Sustainability in focus

According to the Brundtland definition, sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Within sustainable development, we can identify the three pillars of society, environment, and economy, what can be interpretated in the dimension of culture. Education for sustainable development means that education must establish connections between these dimensions to understand and make the functional rules of connections clear for everyone. Education for sustainable development should not be equated with environmental education that focuses on humankind’s relationship with the natural environment without the broader context of social, economic, and cultural factors like equity, poverty, democracy, and quality of life.
The 21st century seems to be the period of the knowledge-based economy and society. More and more people realize this all over the world from different point of view, but one thing is common: people must keep up with the economic and social changes. To achieve the aims they have to improve their learning abilities, their capacity to transfer their skills into new areas, they must be ready to work in various fields, and to accept that this process requires flexibility, adjustment, adaptivity and investment in human capital. Learning can provide a suitable response to these new challenges. Learning and lifelong learning, including adult and community education, appropriate technical and vocational education, higher education, and teacher education are vital ingredients of capacity building for sustainable future.

Sustainability presupposes lifelong learning, which produces informed and active citizens who can solve the problems with creativity, who understand the working mechanisms of nature and the environment, society, law, and the economy, understand the connections between these elements and make responsible decisions in their individual and public actions. Every generation must understand the principles and ideas behind the sustainability which has to be integrated into education curricula at all levels of education including higher education all over the world. Learning and teaching should be based on the principle of social partnership, and on the mobilization of individual and community resources.
These processes are great challenges for the humanity in the 21st century. This vision of education for sustainable development is a world where everyone has the opportunity to benefit from quality both formal and nonformal education and learn the values, behavior and lifestyles required for a sustainable future and for positive societal transformation, and could help people of all ages better understand the complexity and relations the world they live in.

It is important to point out that there is no ’universal’ model for education and learning for sustainable development. There is a relatively big conformity between the basic priorities and conceptions, but in local or regional situations and levels there are huge differences: in some part of the world the main objective is the building of the knowledge-based society with large participation of NGOs, governments, and other stakeholders while in other parts in some cases the realization of the element education is seems to be impossible. If we review the processes and movements of education and learning in connection with sustainable development and the outcomes of the last few decades, we could see that education in certain aspects is successful, growing number of people take part in many initiatives and programs. On the other hand, the negative trends of human activity hardly have changed, the environment degradation is continuing, the population of the world is still growing permanently and the gaps between developed and developing regions are still exist and grow.

The main task of the higher education institutions of the 21st century is to promote the social, cultural and economic development of their field of operation, to act as a training, further training, cultural and scientific center, to play a central role in strengthening regional cohesion and to continuously develop its training portfolio and find modern answers for the social and economic challenges of the given area they operate. The real response to the growing economic, social and environmental challenges justifies a greater role for higher education institutions in the knowledge transfer that prepares future generations for the effective management of sustainability challenges, where the acquisition of sustainability thinking also plays an important role. This particular cultural adaptation also has to incorporate the main elements of green philosophy into implementation and should focus on making the rules of operation of the links between economic, social and environmental systems, and the causes and consequences of each activity, known and apparent to all concerned, at all levels, and to influence individual decisions in the field, as a result of which stakeholders will be better able to adapt to a complex and rapidly changing world.

To teach new generations, new set of tools are needed, traditional learning is changing, and universities have to change the traditional way of knowledge transfer (for example, how many books and traditional libraries are needed in the 21st centrury?), and of course, teaching staff also has to adapt for these changes and has to use the technology of the information society. New generations probably are going to face with the growing global economic, social, and environmental problems. To prepare them for these challenges, new knowledge elements are needed, and universities could play a crucial role in this knowledge transfer.
The mission of the Faculty of Cultural Sciences, Education and Regional Development is to incorporate this new green philosophy to the educational programs in the field of cultural sciences, education, and regional development to prepare the next generations for the economic, social, and environmental challenges we all face. We also want to play a role in this knowledge transfer, in an international partnership, for a better, more sustainable world: this is the reason we have launched the first winter school of the University of Pécs on sustainability.