This article discusses the role of the teacher educators in reorienting teacher education to address sustainability. The article analyzes the implementation of aims and tasks of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) (2005-2014) among Teacher trainers/educators in Kenya. The three recent teacher education and professional development (TEPD) programmes conducted in public Teacher Training Colleges (T.T.Cs) in Kenya were scrutinized with a view of establishing the extend to which Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has been incorporated in teacher education programmes. Both the analysis and the literature review provide no evidence that ESD has become an integral part of most teacher education programmes, and that there is no teacher education initiative that has strategically set out to mainstream sustainability into the core of teacher education programmes particularly in light of current and developing trends in education in Kenya. There is therefore, almost a blank spot in both the body of knowledge on teacher education and the actual practices of many teacher educators with regard to ESD. The article concludes with a discussion of ways to remedy the situation.
The concepts ’sustainability’ and ‘sustainable development’ began their public circulation with “Our Common Future” or Brundtland Report (WCED, 1987). At that time, these concepts were described as a ‘systematic, long-term utilization of natural resources ensuring the accessibility of these resources for future generations’. The interpretation of these concepts stressed the urgency to consider the economic, social and political underpinnings of the problem. Following this, the Conference in Rio de Janeiro emphasized the significance of sustainable development in Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 (United Nations, 1992). This document introduced the principle of sustainability and declared the necessity to apply it to economic, social and environmental aspects. This chapter identified four major thrusts to begin the work of ESD:
- improve basic education,
- reorient existing education to address sustainable development,
- develop public understanding, awareness, and training.
It is worth noting that the first priority of ESD as outlined in Chapter 36 was the promotion of basic education. The United Nations (UN) identified education as key to the move towards sustainability. People around the world recognize that current economic development trends are not sustainable and that public awareness, education, and training are key to moving society toward sustainability.
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is an essential part of a larger conversation regarding quality of life for all the inhabitants of the Earth. Agenda 21 states that efforts on multiple fronts are needed to create a more sustainable world. The 40 chapters of Agenda 21 describe a myriad of initiatives that must be put in place for nations to successfully pursue sustainable development. Education, as observed in Chapter 36 “Promoting Education, Public Awareness and Training,” is one of the fronts with high potential for advancing sustainable development efforts; however, education alone will not move citizens and governments to create a more sustainable future. We cannot imagine how the people of all nations could move toward a more sustainable world without the contribution of teacher trainers (or college tutors as often referred to in Kenya) from around the globe.
Decade of Education for Sustainable Development
The United Nations General Assembly resolution 57/254 proclaimed the period 2005-2014 as a global Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD). The objectives for the DESD were, and still are to:
- facilitate networking, linkages, exchange and interaction among stakeholders in ESD;
- foster an increased quality of teaching and learning in ESD;
- help countries make progress towards and attain the millennium development goals through ESD efforts;
- Provide countries with new opportunities to incorporate ESD into education reform efforts (UN, 2004, p. 2).
Most importantly, the UN DESD aimed at integrating the principles of sustainable development into all areas of learning. It envisioned a world where everyone has the opportunity to benefit from learning that motivates societal change. Throughout the Decade, governments are encouraged to incorporate ESD within education systems, strategies and development plans, as well as promote public awareness of wider participation in these activities.
Other than DESD, the governments of the world, together with agencies of the United Nations launched three other initiatives, all of which agree on the central importance of basic education and the need to extend and enhance its quality. An analysis of these initiatives indicates the complementary role they play towards ensuring a sustainable world.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) - eight goals with a target date of 2015 Education for All (EFA) - Six goals also with a target date of 2015 The United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD) - from 2003 to 2012
Teaching and training are at the heart of the knowledge society. Good basic education is the result of the interaction of multiple factors, the most important of which is increasingly recognized to be quality teachers and teaching (ADEA 2004; ADEA 2005; Anderson 2002; Boyle et al. 2003; Craig et al. 1998; Lewin and Stuart 2003; UNESCO 2004; UNESCO 2006; UNICEF 2000; USAID 2002; USAID/EQUIP1 2004; Verspoor 2006).
During the 1990s, UNESCO identified teacher-education institutions and teacher educators as key change agents in reorienting education to address sustainability. Subsequently, in 1998 the United Nations (UN) Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) work program on Education for Sustainable Development called for UNESCO to develop guidelines for reorienting teacher training to address sustainability. In order to accomplish this task, UNESCO and York University, Toronto, Canada agreed to establish a UNITWIN/UNESCO Chair in 1999 to provide advice to UNESCO and institutions of teacher-education. The task of developing guidelines for the reorientation of teacher-education was passed to the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chair at York. As a result, one of the long-term goals of the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chair was to develop guidelines and recommendations for reorienting teacher-education and associated realms of pedagogy, curriculum, and other related issues.
Kenya, like many other nations around the world, embraced the need for education to achieve sustainability Kenya, for example, developed an Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Implementation Strategy that was to serve as a guideline for ESD implementation across all sectors. To this was added the Kenya’s Vision 2030 that proposes policy formulation and curricula reviews to address ESD concerns. This ESD implementation strategy was to be guided by three broad strategic objectives, namely to: enhance the role of education and learning for equitable, efficient and sustainable utilization of the country’s resources, promote quality education through diverse learning and public awareness for improved quality of life and productive livelihoods, and Promote teaching and learning that inculcates appropriate values, behaviour and lifestyles for good governance and sustainability.
The rationale for launching an ESD implementation program was to develop awareness within the educational community and the public that reorienting education to achieve sustainability is essential. If educational stakeholders, especially teacher trainers, are unaware of the critical linkages between education and sustainable development, reorienting education to address sustainable development will not occur. However, so far, only limited progress has been made. This lack of progress may be attributed in part to a lack of vision or awareness, policy framework and funding. Despite the conceived implementation strategies from multiple fronts, there is no tangible evidence of success.
The Government of Kenya (GoK) has through various reports and policy documents revised the primary teacher education (PTE) syllabus. In 2003, Kenya adapted a rationalized curriculum. In this revised curriculum, national goals and level objectives for both primary and secondary schools were revised and re-stated to make them more responsive to the contemporary needs of the society. The number of subjects was reduced, general and specific objectives were with a corresponding reorganization of the content. The reorganization was meant to address overloads and overlaps within and across subjects. Of concern were contemporary and emerging issues such as environmental education and awareness, gender, HIV/AISs and drug abuse. These were infused in appropriate topics in various subjects. This curriculum review came just before the declaration of the years between 2004 - 2015 as the DESD. Since then, the government has not any curriculum review which would guide the education sector towards ESD.