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Collection:
INTERAMER
Number: 67
Year: 1999
Author: Eloísa Trellez Solís and Gustavo Wilches Chaux
Title: Education for a Sustainable Future in the Americas

The Subjects of Education and the Guides for the Process

The desirability of universal access to education is axiomatic, but when we begin to discuss targeting particular groups for educational programs and for teaching and learning responsibilities, the issue becomes more complex. Nevertheless we would argue that the first subjects of environmental education for sustainable development should be those responsible for the decision-making process: national and local authorities, politicians, legislators, planners, ministers, and employees of international organizations, who have a determinant influence on domestic decisions taken by countries and regions. On the one hand, it is important to construct viable and efficient ways to educate society’s decision-makers. On the other hand, the content of education should be based on new, integrating, holistic, systemic perspectives, which demonstrate effective approaches to complexity and to sustainable development conceptualized in congruence with regional realities. So far, the university, which is responsible for educating decision makers, has not successfully met the challenges posed by sustainable development. Therefore, the outlines of a continuous and current education process are urgently needed, together with an awareness of the urgency of this need.

Professionals and technicians at work in their respective fields of specialization constitute a second target group for this new form of education. Virtually everyone can benefit from a refresher course in his or her profession and craft, focused on sustainability. In addition, everyone should establish a new balance among the roles they play, where development is concerned, i.e. conduct their own analysis of relevant knowledge fields and their applications.

A third target group is made up of educators and educational administrators, at various levels: from university professors to preschool teachers. All are in need of a better and more comprehensive approach to environmental knowledge, to the significance of interdisciplinary knowledge and complexity, to an integral vision, and to an awareness of relationships between society and nature. Educators and administrators should cultivate a sensitivity to the ethical dimension of their teaching and to the construction of sound values which consolidate respect for the rights of society and of nature.

The owners of the mass communications media and their employees make up a fourth target group, because they control an important channel of information which can either educate or alienate the members of society.

Children and youth are a fifth target group, to be considered within the framework of their communities, where they should have the opportunity to mature in a secure and integrated manner.

The sixth group is made up of women, whose education should be privileged so as to allow them to overcome past discrimination and inequality. An education focused on women should correspond to their potential and their leadership abilities; it should be designed to develop them as human beings and enable them to make their contribution to society as a whole.

A seventh target group includes ethnic, indigenous and Afro-american communities, as well as rural and urban communities in general. The significance of their real and potential contributions to sustainable development has already been identified in numerous documents and through the official statements of many governments in the region. The emphasis on educational processes developed by these groups could have a substantial impact on the existing programs.

Who possesses the ability to guide these processes? The construction of education and sustainability as an integral and changing system requires the participation of all social actors. Nevertheless, because of its institutional vocation, legal infrastructure and accumulated experience, the educational sector finds itself in the position best prepared to contribute guiding elements to these processes.

One of these guiding principles is, in fact, an awareness of the importance of participation from diverse social sectors and actors in contributing to environmental education for sustainable development.

Challenge for the Future

To educate ourselves about new concepts and the integral, complex and interdisciplinary vision of underlying life processes.

To support the education sector as it seeks to coordinate all social groups in the formulation and implementation of new educational processes leading to a vision of shared development and sustainability.