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Transitioning to Quality Education: Examining Education for Sustainable Development Goals, Its Limitations, and Alternatives

Despite the willingness of many educational institutions worldwide to embrace Education for Sustainable Development and Education for Sustainable Development Goals, critical scholars have pointed out that the very enterprise of sustainable development is not without its contradictions. Therefore, any education that engages with sustainable development needs to be carefully reviewed, rather than supported, in its ambition to promote the supposedly universally desirable aims. The rhetoric of sustainable development as meeting the needs of present and future generations is largely anthropocentric in failing to take nonhuman species into account when setting up pragmatic and ethical objectives. Similarly to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that have helped to raise living standards across the world, but have largely failed to address environmental sustainability challenges, the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) tend to prioritize “inclusive economic growth” at the expense of ecological integrity, which is very likely to negatively affect not only nonhuman species but also future generations and their quality of life. Thus, as this chapter will argue, universally applicable Education for Sustainable Development Goals (ESDGs) is problematic in the context of addressing the long-term sustainability for both human and nonhuman inhabitants of the planet. Given escalating climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and depletion of natural resources, this chapter questions whether ESDGs can qualify as a desirable “quality education”. The paradoxes of sustainable development and ways forward that seem a better alternative for ESDG include indigenous/traditional learning, ecopedagogy, ecocentric education, and education for degrowth, steady-state, and Cradle-to-Cradle and circular economy. Advantages of universal education are also highlighted, as any education that supports basic literacy, numeracy, and values attributed to the intrinsic rights of humans and nonhumans can help students to be equipped to deal with social and environmental challenges.

Table of Contents: Transitioning to Quality Education