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Transitioning to Quality Education

Book Series: Transitioning to Sustainability
Expected Date of Publication: Dec 2020
Incoming title

About this Volume

Transitioning to Quality Education focuses on the fourth UN Sustainable Development Goal. According to SDG 4, every learner should acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development (UN 2015, 17). Thus, the aim of sustainability education is to foster learners to be creative and responsible global citizens, who critically reflect on the ideas of sustainable development and the values that underlie them, and take responsible actions for sustainable development (UNESCO 2017). Sustainability is strongly connected to attitudes and values, therefore, applications of sustainability are complicated. Quality education requires teachers to have competences, knowledge, and skills to be able to plan and carry out meaningful education and teaching in sustainability.

The aim of Transitioning to Quality Education is to provide versatile experiences and new knowledge on the cognitive, affective, and social issues that are important for promoting sustainable development in formal and non-formal education.

Transitioning to Quality Education is part of MDPI's new Open Access book series Transitioning to Sustainability. With this series, MDPI pursues environmentally and socially relevant research which contributes to efforts toward a sustainable world. Transitioning to Sustainability aims to add to the conversation about regional and global sustainable development according to the 17 SDGs. Set to be published in 2020/2021, the book series is intended to reach beyond disciplinary, even academic boundaries. 

MDPI supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. For use of the SDG logos and design, please see the according Guidelines for the use of the SDG logo, color wheel, and 17 icons.


  • Transitioning to Quality Education: Examining Education for Sustainable Development Goals, Its Limitations, and Alternatives
    Helen Kopnina
    View Abstract

    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.

  • High Quality Educated Teachers and High-Quality Textbooks—The Two Pillars of Quality Education
    Maria Hofman-Bergholm
    View Abstract

    This book chapter is a theoretical discussion highlighting two important pillars of quality education. The importance of teaching material and textbooks is discussed and issues around implementation of sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals in education. It contains research results from the Nordic countries around teacher education and early childhood education teachers, discussions on issues and obstacles and some possible solutions for a way forward.

  • Start for Sustainable Development: Ecological Footprint
    Hamdi KARAKAŞ
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    The aim of this study is to investigate the relationship between elementary school students’ ecological footprint mean scores and their attitudes towards sustainable development. Two hundred and ten elementary school students from three different regions of Turkey (east, middle and west) were included in the study group. As a result of the research, the mean ecological footprint scores of elementary school students were calculated as 2.11 global hectare (gha) and their ecological footprint has been determined to be lower than Turkey’s mean (2.7 gha), but higher than the world mean (1.8 gha). The mean score of attitude towards sustainable development of elementary school students was calculated (X̅ = 3.62), and the low mean score showed that elementary school students did not exhibit the expected sustainable development attitude. A negative correlation was determined between the mean scores of ecological footprints of elementary school students and the mean scores of sustainable development attitude and it was concluded that this relationship was significant. This result shows an inverse relationship between ecological footprint and sustainable development for elementary school students. Achieving sustainable development is primarily possible by changing the consumption habits of individuals. This can be achieved with SDG goal 4 “Quality Education”. Ecological footprint awareness can be used as a tool for the students to become aware of their own consumption habits, to develop the characteristics expected from it and thus to create sustainable development by using natural resources more effectively.

  • Finnish Subject Student Teachers’ Views on Their Social Competencies at the End of Their Educational Studies
    Eija Yli-Panula,
    Eila Jeronen,
    Sofia Vesterkvist and
    Pekka Tolonen
    View Abstract

    In subject teacher education, the main issues in sustainable development education (SDE) lie in questions as to what the educators are supposed to teach, what the status of subject teacher education is today in embedding SDE, and how SDE relates to the focus on professional competencies in teacher education. The aim of this study is to investigate the subject student teachers’ views on their social competencies in teaching students about sustainable development (SD) with respect to local, regional, and global environmental issues. The study questions were: (1) What kind of environmental problems do the students regard as core environmental problems—locally, regionally, and globally? (2) What kind of opportunities do the students feel they have to socially influence local, regional and global environmental issues? (3) How do the students identify and understand the social relationships in the classroom? and (4) How do the students see their likelihood of influencing the school culture they are working in with respect to sustainable development? A total of 142 subject student teachers at six Finnish universities were surveyed. The material was collected using a web-based questionnaire and analyzed by inductive content analyses based on two factors: (1) the multidimensional adapted process model of teaching, especially regarding teachers’ social competences and (2) the competences in SDE. The results showed the students are concerned about issues such as climate change and littering, and would address these by reasonable knowledge construction and social means. In the school environment, the students are interested in SD decision-making, and they value equality and the mental well-being of students, which are supported by the quality of education goals, especially Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4). The findings are discussed with respect to the social skills introduced in the multidimensional adapted process model of teaching, in particular with respect to the UNESCO’s listed competencies in teaching and learning about SD.

