Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Our understanding of SD/ESD

How the University of Bern understands Sustainable Development (SD)

Sustainable Development is a long-term, optimistic guiding principle for how society should develop, centred on people and their needs, abilities, and actions. Crucially, it envisions inter- and intragenerational social and economic justice, while respecting the environmental limits of natural resource use. This cross-cutting task requires contributions at all levels of decision-making. For this reason, participation is a core principle of SD. Ideally, all actors agree on and coordinate their goals and measures as part of an overall vision. Viewed in this way, SD is a continuous process of negotiation and compromise, to balance and coordinate diverse environmental, social, and economic interests, and to settle conflicts of interest consensually and peacefully. This participation requires, however, that actors possess the relevant knowledge and can act accordingly, or be enabled to do so. In addition to appropriate institutional frameworks, research and education are key.

How the University of Bern understands Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) enables all societal actors to take part in an individual and social search and learning process aimed at shaping sustainable pathways.  These learning processes related to Sustainable Development are key – and so researchers and especially teaching staff at the university have the task of sensitizing their students to the importance of reflecting on the role of science for society and its future. And after their studies, university graduates can significantly help shape sustainable development, through positions of responsibility in research, teaching, administration, private industry, civil society, and politics. That is why Higher Education for Sustainable Development should enable students to think in terms of networks and connections between issues, to grasp complex social-environmental effects and processes, and to formulate hypotheses about the causes and possible consequences of such processes. In the discussion about Education for Sustainable Development, the development of competences plays a central role.