Environment, Education, and Society in the Asia-Pacific: Local Traditions and Global Discourses

By David Yencken; John Fien et al. | Go to book overview

11

Listening to the voice of youth

Implications for educational reform

John Fien

It is widely agreed that education is the most effective means that society possesses for confronting the challenges of the future. Indeed, education will shape the world of tomorrow. Progress increasingly depends upon the products of educated minds: upon research, invention, innovation and adaptation. Of course, educated minds and instincts are needed not only in laboratories and research institutes, but in every walk of life. Indeed, access to education is the sine qua non for effective participation in the life of the modern world at all levels.

(UNESCO-EPD 1997:15)

The Commission for Sustainable Development is the United Nations' newest agency. It was formed after the 1992 Earth Summit to review international efforts to implement Agenda 21, the action plan that was agreed at the Summit. However, the task of coordinating and promoting the various elements of the action plan has been allocated to appropriate UN agencies. Thus, responsibility for Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 on 'Education, Training and Public Awareness' has been allocated to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the international agency responsible for catalysing educational innovation around the world. One of UNESCO's first tasks in carrying out its duties on Chapter 36 was to develop a position paper on education as a 'force for the future' in helping advance the transition towards sustainable development. The quotation at the head of this chapter comes from this paper (UNESCO-EPD 1997).

The purpose of this chapter is to explore ways in which the educational experiences of young people in the Asia-Pacific region might be reoriented so that they come to understand and appreciate the importance of sustainability as a foundation of social, economic and political life. The cultural studies reported in Chapters 3 to 8 indicate that the social fabric of the countries in the region is becoming supportive; while the empirical studies reported in Chapter 9 show that young people across the region are very interested in learning more about the environment and sustainable development. However, these studies also indicate that there

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