LATEST Summary Recommendations:

Early Childhood Education for Sustainability (ECES)

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 29, 1) agreed that all children have a right to education and it is in the early years (birth to age 8) that children have the greatest capacity to learn. It is also in early childhood that the foundations of many of our fundamental attitudes and values (including those related to sustainable development) are first put into place. The essence of sustainable development is widely understood as equity towards future generations (Speth, 2008), and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a subject centrally concerned with achieving individual ‘freedom’ and ‘capability’ (Amartya Sen, 1999) along with commitments to intercultural respect and a recognition of global interdependence. It is therefore essential that the quality and access to Early Childhood Education for Sustainability (ECES) is expanded globally to achieve Sustainable Development (SD), and to foster an environmental resilience that is based upon the development of children’s independent and critical thinking, setting foundations for the development of the courage that will enable them eventually to lead a life characterised by self respect, respect for others, and a respect for the environment.

In compiling the following general international recommendations for the development of policies and practice with regard to ECES we respect the need to adopt different practical priorities in the ESD in different cultural contexts and the need to combine and promote educational provisions for indigenous knowledge along side (and on at least equal footing with) any provisions for education for economic development:

Recommendation 1
To develop and transform the informal and formal curriculum in ECE contexts (at all levels) through the establishment of collaborative research projects.
The projects should provide a fundamental challenge to the current dichotomies of rich and poor, north and south, and gender difference; seeking to protect and to celebrate biological and human diversity and environmental balance, while countering inequality between and within countries. In order to build upon the successes of the past these projects should be transdisciplinary, accepting and ‘embracing’ the complexities of achieving ECES. As far as possible the projects should also involve both international collaborations that contribute towards intercultural understanding and a wider recognition of mutual interdependency, and also involve local collaborations that provide access to, and a greater visibility of, community contributions and cultural heritage.

Recommendation 2
To develop a broad based global alliance and international community of ECES practitioners, informal and formal teacher educators, policy-makers and researchers.
The establishment of such a community is considered necessary to support the management and distribution of central resources, and to provide (online and traditional paper based) facilities to support international dialogue and the exchange and diffusion of local experiences of ECES practitioners and children who are working in close collaboration with their local communities. The identification and sharing of good practice across NGO’s and national and international agencies is considered vital to the development of ECES. While these activities might be organised at a national or regional level through existing professional associations, it is considered important, in the interests of capacity building and sustainability, that projects that are developed in any one sector (e.g. in teacher education, pre-school settings etc.) should be recognised as having the potential to influence others. International collaboration is also important because the actions that we take for sustainable development inevitably have an effect on other contexts. This is especially true in majority world countries where the lives of young children are often shaped by the decisions made in wealthier minority world countries.

Recommendation 3
To develop approaches that engage children in ‘real life experiences’ of problem solving and solution seeking that are of relevance to economic, environmental, and social sustainable development.
These provisions are required if we are to support the development of environmental resilience in young children, and to lay adequate foundations for the kind of active and responsible citizenship conceived of above. Research suggests that the single most important influence in promoting environmental awareness and concern is childhood experience in the ‘outside environment’. But this does not necessarily lead to pro-environmental behaviours, these often seem to be the result of early contact with enthusiastic and knowledgeable adults who involve children directly in their efforts towards sustainability. We also know from research that even very young children are capable of sophisticated thinking in relation to environmental issues and that the earlier ECES ideas are introduced the greater the impact can be.

Recommendation 4
To develop and promote ECES frameworks, approaches and practices that are strong on community participation, ‘indigenous community knowledge’, and ‘everyday and immediate issues’ related to sustainable development. We are aware that good practices that integrate indigenous knowledge, sustainable living practices, basic human rights and learning through experience and doing do exist in many community early years provisions including those in rural Africa. But these practices remain largely undocumented and there is therefore a need to promote the practices of settings adopting ECES practices. One way in which this may be achieved is by encouraging ECE settings to identify themselves as; “responding to the challenges of Early Childhood Education for Sustainability (ECES)”.

If you share our commitment to the principles outlined above, one very concrete and immediate action that you might wish to take as an individual in response would be to seek the revision of any code of conduct that your own professional association might have (or propose the development of a code of conduct) to incorporate these actions. Further information related to the ongoing development of ECES and related to these recommendations will be posted at (web page?)

