In pursuit of sustainability
Reviewed by D. S. Cheema

Education for Sustainable Development: Challenges, Strategies
and Practices in a Globalising World
Eds Anastasia Nikolopoulou, Taisha Abraham, Farid Mirbagheri.
Sage Publications.
Pages 232. Rs 795.

Un Agenda 21 was the first international document that identified education as an essential tool for achieving sustainable development and highlighted the areas of action for education. Education for sustainable development has assumed significance in the recent past, especially since UN General Assembly declared 2005-14, the UN decade of education for sustainable development.

Divided into four parts, the book contains 13 essays by eminent writers. In her essay Education in a Globalising Era: Implication for Disabled Girls, Anita Ghai’s focuses on education, health, sexuality and gender. While accepting certain positive outcomes of globalisation in trade, communication, interaction, travel and culture, she laments that due to its selective and uneven nature, it is exacerbating existing inequalities and producing all new divisions and asymmetries. The author feels that neo-liberal policies of governments reduce their revenue and as such they are unable to finance the priority sectors of education. She thinks that it is the economic system which is responsible for turning the impairment into disability, as the twin forces of globalisation and political hegemony make the disabled live a miserable life. Her view is that in a globalised world, where markets determine government policies, disability gets defined purely by medical and labelling terms. Most of the experts of the subject feel that government policy remains only an exercise in tokenism.

Michael J. Scoullos of the University of Athens traces the historical background of environmental education through the Stockholm Declaration of 1972, which emphasises to "broaden the basis for enlightened opinion and responsible conduct by individuals, enterprise, and communities in protecting and improving the environment in its full human dimension", initiation of the International Environment Education Programme (IEEP), the ‘Earth Summit’ of Rio de Janeiro, 1992, the international conference on ‘Environment and Society: Education and Public Awareness for Sustainability’ held in Thessaloniki in 1997 and the UN Decade of ESD of 2005-14.

Archana Prasad, an associate professor at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, has the experience of working on contemporary tribal issues and her focus in her essay is the policies of tribal development through education. She is of the view that tribal areas need to be provided a network of educational infrastructure that is sensitive to their needs.

Ravi Kumar in Market Deprivation and Education in the Age of Globalisation is of the view that Mahatma Gandhi’s dream for the common man has been lost in India’s movement from ‘welfarism’ to ‘neoliberism’. The author thinks that education is available in the market like any other commodity for sale and purchase, as the politics of ‘neoliberalism’ has commodified it and therefore, the state does not manage education as a priority.

Shobha Sinha, presently engaged in research on Indian children’s early literacy experiences in the school context, says literacy learning in India is in a bad shape because of poor pedagogical practices and lack of research. In her essay, Literacy Instruction in Indian Schools, she stresses that literacy must go beyond social service and needs to develop a body of worthwhile professional knowledge.

Sadhna Saxena shares her experience of a literacy programme, ‘Jan Shiksha Abhiyan’. She concludes that the social context in which educational effort is situated strongly moulds the context and influences its consequence. Narayni Gupta, who was the chairperson of the team that prepared social science textbooks for Class III-XIII for government schools in Delhi, infers that textbooks are not read by the students for pleasure, nor seen as works of literary quality, they are a means to an end, to write an examination and to get high marks. She wants the reader to understand that biases can be communicated by textbooks, both by what is written and by what is omitted.

Teesta Stetalvad, a well-known human rights and democracy activist, brings out the necessity of telling the history to students as it is. She stresses that decommunalising medieval history, especially given its overtly anti-Muslim portrayals, is important. She feels exclusion is a subtle but potent form of prejudice. An author of repute, M. Satish Kumar explains the concept of global citizenship, which goes beyond the narrow confines of identity.

Janet Chawla’s essay, Pre-modern Indigenous Practitioner’s Dilemma in a Post-Modern, Globalised World, has a relevant message for biomedical practitioners and public health professionals to consider the indigenous resources like ‘dais’, who deliver majority of the children born in India. Its direct relevance to education for sustainable development is a subject of debate.

All data and information contained in this otherwise a brilliant peace of work date back to 2000 and earlier period and as such reduces the utility, especially when it is known that a lot has happened in government and private sectors since then. In fact, all the essays date back to 2006 and before, even though the collection has been published in 2010.