08 SES 03, Looking ahead – Challenges and Dilemmas in Education for Sustainable Development
Parallel Paper Session
The outcome of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is affected by factors such as the teachers’ level of engagement, their commitment to alternative environmental educational traditions (Sandell, Öhman et al. 2005), and how they manage to bridge the gap between the school and the surrounding society (Jensen 1994). Other factors are to what extent the pupils have achieved competence in democratic and environmental action from social practices outside the school (Almers 2009) or what kind of sociocultural surroundings they belong to (Skogen 1999). Other important parts of the explanation are how sustainable development is represented in the curriculum and how the curriculum is transferred to the teaching.
Environmental and sustainable development discourses are also changing (Laessöe 2010), and since the school and the community not are isolated entities, it appears obvious that discursive changes can affect ESD. Insights into present discourses and discursive changes may therefore be important skills for anyone with the ambition to develop ESD into a creative, problem-solving process that also includes the most controversial local and global dilemmas.
The aim of the study, which is briefly presented in this paper, is to identify and characterize sustainable development discourses in authoritative texts that are important for the perception of ESD. Texts in this category include transcriptions of parliamentary debates and political speeches from both the national and the European level in which aspects of ESD are discussed.
Different discourses represent different ways to express meanings about the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainable development as well as about learning and education. The dominating sustainable development discourse in northern Europe during the 1990s is referred to as “ecological modernization”, which can be summarized as a market-driven economy moving towards sound environmental practices. A hallmark of this discourse is a quest for consensus rhetoric which is in contrast to the old Scandinavian tradition of dissensus-based public debate (Laessöe 2010). Consensus requires a degree of shared interests, which raises some questions. Is the sweeping change in the economy, welfare systems and environment that shaped the world during the past decades still compatible with consensus rhetoric and shared interests? Are we still living in the age of ecological modernization or did the meaning of sustainable development change when the times changed?
With regard to critical discourse theory, meanings stand in a dialectical relationship to the social practices where they are mediated. “Mediation is the production, movement and transformation of meanings within and between social contexts, across space and time” (Graham 2002, p. 234). The initial work in my study is devoted to identifying to what extent the environmental, economic and social dimensions of sustainable development are represented and through what aspects they become visible in the texts. These questions open up to uncover implicit meanings regarding time and place, social actors and processes, which are tasks that will follow. These analyses will be weaved together in the Swedish discourse in a European and a global context and they will also contribute to an understanding of current and upcoming challenges in ESD-education on both a national and an international level.
Almers, E. (2009). Handlingskompetens för hållbar utveckling : tre berättelser om vägen dit. Jönköping, Högskolan för lärande och kommunikation. Graham, P. (2002). "Hypercapitalism: language, new media and social perceptions of value." Discourse & Society 13(2): 227-249. Jensen, B. B. (1994). Action, action competence and change in the field of environmental and healt education. Action and action competence. B. B. Jensen and K. Schnack. Copenhagen, Royal Danish School of Educational Studies: 73-85. Laessöe, J. (2010). "Education for sustainable development, participation and socio-cultural change." Environmental Education Research 16(1): 39-57. Riksdagen (2007). "Interpellation 2007/08:90 Pertoft, Mats (mp) Lärandet om hållbar utveckling." Retrieved 2012-01-22, 2012, from www.riksdagen.se Riksdagen (2008). "Interpellation 2008/09:62 Hultqvist, Peter (s) Arbete för hållbar utveckling i förskola och skola." from www.riksdagen.se. Sandell, K., J. Öhman, et al. (2005). Education for sustainable development : nature, school and democracy. Lund, Studentlitteratur. Skogen, K. (1999). "Another Loook at culture and Nature: How Cultural Patterns Influence Environmental Orientation among Norwegian Youth." Acta Sociologica 42(3).
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