The key to pushing sustainable development forward is making sustainability
principles a staple of educational curricula and integrating them into social
policies and cultural norms, national and international experts agreed on
Academics and other professionals from the sustainable
development sector gathered together at the Social Pillar of Sustainability
Symposium, hosted by the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya’s School of
The school was founded in January by notoriously
polluting companies Israel Corp., Israel Chemicals and Oil Refineries Ltd. – a
move that the school’s dean, Prof. Moti Shechter, said is an indication that
“sustainability is here to stay.”
Sustainability can generally be defined
as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the
ability of future generations to meet their needs,” explained Prof. Jyoti
Hosagrahar, of Columbia University and the Srishti School of Art, Design and
Technology in Bangalore, India. Traditionally, this definition has also stuck to
the importance of three Es – environment, economics and energy – leaving the
social and cultural components to the wayside, according to
In order to make sustainable practices work, people must
first and foremost be equipped with proper knowledge of these concepts in
secondary schools and institutions of higher learning across the board –
seamlessly integrated into their educations, according to Alexander Leicht,
chief of Education for Sustainable Development at UNESCO in Paris.
vision or the hope of course is that integrating sustainable development into
teaching and learning into education – kindergarten to adult education – is seen
as a key paradigm for good quality, relevant education and a key paradigm to any
progress toward sustainable development,” Leicht said.
All over the
world, education administrators need to be reorienting their institutions
entirely, he explained.
In Shanghai, Prof. Li Fentgtin of Tongji
University’s College of Environmental Science and Engineering, is already
employing these techniques at his university, where he also heads the United
Nations Environment Program – Tongji Institute of Environment for Sustainable
“Students are our future leaders, so this should have the
concept of sustainable development,” said Li, who also serves as UNESCO’s
chairman for education in sustainable development.
degrees, the university’s 45,000 students get sustainability education no matter
what their major at the school, and also gain a strong sense of social
responsibility within their community, Li explained.
The same type of
sustainability education goes for the students of the University of Lüneburg in
Germany, said Prof. Gerd Michelsen of the university who is also the UNESCO
chairman for higher education in sustainable development.
sustainable development has been integrated in the form of a general studies
mandatory component for all bachelor’s degree students. In addition, the
university also offers majors, minors, masters degrees, certificates and PhDs in
Equally important to furthering sustainable
development throughout the world is making sure that people understand it as a
multidimensional concept – with nebulous qualities like equity, justice, social
cohesiveness, cultural, diversity and human development, according to
Social sustainability talks about the quality of life for
people – treating everybody fairly and providing essential services that are
effectively delivered to everyone who needs them, stressed Prof. Arza Churchman,
from IDC’s School of Sustainability. Therefore, leaders need to achieve a very
difficult balance among all the economic, sociological and ecological components
that are crucial to sustainable development, she explained.
challenge is to find a fitting and fair balance between the different goals and
needs,” Churchman said.