participatory. The challenge is to make complex relationships understandable (keyword: systemic learning).

Politics has been promoting education in sustainable development since the 90s

As early as 1992, at the UN Environment Conference in Rio de Janeiro, the United Nations formulated the guidelines for sustainable development in the 21st century. Education was named as one of the central fields of action. Ten years later, at the Rio +10 World Summit in Johannesburg, national governments decided to introduce the sustainability approach into their respective education systems and strategies. And the UNESCO World Action Program (WAP) “Education for Sustainable Development” has been running since 2015. It is intended to further advance the change in the education system towards more sustainability and to bring ESD even more from the idea into practice. The program is based on 17 Global Goals with 169 sub-goals. These include, for example, clean water and sanitary facilities, no hunger or peace and justice, but also sustainable cities and communities, high-quality education and climate protection measures.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research has a Explanatory video created.

ESD in Germany

The implementation of the UNESCO actions for ESD will be Germany since 2015 in charge of the BMBF coordinated. At the operational level, the ESD agencies are active in the individual federal states. the ESD agency in NRW is at the Nature and environmental protection Academy NRW (NUA for short) settled. With the BNE agency, the NUA is the central office in NRW for education for sustainable development.

In 2016, North Rhine-Westphalia was the first federal state to adopt an ESD state strategy and initiate an ESD agency as a point of contact for educational institutions. Various working groups in the NRW Ministry of Education are already working on the integration of ESD into school subjects and the curriculum. This applies to the natural sciences and technology as well as geography, but also history, politics and philosophy.

ESD and zdi

"In the cooperation with the BNE agency in NRW, I was able to push the MINT.Regio offer even further in the direction of sustainable development," reports Markus Real. For many actors in the zdi community, ESD is not new territory. Because many zdi networks are already active in the field of ESD without explicitly calling it that.

In his search for interesting players, Markus Real came across an ESD agency in his immediate vicinity and made contact. Both have been working on joint formats for teachers and learners since 2019.
This includes e.g. B. the conference format "ESD meets STEM". This is a series of events for teachers and multipliers. Examples of technical innovations as a driver of sustainable development are presented and ideas for anchoring them in school learning are conveyed. Event dates will be announced via the zdi newsletter and released the NUA education program. The next conference will take place on June 21, 2022.

In addition, MINT.Regio, in conjunction with the zdi networks IST.Bochum and MINT.Herne, is applying for the ESD certification NRW.

Cathrin Gronenberg presents the tasks of the NRW ESD Agency.

Cooperation partner at the ESD agency is Cathrin Gronenberg. She is a part-time biology and mathematics teacher and coordinates the school education department at the ESD agency in North Rhine-Westphalia. Here she is particularly active in the field of didactics.

Advantages of a cooperation between zdi and BNE

Technical innovations and scientific skills are required to implement many sustainability goals. “We need sustainable STEM innovations to enable everyone to lead a good life. ESD always encourages learners and researchers to think about ecological compatibility and social justice,” confirms Cathrin Gronenberg.

zdi has set itself the task of promoting young STEM students. The didactic approach of ESD is very interesting for the work in the zdi networks and student laboratories. ESD course concepts link STEM knowledge with social issues. And the required didactic know-how can be acquired free of charge from the NUA.

Markus Real finds the aspect of participation particularly effective. In his courses, he repeatedly observes how motivating the self-determination of topics or methods in project work is for students.

  • An ESD course contains one or more of the following features:
  • future-relevant question
  • Consideration of several dimensions / ecological and economic dimension
  • Multi-perspective view (e.g. Why is the implementation of political measures not so easy?)
  • Recognize and understand systemic learning and connections
  • Dilemma (Why do we sometimes fail?)
  • Participation (schools or students determine the topic and action)

ESD hits the nerve of the times

A stronger integration of ESD into the course offer or even a certification of a network or student laboratory has other advantages. Markus Real reports that his know-how and the range of courses on sustainable development were very helpful when addressing schools. It is particularly attractive that this topic is particularly easy to reach students. The same applies to addressing the company. On the one hand, there is a great need for MINT specialists. And on the other hand, a commitment to sustainable development in business is considered good manners.

Requirements at zdi-BSO-MINT

Sustainable quality features also play a special role at zdi. For example, the zdi-BSO-MINT contractual partners must keep the UN sustainability goals in mind when implementing courses in the field of career and study orientation. In addition, a first zdi academy on this topic was implemented and, due to strong demand, also transferred to the current program. You can find the further training courses offered by the zdi Academy here.

Requirement for an ESD certification NRW

Anyone who wants to advertise with the "BNE certification NRW" seal must be certified. Extracurricular institutions aiming for certification are supported by the ESD agency (e.g. with in-depth qualification measures). The fact that the number of applicants for certification is constantly increasing shows how topical the topic of ESD is.

In order to receive an ESD certification, applicants must demonstrate eight quality criteria in their educational work.

  • There is a mission statement with a clear focus on ESD.
  • The qualification of the educational staff is verified and secured.
  • The educational offer and the pedagogical concept on which it is based are based on the principles of sustainable development.
  • Education for sustainable development is included in public relations.
  • The structure of the organization supports the quality assurance of the educational offers.
  • The infrastructure for the realization of the offers is geared towards sustainability.
  • The financing of the educational work is secured in the long term.
  • The continuity and development of the pedagogical work is ensured.

Markus Real expects that the ESD certification of the networks in Recklinghausen, Bochum and Herne can be completed this year. "I think all zdi comrades-in-arms are then well prepared for this topic and can get the message across Teaching and learning for a better world bring to our regions. And hopefully we can infect other colleagues in the zdi community with our enthusiasm,” says Markus Real hopefully.

Fancy MINT: Courses and exchange on the community platform

For everyone interested in MINT: The zdi networks and zdi student laboratories, which are distributed across NRW, offer regular courses and workshops. An overview of the offers can be found on the MINT community platform.

To the MINT community NRW.

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