Sustainable development in the Curriculum

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is about learning to:

  • respect, value and preserve the achievements of the past;
  • appreciate the wonders and the peoples of the Earth;
  • live in a world where all people have sufficient food for a healthy and productive life;
  • assess, care for and restore the state of our planet;
  • create and enjoy a better, safer, more just world;
  • be caring citizens who exercise their rights and responsibilities locally, nationally and globally. (UNESCO’s definition of ESD)
  • ESD is essential to help people to understand and accept the need for significant changes to the way the country operates socially and economically, changes needed to ensure a sustainable future for everyone. It has also an important role to play in helping people to understand and agree to make the kinds of behavioural changes necessary to make sustainability work. Informed choices can only be made by people who understand the problems and dilemmas and who know the cost of whichever course of action is decided upon.

Besides the introduction of sustainability issues into the curriculum, ESD requires an integrated approach to teaching and learning to promote the development of cross subject understanding and problem solving. Because of its holistic nature, ESD can only be successful if it is embedded into the organisation's curriculum, teaching and learning practices, estate management and community relations.

Help and advice

The LSC publication Embedding Sustainable Development in the Curriculum provides guidance and support for staff within learning institutions seeking to embed sustainability into the curriculum.

The LSC publication Creating the Conditions for Embedding Sustainable Development in the Curriculum offers stimulation of discussion and debate on the subject of embedding sustainability in the curriculum.

OFSTED published a report in 2003 about piloting an inspection framework for sustainable development in schools, ‘Taking the first steps forward –towards an education for sustainable development’ (PDF, See Annex C for a checklist for self-evaluation).

WWF has designed the toolkit Linking Thinking to help develop understanding and skills with regard to relational or systems thinking. It can be used as a professional development course for teachers and individual units can be selected for classroom activities.

Case studies

Cross-Curriculum Sustainability at Bedford College
Bedford College provides an important example of how an institution can embed sustainability into its curriculum by actively seeking support and guidance from both the education sector and industry.

Short examples of Education for Sustainable Development can be found in the case study index.

Continue the journey

More information and case studies about Sustainable Development in the Curriculum can be found in the Teaching and Learning section.