Education for sustainable development (ESD) has emerged as an answer to global challenges. In order to help students understand what sustainable development requires globally and locally, help them understand how to use their own capacity of critical thinking and motivate them to consider individual actions contributing to communal sustainable development.
“Sustainable development (SD) has become a vehicle around the globe for expressing the need to depart from present dominant models of development which appear unable to balance the needs of people and the planet in the pursuit of peace and prosperity” – UNESCO, 2009.
The aim of the project was to analyse and compare ESD teaching concepts in different countries, share the best practices on ESD teaching and work out area specific training modules for different target groups. It is expected that this mapping will provide the foundation in each of the participating countries for a public debate on inclusion of ESD learning outcomes in the national curricula (and further educational documents based on them) and their importance for future sustainable development.
The results reveal that the economic content of ESD is least present in the curricula and the textbooks. Even though the aspects of social, cultural and environmental content seem to be represented in a rather balanced way in the framework curriculum, the subject curricula and especially the textbooks tend to address ESD in rather limited way, mainly focusing on environmental aspects.
The socio cultural topics such as gender equality or human rights that are of extreme importance when developing knowledge, qualities and competence for active, critical and meaningful contribution to sustainable development, are insufficiently represented in the curriculum and the textbooks as well.
The analysis of the Estonian framework curricula revealed that it is dominated by the social cultural content with most represented social cultural elements being “health” and “cultural diversity and intercultural understanding”.
The economic category was rather well represented due to the fact that the topic “sustainability and sustainable development” was counted under this category. The element “production and/or consumption is represented only a few times.
Regarding the environmental category, the most represented elements were “natural resources” and “human beings (as living organisms)”.
In conclusion it would be observed from the analysis that even though ESD is rather well represented at the national curriculum level, the closer look at the subject curricula reveals that several critical aspects of ESD have been discarded at that level, limiting the topic to only a rather small number of main issues (e.g. sustainability and sustainable development).
There are differences in the quality and extent of ESD teaching across Estonia depending on the location of the individual schools. Broader research is needed to understand how the differences in ESD teaching and to ensure equal opportunities for providing quality education to all.