  • Systems Thinking Research in Science and Sustainability Education: A Theoretical Note
    Güliz Karaarslan Semiz
    View Abstract

    Systems thinking is a very important skill in both science education and sustainability education. In order to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs), the quality of education should be increased to be able to deal with the complex problems of today, and the systems thinking skills of students and teachers should be developed. Many studies have so far investigated systems thinking skills within the science education and sustainability education context, and they have shown that systems thinking skills can be developed at different grade levels using various teaching strategies. The aim of this literature review is to examine these studies in terms of topic, research methodologies and systems thinking models. Moreover, 32 articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals from 2009 to 2019 were selected and examined. The data were analyzed through qualitative content analysis. The results revealed that the topics that the majority of researchers focused on included sustainability problems, complex systems and earth system (especially water cycle). In the 13 articles, researchers studied systems thinking skills with lower secondary school students. Fewer studies were conducted with primary school, upper secondary school and undergraduate students. Furthermore, 17 articles included intervention studies and the most frequently used teaching strategies were inquiry-based teaching and computer simulation programs. Systems thinking models used in the selected articles were also examined and discussed. This literature review provides several directions for future studies.

  • Academic Literacy Supporting Sustainability for Mathematics Education—A Case: Collaborative Working as a Meaning Making for “2/3”?
    Päivi Perkkilä and
    Jorma Joutsenlahti
    View Abstract

    In this article, we focused on sustainable development in mathematics education from the point of view of academic literacy in mathematics (ALM). ALM was understood here through three integrated components: mathematical proficiency, mathematical practices, and mathematical discourse (languaging). ALM skills support 21st cCentury competencies which are important for citizen skills. Both ALM skills and 21st Ccentury competencies support lifelong learning and sustainable education. Citizens of future society need both ALM and 21st Ccentury competencies to model and solve the issues of sustainable development. We want to develop prospective teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge of school mathematics in the spirit of sustainable education. As the case, we chose the mathematical symbol “2/3” and how collaborative meaning making for “2/3” influences prospective class teachers’ interpretations. Collaborative meaning making is part of ALM. Collaborative working as a tool for meaning making supports the other parts of ALM. By languaging different meanings for “2/3” in pairs, prospective class teachers deepened their understanding about fractions. By supporting ALM skills in teacher education, future class teachers can have a more sustainable basis to teach mathematics for children. As a conclusion, based on the results of our case study, we summarized objectives for sustainable development for teacher education, teachers, and students in mathematics education.

  • Integrating Sustainability Issues into Science Education through Career-Based Scenarios in the MultiCO Project
    Tuula Keinonen,
    Katri Varis,
    Costas P. Constantinou,
    Miia Rannikmäe,
    Annette Scheersoi and
    Shirley Simon
    View Abstract

    The MultiCO project focused on creating career-based scenarios with the intent to make science education more relevant to students and to enhance students’ interest towards science studies and their awareness of scientific careers. This was undertaken through longitudinal studies involving interventions that used motivational scenarios, which were created with multi-stakeholder co-operation between scientists in education and natural sciences, experts from industry and civil society organisations, and formal, as well as non-formal science educators and students. Scenarios were defined as motivational student-relevant constructs related to an attractive issue with the possibility to involve students in an unusual scientific, hands-on activity appreciated as relevant by students, and included career-related aspects. The scenario problem, issue or situation was linked to EU challenges related to energy, water, waste, climate change, food, health, and transport issues. In this book chapter we introduce these scenarios in the light of sustainability focusing on content, context, pedagogy, and skills considered in the scenarios. In relation to Education for Sustainable Development, MultiCO scenarios incorporate both affective and cognitive aspects of learning using contexts relevant to students. The scenarios include decision-making through social learning, local or global perspectives, critical thinking and analysis, and empower students to take action on issues related to sustainability.

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