Utopianism and Educational Processes in the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development

Heila Lotz-Sisitka


Recent international policy literature on Education for Sustainable Development puts forward utopian concepts of sustainable development and transformed learning as objects for educational thinking and practice. This paper, drawing on three illustrative educational investigations with youth in a South African context, critically examines how we might engage with utopian concepts such as those put forward in the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. It incorporates an engagement with other related utopian concepts such as democracy and social justice, which feature strongly in post-apartheid societal reconstruction in South Africa. The paper argues that if we are to avoid valuable utopian concepts such as democracy, sustainability, and social justice from becoming doxic knowl- edge, a reflexive realist orientation might best guide our educational engagements with such concepts. Such an approach to utopianism would take account of contextual realities and situated learning processes, and fos- ter a creativity of action that is constructivist in nature, but not relativist.

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