Dmitry Ermakov

EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION

 

 

The Decade of Education for Sustainable Development in our country started officially in 2006 with the parliamentary hearings in the State Duma of Russian Federation. In 2008 National Strategy for ESD, as well as the Plan of Action for the formation and development of ESD, were developed (but not accepted as official documents).

By now, there are certain initiatives in the field of ESD in our country at all levels of education; many of them were started long before the beginning of the Decade.

Since 1992, the project "Agenda 21 for pre-school educational institutions", which aims to ensure environmental safety, healthy environment for the growth and development of preschool children, was realized in certain kindergartens of Russia.

Another application of ESD for kindergartens is provided trough the framework of the international program "Eco-Schools / Green Flag". Since 2009, the project of the International Organization of pre-school education (OMEP) for children from 0 to 8 years in the field of education for sustainable development is going on.

In 2003, the program "Eco-Schools / Green Flag" of the International Organization for Environmental Education at the level of school education started. The methodology of this program is based on the standards of environmental assessment and management system ISO 14001.

The first domestic course "Sustainable Development" (for 10–11 classes) was developed and tested during 2002–2005. This course is built on the basis the two main content lines. The first content line is based on the essence of the concept of sustainable development as a strategy for environmental management and aims to improve the quality of life for present and future generations. The second line includes substantial competencies which are required for development "Agenda 21": the action plans for sustainable development of local communities on the basis of the interests of various social institutions (government, business, public) to meet their needs through democratic mechanisms. The practical part includes the development of the "Agenda 21" for the school education. Methodological apparatus of this course is based on interactive teaching methods.

The course "Ecology of Moscow and sustainable development" for 10–11 classes is included in the school education in Moscow. The methodology of the course is based on the method of critical thinking. The system of governance is based on sustainable development indicators for the educational institution. The course "Environment and Sustainable Development of the Republic Bashkortostan" is similar.

ESD for further education for children is developing very intensively. In co-operation with foreign partners, projects for further education of children are going on in the Republic of Buryatia, Omsk region., Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area - Yugra and other regions. The consortium of Children's Environmental Center "Vodokanal of St. Petersburg" and the St. Petersburg Public organization for environmental education "EcO" are leading institutions in this area. A number of programs in the field of environmental education for sustainable development are implemented in the Moscow Children's Environmental and Biological Center.

On the basis of scientific and methodological research, teaching experience of the Laboratory of the Institute for Environmental Education content and the Scientific Council on Environmental Education of the Presidium of Russian Academy of Education (A. N. Zahlebny) the Conception of environmental education for sustainable development in secondary schools.

One of the pioneers in the field of ESD for professional education is Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology of Russia, in which the Department of Sustainable development was established in 1995, and this department became an Institute for Sustainable Development in 2000. A number of Russian universities departments, laboratories, institutes, and centers for sustainable development were established. In 2003, discipline “sustainable human development” was introduced as the federal component of the state educational standards of environmental disciplines. Relevant textbooks are developed.

Higher education institutions are implementing educational programs for the public (for example, the project of Open Environmental University by Moscow State University Challenges of sustainable development of Russia"), as well as professional skills improvement courses in the field of sustainable development. For example, modular program "Sustainable Development and Environmental Management" was developed in the Saint-Petersburg State University; this program includes, both theoretical training and participation of students in the practical projects in the field of sustainable development. In the Moscow Institute of Open Education, the Department of Environmental Education and sustainable development provides training and retraining for school teachers.

Unfortunately, sustainable development is not seen as one of priority directions of science and technology in Russia, and it is not considered as critical technologies by the Decree of the President of Russian Federation.

The current list of scientific specialties does not include the scientific degree in the field of sustainable development. On the other hand, during the period 1989–2011 about 900 dissertations were defended in the area of sustainable development. An overwhelming number of the studies in sustainable development are related economic sciences (84 %) and only few are in the in the field of natural sciences: in geography, biology and agriculture (no more than 2 %). The fraction of research dedicating to the philosophical aspect of sustainable development is very little (4 %), the number of research in the area of education for sustainable development is also very low (1 %).

Public organizations, like All-Russian Nature Conservation Society, which was established in 1924, not always intentionally, make an important contribution to the spreading of sustainable development ideas.

International conservation organizations as World Wildlife Fund (WWF), "Greenpeace" and "Green Cross" are working in our country since late 1980s. The participation of citizens and non-commercial organizations in environmental protection is one of the main principles of the state policy in the field of environmental development. The Institute of Sustainable Development by Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation was established, and this institute has regional brunches.

However, we are still far from the completion. The results of our survey of educators, in which teachers, teachers for further education, managers and specialists of educational institutions, employees of non-governmental organizations, etc. were participated, indicate that 77 % of respondents are aware of the need for the implementation of ESD in all educational institutions at all levels of education. The vast majority (85 %) are sure about the necessary of ESD.

Of the key themes of ESD, the educational institutions study very deeply following: biological diversity, protection of the environment, health, AIDS prophylactics, human rights, the spread of information, ICT. Estimation of real situation (0,8) is twice lower than desired (1,6 points). The maximum difference between available and required is related to rural life (1,1), poverty (1,0), the consumption of resources (0,9), eco-tourism (0,9), drinking water (0,8), the local traditions (0,8 points).

Less half of respondents has manuals (43 %) to teach sustainable development. Mainly, they use old manuals, as well as material published in the methodological magazines, newspapers and digests.

Only a small fraction (11 %) agrees that they had a training which is sufficient for the implementation of ESD. Majority (85 %) would like to improve their skills.

According to the opinion of experts in the field of ESD, the greatest progress among the tasks of the Strategy of the Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) for ESD in the Russian Federation was achieved in:

- consideration of the key themes of sustainable development in formal education;

- integration of ESD in the training of teachers and the presence in them of opportunities for collaboration;

- production of teaching materials and teaching aids for ESD (which is not the mechanisms of quality control) access to them.

The work of government organizations, legal and regulatory framework to promote ESD synergies between sustainable development and education, to promote the dissemination of research results in the field of ESD, should be intensified. Experts consider as major difficulties weak awareness of specialist in education about the EDS, absence of clear determination what is ESD, its purpose and content, ignoring of the problem by the government authorities in education and environment.

The work carried out mainly at the level of the academic community, for example, at the Research Council for Environmental Education at the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Education and at Training and Methodological Council for Environment and Sustainable Development Educational and Methodological Association in classical university education), lack of funding, a stronger connection of ESD with environmental education, rather than with socio-economic education, formal approach to implementation of ESD ("Education about Sustainable Development"), lack of training areas of vocational education for sustainable development, reducing the recent number of international projects, the gap between the international context, the absence of the link between ESD and national ideas about the environmental culture, the noosphere, are also among the main difficulties.

On the other hand, experts marked a significant potential of ESD as factor of improvement of the quality of education in the field of environmental protection (such as energy and resource efficiency), and for the education system as a whole, i.e. the transition to creative learning, critical thinking, formation of the free individual, continuous education throughout life, the competence approach, the realization of the values in environmental ethics, social partnership and integration into the international educational system.