Researching Tensions and Pretensions in Environmental/Sustainability Education Policies

From Critical to Civically Engaged Policy Scholarship

Authored by: Robert B. Stevenson

International Handbook of Research on Environmental Education

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  May  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415892384
eBook ISBN: 9780203813331
Adobe ISBN: 9781136699313


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Although educational policies have traditionally emanated from national or sub-national governments and their agencies, international organizations (e.g., UNESCO, IUCN) and intergovernmental conferences have played a major role in environmental education (EE) and education for sustainable development (ESD) or sustainability (EfS) policies. This change accompanies a more recent broader trend in which educational policies are no longer exclusively developed with a national system but have come, under the forces of globalization, to be “now framed, produced, disseminated and implemented differently” (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010, p. 14). Over the past four decades there has been much activity in the production of policy statements for EE and, more recently, ESD or EfS. These statements, which were developed at an international level at meetings and conferences sponsored by UNESCO in Stockholm (1972), Belgrade (1975), Tbilisi (1977), Moscow (1987), Rio de Janeiro (1992), Thessaloniki (1997), Johannesburg (2002), and Bonn (2009), have been very influential in shaping national policies. Such policies have proliferated around the world, initially mainly in advanced industrialized countries, but in recent years more globally in response to the emerging processes of globalization and an emerging focus on education for sustainable development or sustainability. Many scholars have suggested that policies are more common and more developed than actual practices in formal education systems (Gough, 1997; Scott & Gough, 2003; Stevenson, 1987, 2007), and some have argued that the discourse of policy differs in important ways from the discourse of practice (Gough, 1997; Stevenson, 2007).

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