Education for Sustainable Development
Already in 1992, during the so-called Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), the multilateral community regarded ‘Promoting education, public awareness and training’ (Chapter 36 of Agenda 21) as essential for sustainable development.
Throughout the past twenty years, protagonists have dedicated themselves to this - mostly on an ad-hoc basis. Conferences were organised, courses were formulated, and curricula were scrutinised. Meanwhile, we have come this far that among experts and some institutions there seems to be an agreement on how to integrate ‘sustainable development’ into higher education:
- a standard course for every student during each curriculum,
- scrutinising and modifying existing courses of the various curricula, and
- for those students who want to specialise further, a specific masters programme.
Nonetheless, a ‘time lag dilemma’ is still the case. The majority in society acknowledges on the one hand the urgency to face the challenges of non-sustainable development, but on the other hand, the reform of curricula follows far too slow. The result is that graduates still have no or insufficient knowledge and skills at their disposal to devote themselves to that necessary change. In other words, a lot of time is lost, with the possible result that we could lose this race.
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My own contribution to bridging this gap consisted of teaching the ‘Ecology’ course at the Department of Architecture (Henry Van De Velde Institute) of the Artesis Hogeschool Antwerpen (1994 through September 2003), and - still - the 'Sustainable Development' course at the University of Gent (since 1998). Apart from that, I held lectures on the following subjects: sustainable consumption and production patterns, indicators, integrated production policy, (environmental and/or social) life cycle analysis, sustainable use of natural resources, climate change, technology transfer, corporate social responsibility, integrated chain management, (Belgian) national sustainable development strategy, innovation, transition, policy cycle, institutional architecture, etc.
Hundreds of students were educated; dozens of students were counselled at writing their thesis, term paper or masters. Participation in scientific committees, Council of Wise Men, steering committees, etc. in relation to ‘education on sustainable development’ was a constant factor. The peer reviews of curricula have also provided me with insight on expertise and experience.