Julie Davis, Ingrid Engdahl, Lorraine Otieno, Ingrid Pramling Samuelsson, John Siraj-Blatchford and Priya Vallabh

3 Responses to “LATEST Summary Recommendations:”

  1. John Says:

    This document calls on governments, civil society and in particular educators to prioritise processes that develop and strengthen education for sustainable development, ESD.

    The world has changed since the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.While there have been significant initiatives and progress has been made since 2002 the scale of effort is still overshadowed by the scope of the problem.. For instance human induced climate change is creating a long-lasting ecological crisis with severe economic and social consequences. Recently the economic crisis has drawn attention to the problem of borrowing from resources that do not exist. Poverty, conflict and social injustice remain critical issues on the global agenda.

    A renewed sense of commitment to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development is required. Formal, in-formal and non-formal education and learning processes for sustainability must be strengthened and prioritized. The document supports and builds on the concepts and values that are put forward within UNESCO’s International Implementation Scheme for Education for Sustainable Development and in the Earth Charter. Participation and involvement are necessary components of ESD, with an emphasis on empowerment and agency for active citizenship, human rights and societal change.

    The purpose of Education for Sustainable Development is to re-orient education in order to contribute to a sustainable future for the common good of present and future generations. ESD recognises the interdependence of environmental, social and economic perspectives and the dependence of humanity on a healthy biosphere. Re-orientation is necessary at all levels and in all phases of education, and also encompasses community learning, thus making ESD a wider process challenging the form and purpose of education itself.

    GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS:

    1. ACCESS FOR ALL TO A PROCESS OF LIFE-LONG LEARNING:
    Early childhood is a natural starting point for ESD in order to promote educational access for all people within a process of life long learning.. Education have the enormous challenge of re-orienting curricula and learning processes towards sustainability and ensuring professional development of educators to take up these new challenges.
    Such a process should be a dialogic and participatory process of learning which values the knowledge and experience that people bring to education. Access for all to education is a necessary, but insufficient condition for ESD, and ESD needs to be of a quality and form that helps society to re-orient and transform towards sustainability.

    The group members really liked the start in the specific recommendations.
    • Action point:
    Start right away by using ONE hour on What is not sustainable in our preschool?
    What can we do to change it? How do we start?
    • Enrol the children right from the start, working with their suggestions, questions and themes for ESD.

    2. GENDER: ESD should actively promote critical engagement with norms that define gendered ways of being, doing and living together, and should particularly value the role and contribution of women in bringing about social change and ensuring human well-being.

    The group members liked the general recommendation but thought the wordings in the specific recommendations turned the meaning in the wrong direction.
    E.g. A feminized field was not perceived positive. The words critical in action point 1 and 2 were perceived as devaluing the importance of female values. Could nr 1 go to specific 8 Research in stead?

    Could we write “ECE is mostly run by women and is based on what is often called female values. In education this would mean using circular, relational and dialogical communication.”

    3. LEARNING FOR CHANGE:
    Learning for change is based on relating multiple perspectives to each other all the time. These perspectives include: space, time, culture and different disciplines as well as a non-anthropogenic perspective. Education for sustainable development is based on principles and values as well as a holistic and interdisciplinary approach. This involves learning to know, learning to do and learning to be, and learning to live together and should involve translation of knowledge into real life contexts. It should include empowerment for acting for social change, examining identities, perspectives and power relations, and should include critical media literacy and action competence. Working with multiple perspectives will require acknowledgement of, and respect for contested views and interests, and recognition that these are a valuable source for intercultural dialogue, learning and reflexivity.

    The group members liked this and stressed that ECE is good at change and that:
    • Children are agents for change and often influence their families and grandparents to change into sustainable behaviour.
    • If the starting out point comes from the children’s initiatives and questions, this will not be threatening for the children. It will on the contrary thus lead to positive experiences and to action competence.
    • ECE often already work with child participation and interdisciplinary. We have a special task to tell about our tradition and to spread the good examples.

    4. RELATIONSHIPS AND INTERDEPENENCIES:
    ESD should promote relations between different educational levels, sites and perspectives, and recognise that they are inter-dependent in the wider context of social re-orientation towards sustainability. Networks and partnerships that strengthen international and intercultural co-operation and knowledge exchange possible should be extended and supported. This should foster dialogue, and create new arenas for local and global interaction and change, and different ways of sharing and using resources. At a community level new arenas for dialogue and interchange should also be oriented towards the local/global interface, and social change. Emphasising relationships and interdependencies in ESD also involves integrating research and practice.

