Challenges and opportunities of education for sustainability in schools

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


There are increasing commitments from the education sector to cultivate our next generation with a life-long and forward-looking concern for the environment, preparing them to make well-informed, reasoned and practical decisions, and to take actions leading to the creation of a sustainable environment. In 2005, the United Nations declared the year as the start of the “United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development”, where “sustainable development” is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. This has become the guiding principle of environmental education focusing on the three major aspects of awareness, attitudes and actions. Through enhancing our students’ awareness of environmental issues and cultivating their positive attitudes towards conservation work, it is believed that they will be more willing to take environmental friendly actions. In response, guidelines have been issued to schools in Hong Kong urging energy saving and waste reduction. Current work on Education For Sustainability (EFS) includes elements of sustainable development infused into the curricula of various subjects at different levels of schooling, from kindergarten to secondary. In addition, a whole range of programmes related to the promotion of sustainable development have been organized. However, at a recent symposium on plastic waste management attended by educators, policy makers, personnel from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and scientists, there were discussions that in spite of these programmes aiming to help our students better understand the interactions between human activities and the natural environment as well as the environmental problems they face locally and globally, our next generation cannot contribute much to alleviating these problems in their daily lives. This presentation will share the existing challenges and opportunities of EFS on plastic waste in schools using research evidence. It is pleasing to learn that success stories at schools are instrumental in reaping benefits from a circular economy. However, education of the other stakeholders in the circular economy, viz. designers, manufacturers and particularly consumers, on the whole process are equally if not more important. The harmonizing educational campaigns with the development of commercially viable recycling infrastructure will contribute to a more closed loop system for managing plastic waste.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


So, W.-M. (2016, November). Challenges and opportunities of education for sustainability in schools. Paper presented at the Asia-Pacific Educational Research Association-Taiwan Education Research Association 2016 (APERA-TERA 2016): Towards a Future Utopia: 21st Century Educational Revolution, National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohisung, Taiwan.


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