Is There a Future for Education Consistent With Agenda 21?

John Smyth


This paper is largely based on recent experiences in developing and implementing strategies for education consistent with the concept of sustainable development at two different levels, the international level characterised by Agenda 21 along with the efforts of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development to foster its progress, and at the level of a small country-Scotland-with its own individual problems and interpretations. There are, however, parallels between the difficulties and approaches, which these different levels present. Tensions have developed, and need to be resolved, particularly around the differential rates of change to which society is being subjected and the stresses, which these generate. Further sources of tension arise from the scope of the word "environment," the interpretations given to other critical words used to describe what is being attempted and their implications, the poor preparation of people even in high and critical positions, to deal with complex systems, and the status accorded to education as a part of the natural dynamics of the systems in which policy makers are operating. There may be little prospect, as yet, of simple treatments to reduce these conditions, but it is at least important that they should now be part of the thinking of educators and their managers at every level, and that some basic principles be developed for future progress.

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