In the contemporary society, education is at the heart of development. Moreover, it offers solutions to issues and problems in the modern society. As such sustainable education is essential in attaining a stable economic, environmental and social progress. However, there are complex issues facing education that if not well addressed hinder development. Perdan, Azapagic, & Clift, (2000) asserts that sustainable development is a multifaceted concept relating to a broad range of social, techno-economic and environmental issues. Therefore all these matters need to be dealt with at all levels; that is local and national levels, if a sustainable development is to be realized.
Similarly, McNerney & Davis (1996, p.3) states that the realization of education for sustainability requires “a lifelong learning, interdisciplinary approaches, system thinking, partnerships, multicultural perspectives and empowerment”. This is essential in order to tackle challenges facing sustainability for the future. Further to this, the relationship between humans and the surroundings should be noted with a lot of concern since both are inseparable. Nevertheless, it is crucial in identifying the various disciplinary approaches to education for sustainability. However, sustainability in education should meet the rapid changes in the environment as well as cultural transformation and the growing needs of the society.
More to this point, various institutions and government agencies have been intensively involved in environmental education either directly or indirectly. According to Tilbury (2002, p.78) the government has been in the forefront in promoting sustainability in education. For instance in Netherlands, various ministries have joint forces to uphold sustainability in education through an Interdepartmental Steering Group for environmental education. This is aimed at linking the gap amid the Dutch policy concerning Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and the international practice of ESD. This has led many countries to devise national policies for environmental education including funding the same.
Above and beyond, even though education is crucial in sustainability and development, it needs to reform in itself in order to bring transformation. Apparently, education comes along with its own problems which threaten the environment and the society at large. In respect to this, Sterling & Huckle (1996, p.18) argues that in as much as education is pivotal to promoting a sustainable development, it needs to be addressed as the subject matter of change itself. This is to mean that education is both an agent and a subject of change. As such, if not well dealt with, education can result to unsustainable environment.
However, education is not only tackled in schools but also at the community level. As such, people are sensitized on the increased need of being involved in sustainability and realize the necessity to educate their children in creating a more sustainable future. More importantly, the school curriculum is changing with courses and units being developed to educate students on sustainability (Dernbach & Environmental Law Institute 2002, p.612). Consequently, as students graduate, they are well equipped with the right knowledge for sustainability. On the other hand, lecturers are faced with the challenge of designing courses that will meet the varying needs of the society in the 21st Century.
According to Wankel & Stoner (2009), sustainability is a worldwide concern that is not only about the natural environment but as well entails the social and the political world. Furthermore, it concerns impartiality for the environmental, biological, economics and social aspects of existence. As such, education must be coined to meet the changing global needs at large, thus it should take a universal viewpoint on sustainability.
Willard (2002, p.147) states that “a sustainable economy is a means to a greater end- it is the prerequisite for the restoration of a sustainable environment and sustainable society”. In the same line of thought, a sustainable economy can be achieved where there is sustainability in education. As such, advancements in the education sector are necessary to achieve a meaningful education that will lead to sustainability hence promoting development and globalization. More to this, Lang (2007, p.12) identifies some crucial areas that need to be developed to aid the implementation of education for sustainability. These include “leadership and school management, curriculum and pedagogy, collaboration and partnerships”.
On the other hand, Collin & Collin (2009) focus on the various aspects that promote sustainability in education and the challenges underpinning this sustainability. Of major interest is the advancement in technology which has seen growth of many sectors hence economic development. Nevertheless, advanced technology has made learning easier. Wortman & Tilbury (2004, p.9) affirms that “education for sustainability seeks a transformative role for education in which people are engaged in a new way of seeing, thinking, learning and working”. Thus, people are the major change agents as they are the active contributors and resolution makers in the transformation movement.
Sustainability in education is a concept that entails various disciplines of study. Arguably, the various disciplines have approaches that are lagging behind considering the rapid changes in the environment and the needs of the modern society. Therefore, the school curriculum needs to be revised from time to time in order to meet the current and future needs of the society. More to this, the rising challenges facing sustainability should be addressed by teaching relevant and meaningful education.
Additionally, sustainability in education entails the involvement of the government and other non-governmental organizations. All these should fund education depending on the changing needs. It is surprising that some universities use outdated equipment in their study whereas the government has the resources to fund the same.