Education for Sustainable Development in a Neo-Liberal Context

Authors: Anke Uhlenwinkel*, Alpen-Adria-Universität
Topics: Geography Education, Sustainability Science, Political Geography
Keywords: education for sustainable development, ethics, neo-liberalism, democratic values
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon A1, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

When the idea of sustainability was first voiced in 1987, it was stated in a political context that was characterized on the one hand by the competition of two opposing societal ideas and on the other hand by a rising number of reports that claimed that the exponential economic growth of the West would lead to dwindling resources and environmental pollution. Sustainability was then defined as a ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.
With the fall of the wall and the rise of neo-liberalism sustainability has changed its meaning. It now aimed at an equilibrium between ecological, social and economic needs. This reformulation led to different understandinogs in different countries. Notwithstanding these differences and in accordance with the approach in general MDGs and later SDGs were promoted in education worldwide. Students were asked to consider all of these aspects separately and to possibly aim for the desired changes in their lives.
This paper views these two approaches as distinct, based on different implicit philosophies. From this assumption it discusses the different forms of education for sustainable development that follow from these philosophies. In this framework it sees ESD as an idea that rather supports than criticizes neo-liberal economics. In line with a recent work on the econocracy it argues, that ESD in this sense does not foster democratic education, and at the same time seeks for ways to make sustainability a sustainable concept to be taught.

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