Desta, Asayehgn, Ph.D.
Sarlo Distinguished Professor of Sustainable International Economic Development
Dominican University of California
March 02, 2012
Therefore, the commonly accepted definition of sustainable development is a development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED, 1987). In addition, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the “Rio Conference” or the “Earth Summit,” produced a major international document known as the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, sustainable development to every corner of the world (Mabratu, D. 1998). In addition to linking development and the environment, the goal of sustainable development is that people must share with each other and care for the Earth. Humanity must take no more from nature than nature can replenish.This in turn means adopting lifestyles and development paths that respect and work within nature’s limits. It can be done without rejecting the many benefits that modern technology has brought, provided that technology also works within those limits (IUCN, UNEP and WWF 1991, p. 8).
As pointed out by one of the fathers of ecological economics, Daly (1996), “although there is an emerging political consensus desirability of something called sustainable development, this term - touted by many and even institutionalized in some places --is still dangerously vague to be used as a guide for making the desired changes.” Also, one of the protagonists, Tryzna (1995), argues that sustainable development is “an oxymoron,”while Holmberg (1992) reduces the definition of sustainable development to a cliché. Esty turns the definition of sustainable development into a buzz-word largely devoid of content (2005).
In addition, as stated by Rauschmayer, et al. (2011), though sustainable development is generally understood as a societal issue related to policy decisions, in Brundtland’s report needs are generally linked to psychological decisions and to decisions made by individuals in their everyday lives.In the Brundtland report, needs are stated in terms of basic material necessities (such as food, water, and shelter), “and are therefore readily associated with the issue of more economic growth and – to a lesser extent – a more equitable distribution of resources in the present and the maintenance of natural capital to secure ecosystem services in the long run” (Rauschmayer, F. et al.(2011). Finally, Rauschmayer, F. et al. argue that making needs a key concept requires a thorough-going conceptual shift in core elements of economic, sociological, philosophical and environmental paradigms as often understood (2011). Thus, according to Gasper (1996),needs have to be operationalized into three types of generic analysiswhich include:a) a descriptive type of analysis that involves some form of want or desire for basic needs,i.e. subsistence, protection, affection, participation, creation, identity, and freedom (see Max-Neef, et al, 1991, b) instrumental types of analysis that could be understood as requisites for meeting a given end, and c) a capability approach to determine what people do or are able to do in order to create the life that most people are looking for (See A. Sen, 1985).
Will decisions that are economically optimal for current situations or may limit sustainability for the future generation? That is, though the current generation may leave rent or dividends for future generations (i.e., the capacity to be as well off as the current generation) given the current market rates and market fluctuations, dividendsaccumulated using current resources may not be sustainable for future generations.Contrary to ecologists’ point of view that natural and created capital are fundamentally complementary (used together in production), neo-classical economists like Solow argue that natural resources are substitutable and he states that the obligation to the future is “not to leave the world as we found it in detail, but rather to leave the option or capacity to be as well off as we are” (2000).
Instead of harboring the triple bottom lines, or the triangle of sustainability, such as:1) economic, the maximizing of income while maintaining a constant or increasing stock of capital, (R. Repetto, 1986); 2) ecological or environmental, the preservation of genetic diversity and sustainable utilization of species and ecosystem (M. Redclift, 1987); and 3) socio-cultural, increasing the standard of living of the poor (E. Barbier, 1987), the concept of sustainability has been used increasingly in policy rhetoric rather than transitioning to actual sustainable development (Rauschmayer, F. et al. 2011).
Due to the participation of major stakeholders, Brundtland’s definition of sustainable development has contributed to a diverse spectrum of definition and interpretation. As stated by Mabratu (1998) “the effort of interpreting the concept is, to a large extent, influenced by the fundamental tenets of the specific groupor organization. This has resulted in a narrow framework of interpretationthat does not capture the whole picture.” Therefore, before assessing the African case studies it is worth seeing how UNESCO has defined and applied the concept of sustainable development to meeting the requirements and objectives of education for sustainable development (ESD).
UNESCO’s Definition of Sustainable Development
There is wide agreement that education has an important role to play in motivating and empowering people to participate in the changes towards more sustainable lifestyles. For instance, the Brundtland Report, (WCED 1987) argued that teachers had “a crucial role to play in helping to bring about the extensive social changes” (p.xiv) necessary for sustainable development. Agenda 21, the internationally agreed upon report of the Earth Summit, committed countries to promoting environmental sustainability through education. It states that:
Education is critical for promoting sustainable development and improving the capacity of the people to address environment and development issues...It is critical for achieving environmental and ethical awareness, values and attitudes, skills and behavior consistent with sustainable development and for effective public participation in decision-making’(See UNSECO, 1992).
According to UNESCO, sustainable development is a culturally-directed search for a dynamic balance in the relationships between social, economic, and cultural systems, a balance that seeks to promote social equity (UNESCO-UNEVO, 2004c. p. 8).
Given that the 21st century is an era of knowledge, information and communication and is signaling the need for a new human-centered development paradigm, as a result, educational policies and programs around the world are taking on board the new vocabulary of sustainable development and acknowledging the need to all sectors of the educational system (See for example, Agyeman et al. 1996). For instance,TVET has been seriously considered “…an integral component of lifelong learning and TVET must play the master key that can alleviate poverty, promote peace, conserve the environment, improve the quality of life for all and help achieve sustainable development”( UNESCO-UNEVOC, 2004). Therefore the reviews given below attempt to analyze the extent to which the four case studies integrate their Education for Sustainable Development (EDS) with their TVET programs. In particular, the objectives of the case study are to:
discover the barriers to ESD/TVET.
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