Education for Sustainable Development in Small Island Developing States

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Education for sustainable development (ESD) is an essential element of the global response to environmental challenges. It helps young people understand and address the impact of global warming, encourages changes in their attitudes and behaviour to help mitigate environmental change, and gives them the knowledge and skills necessary for them to adapt to that change.

This study analyses good practices and gaps in ESD implementation in ten small island states vulnerable to climate change: Dominica, Guyana and Jamaica (Caribbean region), Maldives and Mauritius (Africa, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean and South China Seas region) and Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tonga (Pacific region).

The study focuses particularly on climate change education, and provides practical and realistic recommendations on how ESD may be better integrated in education policy and strategy and delivered more comprehensively.

The study will enable policy-makers and practitioners to revitalise the delivery of ESD by revisiting the policies and support frameworks necessary to implement it successfully.




Education is critical to sustainable development, and is an essential element of the global response to environmental challenges such as climate change. Sustainable development can be understood as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). Contemporary perspectives on sustainable development hold that sustainability is not simply a matter of technological innovation, but rather that, in addition to technological innovations, societies themselves must develop, focusing attention on the cultural, psychological and behavioural aspects of societies which lead them to continually push ecological limits (Ayres et al. 1998). This perspective is reflected in touchstone documents of the global education for sustainable development (ESD) movement, including the Earth Charter (Earth Charter Commission 2000) and the Bonn Declaration (UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development 2009). With the United Nations Decade for ESD (UNDESD), 2005–2014, now in its final years, implementation of ESD in many countries has progressed relatively slowly, demonstrating at best mixed results.


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