ECO-UNESCO, Ireland’s environmental education and youth organisation, greatly welcomes the recent publication by the Department of Education and Skills of the ‘National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development, 2014-2020’. This is Ireland’s first such strategy in relation to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and aims to ensure that learners are equipped with the relevant knowledge, skills, values and dispositions to become informed citizens acting for a more sustainable future.
ECO-UNESCO has been advocating for the development of a National Strategy on ESD since 2005 and is delighted that now, towards the end of the UN Decade for Sustainable Development (2004-2015), the Irish government has published its own 6-year strategy. ECO-UNESCO was a key stakeholder that informed this Strategy. The Strategy was informed in part by previous work undertaken in this field in 2007 by the Department of Education and Skills, work which was supported by ECO-UNESCO.
ECO-UNESCO is well regarded for its expertise and practical experience in the area of ESD. Its programmes such as the Young Environmentalist Awards, Green Pathways and Learning2Change Our World are highlighted in the Strategy as positive examples of successful and results focused ESD programmes already in operation. These initiatives are having a positive and real impact on developing the knowledge, skills and values for a sustainable world and particularly complements various recommendations in the strategy including Recommendation 30 which recommends ‘strengthening the role of young people as change agents for sustainable development’.
ECO-UNESCO’s other programmes such as the Youth for Sustainable Development Global Youth Leaders for Change, and the aforementioned Young Environmentalist Awards and Learning2Change Our World, along with its range of FETAC accredited training courses, all have a very strong emphasis on encouraging and promoting sustainable development. These programmes have educated, and continue to educate and engage thousands of young people around the country with sustainable development issues and their importance have now been further enhanced by this Strategy.
Speaking following the publication of the ‘National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development, 2014-2020’, Elaine Nevin, National Director of ECO-UNESCO said “This is a hugely positive step for Education for Sustainable Development in Ireland. I am delighted to see that the Strategy contains eight key areas and that there is a strong emphasis on ensuring that learners understand sustainable development in the context of ‘the what’, ‘the how and ‘the why’ and will motivate and equip them with the necessary skills to take real action for a sustainable future. I commend the Department of Education and Skills on this Strategy and look forward to working with them in its implementation.”
Along with its youth programmes and adult accredited training programme in Sustainable Development, ECO-UNESCO is also currently involved with a new EU funded education initiative which is planning to enhance the way teaching and learning occurs at the university level to equip students with the skills needed to counter increasing social, economic and environmental inequalities. University Educators for Sustainable Development (UE4SD) is a project that brings together 55 partners (mainly universities) from 33 countries across Europe and beyond. ECO-UNESCO is the Irish partner for this project which is seeking to re-orient higher education curriculum, particularly at third level in order to incorporate sustainable development into third level institutions.