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    Ingrid Pramling Samuelsson and John Siraj-Blatchford

    ESD promotes efforts to rethink educational programmes and systems (both methods and contents) that currently support unsustainable societies. UNESCO (2014a) learning begins at birth (Jomtien Declaration)

    Abstract Following the inauguration of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development

    (DESD) (2005-2014), this paper provides a review of the progress that has been made, and the

    lessons that have been learnt in our development of an Education for Sustainable Development

    (ESD) in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE). The importance of life-long learning to the

    development of sustainable societies is widely recognized, and ECCE relates to the first and most

    influential stage of the learning life course (Engel et al., 2007). All children have the right, as well as a

    responsibility, to be educated for sustainable development, and overwhelming research evidence

    shows that it is in the early years 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


    In response to the crisis of unsustainability, most educators and politicians might imagine that in the

    following pages we would therefore be exclusively concerned to identify the progress that has been

    made in the development of pre-primary classroom curriculum content and pedagogy. Yet we have

    found that most authorities and experts in ECCE, as in many in other areas of education, are even

    more anxious to consider the progress that is being made, and the learning taking place; .amongst

    policymakers, amongst senior management, amongst teachers, lecturers, support staff, amongst

    parents, amongst employers, etc., so that education itself can be more transformative and

    appropriate to our times (Sterling, 2008).

    It is now widely recognized that Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) begins at birth, and the

    provisions within ECCE are mostly informal, and/or non-formally educational in nature. The most

    significant educational transformation that is required to achieve an ECCE for ESD must therefore be

    to integrate care and education along with health, safety and play provisions, from birth onwards in

    and through pre-primary school settings, but also in the home, and in the wider community.

    Growing up in poverty has a profound and lasting impact on the learning and development of young

    children. Child safety, nutrition and hygiene in early childhood are also of critical importance in

  • determining their educational outcomes. Attachment, cognitive and physical stimulation, and

    communicative interaction in early childhood have a massive impact on every childs future learning

    and development. Most of the readers of this report will have benefitted significantly from the

    investments made by their parents and primary carers in these terms. But tragically, through an

    accident of birth, crisis, or natural disaster, many children fail to benefit in this way, even if the

    influence of some high quality ECCE programs have been shown to provide compensation (NICHD

    2002, Sylva et al, 2004, 2010, Schweinhart et al, 2004, 2005). An ECCE-ESD curriculum model, which

    ignored these brutal realities, would be addressing the educational needs of only the most privileged

    children in the world.

    In reviewing the progress being made in developing an education for sustainable development in

    early childhood we have found that:

    1. Environmental education has a long history and at the start of the decade this was already well

    developed in pre-primary educational practice in many countries. Yet ESD awareness at the start of

    the decade was extremely limited, and even after nearly 10 years ESD educational provision remains

    fragmented within and between countries around the world. However there are signs that it ESD is

    building momentum in ECCE, and we expect the institution of the new UN Sustainable Development

    Goals will accelerate this process.

    2. Most significantly in the past decade, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of

    early childhood education to the realisation of sustainable development more generally. Research

    and development has also grown in early childhood ESD and OMEP in particular has taken a lead in

    promoting ESD around the world.

    3. UNESCO has provided significant support, through the publication of research and discussion

    papers, and in particular through the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD )

    exemplars of good ESD practice (UNESCO, 2012a). The establishment of an Early Years Chair in ESD

    by UNESCO has also been extremely influential but a great deal more needs to be done to

    mainstream ESD practice, and for governments around the world to adopt more holistic joined up

    thinking with regard to ECCE and ESD. As the second DESD survey of Member States, Key

    Stakeholders and UN Agencies carried out by UNESCO (2014a) found more generally (p,15), the

    DESD has been influential in helping to raise awareness of ESD in ECCE, even if the DESD still has a

    long way to go in stimulating changes in ECCE practice or on sustainability itself. In ECCE the DESD

    has undoubtedly contributed towards ESD establishing itself as en emerging interest, and in a

    minority of countries (in Australasia and Scandinavia in particular) it might even be considered to

    have contributed to solid work in progress (op cit, p16)

    In the second DESD survey UNESCO (2014a) only 26% of the Member states considered significant

    progress was being made in implementing ESD in pre-primary education (compared with 46/7% in

    primary and secondary. It is also important to note that all of the questions included in the survey

    emphasised curriculum changes that will only have been considered to apply to the pre-primary

    component of ECCE (i.e. only one category of ISCED level 0).

    The survey rating scale suggests that, while ESD has not yet been fully integrated into any education

    sectors, it has advanced from 2005, and progress is being made. However, it is notable that from the

    data provided, the very least progress is reported to have been made so far in pre-primary (p22). We

  • argue in this paper that progress being made across the whole of ECCE (ISCED level 0) is significantly

    weaker and that progress must be monitored more closely and holistically. As one respondent to the

    UNESCO (2014a) survey noted:

    As we deal with ESD programs, we found the importance of early childhood education requires

    more attention than we had expected. Many believed that it is crucial to draw attention of young

    children to sustainable lifestyle which will lead to life-long habit. (Republic of Korea, KS) (UNESCO,

    2014a, p30)

    1. Introduction Since the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) convened in Johannesburg in 2002 it

    has been widely recognised that education has a major role to play in the realisation of a vision of

    sustainability that links economic well-being with respect for cultural diversity, the Earth and its

    resources (UNESCO, 2007a). There is also general agreement that education for sustainable

    development (ESD) has to be an integral part of quality Education for All (EFA) as defined in the

    Dakar Framework for Action (WEF, 2000), and it must begin in the early childhood years and

    continue through lifelong learning in adulthood (UNECE, 2005, Feine, 2012, Wals, 2009)

    Resolution 57/254 of the United Nations General Assembly declared the period 2005-2014 as the

    Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) with an overall goal to:

    integrate values, activities and principles that are inherently linked to sustainable development

    into all forms of education and learning and help usher in a change in attitudes, behaviours and

    values to ensure a more sustainable future in social environmental and economic terms (UNESCO,


    The UNESCO objectives of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) are to:

    Facilitate networking, linkages, exchange and interaction among stakeholders in ESD

    Foster an increased quality of teaching and learning in education for sustainable


    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

    (UNESCO, 2007b)

    As Feine (2012) has argued, ESD must begin in the early childhood years, and requires

    transformative learningwithin the common and global constraints of climate change, dwindling

    ecosystem services and environmental degradation. In fact, todays children bear a

    disproportionate share of the impact of climate change, both in the immediate and longer-term

    (Oxfam, 2009, Stone and Loft, 2009, IDS, 2010):

    From long standing hazards to emerging ones, environmental factors are estimated to contribute

    up to 25% of death and disease globally reaching nearly 35% in some African regions. Children are

    most vulnerable to the impact of harmful conditions and account for 66% of the victims of

    environment-induced illnesses." (UNEP, 2014)

  • During emergency and high stress situations the risk of