Minister for Education Norma Foley TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD and Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD have launched the second National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development – ESD to 2030 with accompanying Implementation Plan to 2026.
Education for Sustainable Development aims to ensure that by 2030 “all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including among others through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development” (SDG 4.7).
Minister Foley said, “I am delighted to launch ESD to 2030 today with my Ministerial colleagues. All three Departments with education under their remit are committed to the achievement of the objectives outlined in ESD to 2030. ESD covers a wide spectrum of areas and addresses issues in relation to the environment and biodiversity, to human rights, peace and citizenship, to poverty, inclusion and gender equality to name but a few. ESD empowers people with the competencies to change the way they think and work towards a sustainable future. Therefore ESD can and must be a guiding feature of what we can do, and how we do it in education.”
“Much work has been undertaken and much has already been accomplished under our first National Strategy and we now want to build upon those foundations, to ensure that ESD is integrated across the education system and that it reaches all our learners in all settings, formal, informal and non-formal, and that our educators are equipped to deliver ESD to these learners.”
Minister Harris said, “it is essential that the Irish education system equips graduates with the skills, knowledge and the motivation to apply sustainable practices, not just to their work, but to their everyday lives. This is vital to understand the impact our actions have in our communities and environment, and making informed choices for the benefit of society.”
“This plan provides a framework to steer and support the contribution that the education sector is making and will continue to make towards a sustainable future by 2030, enabling us to tackle some of the grand societal challenges we face, such as climate change and inequality.”
Minister O’Gorman said, “we know that in early childhood many of our attitudes and values are formed. The earlier ESD is introduced the greater its impact and influence. The adoption of this, the second National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development, will bring a renewed focus on integrating ESD into the education system, including for our youngest children who are attending early learning and childcare services. As Minister with responsibly for equality and integration, as well as for children and youth, I am delighted to be able to launch this new Strategy with my Government colleagues, which will help us to create a more sustainable, more equitable and more just future.”
ESD is both a target in itself under the United National Sustainable Development Goals (4.7) and also widely acknowledged as a key enabler for the achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
ESD to 2030 sets out five key priority areas in line with UNESCO’s Framework for ESD for 2030:
• Advancing policy: ESD is embedded in education and other relevant policies and frameworks as part of a lifelong learning approach.
• Transforming learning environments: Learners have opportunities to acquire the knowledge, skills, values and dispositions, needed to promote sustainable development and to experience sustainable development in action through a whole of institution approach to ESD.
• Building capacities of educators: Educators have the opportunities to develop capacities to foster societal transformation for a sustainable future, with ESD integrated into the offerings of education and training providers.
• Empowering and mobilising young people: Young people are supported to be agents of change for sustainable development.
• Accelerating local level actions: Enhanced collaboration exists between education providers, local authorities, local communities, civil society organisations and enterprise in ESD as part of lifelong learning, towards achieving sustainability at a local level.
The strategy spans the continuum of education in Ireland, from early learning and care to third level education and research, and extends beyond to engage with local communities, and youth groups through lifelong learning. It is accompanied by an Implementation Plan 2022 – 2026 with an interim review planned for the second half of 2026.