Walking on the ESD Educational Path

"The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and their destination." JOHN SCHAAR

The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD: 2005-2014) has been a powerful unifying force of different initiatives which ultimately pursue transforming education systems so that they can help to build a better future, enabling us to constructively and creatively address present and future global challenges and create more sustainable and resilient societies.

Building upon its past experiences in educational cooperation in developing countries around the globe, MASHAV’s affiliate the A. Ofri Center focuses on contributing to the training of educators, especially in developing countries, through international cooperation. We do so by promoting quality and holistic education; answering to demand-driven, ownership-based projects; creating participatory educational activities and empowering educational staffs.

As part of the introduction of new ideas by the Ofri Center in our annual programs, and as a result of the rising awareness to ESD globally over the past decade, already in 2008 we thought to introduce ESD as part of our activities, an idea that was strengthened due to the Bonn Declaration of the World Conference on ESD in Germany, 2009. The  main idea was to reflect and to contribute in particular to article 15 (a) to promote ESD’s contribution to all areas and quality of education by  four major thrusts of ESD, in UNESCO’s terms: 1) Access to quality basic education 2)Reorienting existing education 3)Public awareness and understanding 4)Training programs for all sectors.

MASHAV embraced the ESD idea and with the cooperation of Millennium Cities, we offered the beginning of an educational process within the city of Kisumu, Kenya. After a visit to Kenya in 2010, we started our steps on this path and opened the first ESD course in Israel, aimed at Kenyans and participants from different countries.

The course was created with the cooperation of The Institute for Education towards Sustainable Development in David Yellin College, Jerusalem. The purpose was to train educators and facilitators to further promote ESD by internalizing their own ESD values, turning them into actions and inspiring pupils and others.


A couple of months later in 2010 the Deputy Minister of Education of Kenya, Hon. Calist Andrew Mwatela and the PS of the Ministry of Education of Kenya, Prof. James Legilisho Kiyiapi participated in the ESD conference at the Ofri Center. The aim of the conference was to promote the contribution of ESD in achieving quality education through the empowerment and development of local educators in both formal and non-formal education based on good practices, and to share effective approaches of ESD in the development of pedagogical methods, teaching practices, curricula, learning materials, and evaluation of learning processes.

These two visionary leaders took ESD as a project to implement within the entire Kenyan Educational System and to walk the path together. Since then KEPSHA - Kenya Primary Schools Head Teachers Association and KESHA- Kenya Secondary Schools Head Teachers Association joined this journey and finally, an MOU was signed between MASHAV and the MOE of Kenya for six years of cooperation.

These steps gave us the courage, following the great teacher Lao-Tzu’s words, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". We decided to do the simple act of stepping out – we launched upon a great journey toward education and were determined to enjoy the trek.

We believed that we are not alone and that education is not just a thing that we achieve; it is a process we should undergo as naturally as breathing. As David W. Orr, the educational philosopher said, to foster education, "We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine the earth would teach us: silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligating, and wildness"(Orr, D (1991) ‘What Is Education For? 27).

Every idea begins with a question and at times we become confused when we think or speak about sustainable development and education for sustainable development. However, more questions arose, such as: How can students be encouraged? How to change educational paradigms? How to empower the educators as leaders? How do we develop accountability skills? How to elaborate on relevant social science skills? How to encourage people to be innovative, think critically, solve problems, understand complexity and cooperate with others? How to deal effectively with contemporary challenges in our unstable world?

So we decided to walk the path instead of giving a clear answer. We understood that ESD is a mindset, it is a way of doing things and interacting, and it is a contribution to the transformation of education public awareness and training models. It is not a separate subject or adjectival inclusion. It is education itself.

Let’s go back to the question of model.  We decided to pave the way by asking the educators: What’s your strength? What can you contribute to the cause? What needs to be done? Are you one who will work individually within your own school, in your own discipline or organization? Who will be the ones who can take a lead role in raising this issue of ESD?

How can you discover “learning materials” that make these approaches possible? How will you create activities by connections, harmonization, and continuity?

Our path is a commitment to sharing ESD journeys as a way of inspiring. It is an educational process that is transformative, developing socially critical thinkers. It cannot be a journey of conquest like that of the explorers of old times, but rather, it is a journey of imagination, collaboration and participation and it includes different steps:

*Engaging the different forms of knowledge and ways of learning that can only be achieved through the participation of all, in both the process and the outcomes of learning.

* Using the four “S”es involved in sustainable development: Self development, Social development, Spiritual development and Simple development

*Focusing on tools to bring about the desirable paradigm shift

* Using innovative techniques and incorporating multiple intelligences in an holistic approach

*Introducing culture, art and spirituality considerations that are often missing from a lot of what is done in formal education by connecting past and present as well as present and future in order to truly build a sustainable future

* Methodologies that are creative and innovative and that acknowledge the diversity of indigenous knowledge systems and beliefs

* Facilitating the development of creative and critical thinking and problem-solving skills

The ripple effect of this journey is substantial. It touches The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of Kenya, who envision strengthening the process of mainstreaming ESD. It touches the resolution taken recently in South Korea, dubbed the 2015 Incheon Declaration, that adopted the vision of ESD as transforming education systems so that they can help to build a better future as the way to work towards quality education for all. It touches 600 education officers and educators that in the last 5 years have been through MASHAV training programs conducted both in Kenya and in Israel with the aim of mainstreaming ESD in the education system. It touches over 85 schools, that all developed proposals which were to be carried out by both educators and pupils. Some schools have made significant progress and indeed are transformed.

This journey is global. We all want to leave a better world for our children; we cherish the hope that the children may experience this by learning how they can lead lives that consider the rights and needs of others. This involves pupils in discussing the way they live and the products and services they use, enabling them to distinguish between actions and to begin to assess the sustainability of their own lifestyle.

In my personal view, by walking the path of ESD we should broaden our horizons to include the society around us, the world with which we must maintain relations. These connections should be based on different approaches: By communication, by listening, by giving and mainly by educating.

The ties must be vital, real, and alive. We must free our minds of the bonds of mechanical devices that enslave us. We must look for a new path and process, with a new way of expression for life and existence. We should broaden our horizons in order to include the infinite world around us through education in a different paradigm from the one we are used to.

We need to regenerate ourselves, take a new step onto a new path and ask ourselves what is truly important to us in the world, and then regenerate society, and do what we can to improve things.

All this can be done by introducing the aspects of ESD from primary school up through secondary, creating an organic interrelationship between the human being, nature, culture and economy.  Through this we will give the next generations the chance to “walk” the change we need nowadays in our beautiful world .

Yudith Rosenthal

A. Ofri International Training Center
MASHAV - Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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