Putting education at the heart of sustainable development

Transforming societies from fossil-fuel based to circular and sustainable will require far-reaching changes in all sectors, including education. In an own-initiative opinion, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) calls for transformative education that empowers young people to contribute to the green transition.

Humanistic values should be at the heart of education for sustainable development (ESD), with a focus on the environmental and social consequences of our actions. This requires education to be redefined, from pre-school to university, and for adults.

Sustainability is not only about the environment. There are many aspects, and all 17 Sustainable Developments Goals are equally important. Education plays a crucial role as it is a key enabler for all other SDGsrapporteur Tatjana Babrauskienė said.

Young people are the leaders of tomorrow, agents of social change, economic development and technological innovation and can make a vital contribution to sustainable development, including in policy development.

Teaching critical thinking

Critical thinking and informed decision-making should be taught at school, so that children can grapple with sustainable development issues. At a basic level, children should be taught about sustainable energy, consumption and production, reducing food waste and making responsible food choices.

The recently adopted report on the Evaluation of the EU school scheme complements these recommendations: Improving food education measures with class time devoted to the origin and value of food products and visits to farms and agri-food businesses, could make the EU school scheme more effective and contribute to youth education for sustainable healthy eating, said Arnold Puech d'Alissac, the rapporteur of this evaluation report.

Making the teaching profession attractive

In the light of the current teacher shortage and in order to really transform the education system, the teaching profession needs to be made more attractive– with decent salaries, better working conditions, less bureaucracy for teachers, continuous training, and innovative pedagogy and organisation of schools.

The EESC also called for better use of funding for ESD, such as the Recovery and Resilience Facility, Erasmus+, the European Regional Development Fund, and the European Social Fund Plus.

Finding the best approaches but without delay

On the EU level, there are already a lot of good initiatives, from the European sustainability competence framework  to the Council Recommendation on learning for the green transition and sustainable development to name a few. It is now in the hands of the Member States:

The implementation of ESD is currently at various stages across Member States and will need to be adapted according to the respective needs and realities.

We need to start transforming the education towards a sustainable future in the Member States without delay, and it is key to actively include youth, teachers and parents in the process, Ms Babrauskienė said.

What we need further are more linkages and visibility to support the Member States in their endeavours.

More information

EESC draft opinion: Empowering youth to achieve sustainable development through education 

Evaluation of the EU school scheme 


Putting education at the heart of sustainable development