    The group members brought up the importance of working together with the parents, and this is not so clearly put in our recommendations.
    It is of utter importance that the leaders in education take on the task of ESD and give priority to ESD within the organisation.
    ECE can play a leading role in local networks to bring up the important questions What is SD here, for us? What can we do for sustainability? And to share examples of what even small children come up with within ESD.

    5. PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TO STRENGTHEN ESD ACROSS ALL SECTORS: This includes teacher education, professional education for educational leaders and community educators. Education of extension officers, business trainers, journalists and others involved in education in its widest sense are also important. Such professional development should be participatory in orientation and should empower educators involved in ESD to share their knowledge and experience more widely. Participation, building on existing knowledge and experience in such professional development is important in learning and democracy.

    The group came up with some more action points – and they want the recommendations to be more specific and action oriented:
    • Set aside 60 minutes for ESD NOW. (We had 60 minutes and reached quite far in this time!).
    • Plan for a project, a form for the process that will give priority to ESD and that makes it easier to find the time to do something.
    • Collective discussions and reflections lead to higher ambitions for ESD and eventually to SD.
    • Appoint SD- Pedagogues in each ECE setting and arrange in-service training and networks for them. (This has been practised within gender, gender pedagogues who have been trained to put on their gender glasses, and made good results and change in the daily curriculum.)

    6. ESD IN CURRICULUM: ESD should be embedded in curricula, steering documents as well as learning material. This would include curriculum review, and development of new curricula. For re-orientation of education multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary curriculum approaches need to be developed to extend current emphasis on disciplinary approaches to working with knowledge. This should involve bringing in other forms of knowledge that exist into formal curriculum.

    The group discussion stressed the importance of participation for everybody. Participation leads to action competence. When re-orienting the curricula, children as well as adults (teachers, parents and others) need to be involved from the start and influence what content, what themes, what actions shall be taken. Thus you don’t risk to work with the wrong issues and in an old fashioned way, not suitable for the present children.

    7. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN PRACTISE: Educational settings should practice values and principles of sustainable development to provide learners to participate in and model solutions to sustainable development issues. This would expand the space for ESD to allow for the development of new behaviour norms in educational settings.

    The group recognizes that To live as you teach is very important and that children follow our examples, not just what we say. To listen to children’s initiatives, not using assessment and grading systems to impose the teachers’ perspectives on children.
    The group liked the ideas about creating new traditions and festivals celebrating good practices within ESD, including awards, exhibitions and prizes.

    8. RESEARCH: There is a need to promote research, evaluation and practitioner enquiry in order to strengthen and extend education for sustainable development. Such research should be inclusive of all the different sites and foci of ESD including community participatory research and research for mobilising indigenous and local knowledge.. It should include new ways of doing and using research including transdisciplinary research and projects that engage actors in civil society in creating solutions and social change.

    The group liked the action points under Research but they would like to add the gender aspect under this recommendation too, as previously mentioned.

  2. John Says:

    EC suggested preamble for general recommendations

    All children have the right to education, and it is in the early years (birth to age 8) that children have the greatest capacity to learn. It is also in early childhood that the foundations of many of our fundamental attitudes and values are first put into place. It is therefore vital that early childhood is recognised as the natural starting point for all policy and practical developments throughout a system of lifelong learning.

    NOTE Check with our general recommendations!

    EC specific recommendations

    These recommendations are grounded on notions that children are competent, active agents in their own lives. They are affected by, and capable of, engaging with complex environmental and social issues. It steers away from romanticized notions of childhood as an arena of innocent play that positions children as leading sheltered, safe and happy lives.

    Access for all/ from all

    There are still a large proportion of children who do not have access to ECE. It is therefore of highest priority that access to all ECE services is enabled for all children. It is also imperative that ECE is recognized as the starting point for lifelong learning within education for sustainability.

    As mentioned in the preamble, it is within these early years that children present the greatest ability to learn and develop. Early childhood education for sustainability has the potential to foster socio-environmental resilience based upon interdependence and critical thinking, setting foundations for nurturing the courage to enable a life characterised by self respect, respect for others, and respect for the environment. All efforts to develop education for sustainability at every ‘level’ should therefore consider the relevance of their work to, and the quality of their engagement with, the early childhood community.

    Action point:

    • Prioritising access to ECE for all children as imperative to their healthy development and life-long learning.

    Learning for social change
    ECE has strong traditions of transdisciplinarity, engagement with the lived environment and child participation, which align well with Education for Sustainability. ECES can thus readily build on these foundations and embrace the complexities of transformative learning.

    We know from experience and research that even very young children are capable of sophisticated thinking in relation to socio-environmental issues and that the earlier EfS ideas are introduced the greater the impact can be. To reiterate, ECE is thus a key step for all EfS.

    There is, therefore, a need to further develop existing approaches that lean on experiences that children bring from their every day lives and where problem solving and solution seeking are relevant to sustainable living.

    Action points:
    • Prioritizing ECE as a first step in learning to live sustainability. This includes international resource allocation, policy prioritization and cross-sectorial support (including social and community workers, higher education, and other community support structures.

    • Community development: Build capacity of communities and families, to strengthen their roles within learning, doing and being. with an emphasis on inter-generational learning.

    Re-orienting curricula / professional development

    ECE has a tradition of integrated curricula approaches, embedded in children’s everyday lives, but it needs to be adopted “onwards” to formal education curricula and “into” informal learning. Additionally, there is an urgent need for capacity building within practioners and members of society forming safety nets and communities for young children, including their primary carers.

    Action points:

    1. There is a need to rework the traditional approaches to better serve the needs of sustainability.

    2. Curricula: Collaboration with formal informal and non-formal educational services and systems that build on the foundations developed within ECES. These would include: primary and secondary schools; higher education; informal learning programmes; local, national and international decision makers and curriculum developers; etc.

    3. Curricula: There are challenges in the implementation of ideal ECE curricula. Stronger support for the implementation of integrated curricula still needs to be realized in many contexts.

    4. Professional development and advocacy: Explicit professional development for ECES practioner on EfS and an increased awareness on the role of ECES within the broader sustainability community.

    Knowledge sharing

    We are aware that good practices that integrate indigenous knowledge, sustainable living practices, basic human rights and learning through experience and doing do exist in many community ECES provisions. However, these practices remain largely undocumented and un-promoted.

    Children live different childhoods, and there is a need not to romanticise but to engage in these contextual approaches critically, and to document and share successful practices.

    Action points:

    • Linkages: To develop and promote ECES frameworks, approaches and practices that are strong on family and community participation, indigenous community knowledge, and everyday and immediate issues related to sustainability.

    • Linkages: As far as possible ECES projects should: a) contribute towards intercultural understanding and a wider recognition of mutual interdependency, and, b) also involve local collaborations that provide access to, and a greater visibility of, community contributions and cultural heritage.

    • Global Arena: To develop a broad based global alliance and international community of ECES practitioners, informal and formal teacher educators, policy-makers and researchers to raise the profile of ECE?.

    Research

    ECES is a field that is under-researched,.
    Action points:

    • Increased allocation of resources for research in ECES and EfS

    • To initiate research studies that are participatory and action-centered on EfS, through transdiciplinary collaboration with professionals from all sectors.

    • A need to enable structures that support the development of ECES practioners to conduct research studies within the field.

    • There needs to be greater research mentoring and capacity building.

    Gender and equity

    ECES is a highly feminized field. It is a potential starting point for identifying important contributions that women from diverse contexts offer to educational practice, child development and education for sustainability. We also recognise that the field needs to engage with the roles of caring, nurturing male role models and their contributions to children’s healthy development.

    Action points:
    1) Critical research into gendered approaches of teaching and learning embedded within the ECES field.

    2) There is a need to critically engage with the ways in which women contribute to laying a foundation of life-long learning within a broad variety of contexts.

    A need to formalise a relational approach often demonstrated by women within the ECES field, and to adopt or translate this approach to other fields and disciplines.

    Left-overs that we still want!

    In order to meet the needs for ESD we need to re-orient curricula and make ESD a common foundation for all areas and subjects.

    While these activities might be organised at a national or regional level through existing professional associations, it is considered important, in the interests of capacity building and sustainability, that projects that are developed in any one sector (e.g. in teacher education, pre-school settings etc.) should be recognised as having the potential to influence others.

    The projects should provide a fundamental challenge to the current dichotomies of rich and poor, north and south, and gender difference; seeking to protect and to celebrate biological and human diversity and environmental balance, while countering inequality between and within countries.

    International collaboration is also important because the actions that we take for sustainable development inevitably have an effect on other contexts. This is especially true in majority world countries where the lives of young children are often shaped by the decisions made in wealthier industrial developed cities and minority world countries.

  3. Zetta Vargo Says:

    Youre right!

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