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Competences for sustainable development and sustainability: Significance and challenges for ESD

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to draw attention of the education for sustainable development (ESD) community to recent discussions on competence approaches and to examine the adequacy of a competence-based model as the means of achieving educational and societal transformation towards sustainability. The paper analyses and highlights some important aspects of case studies of the contributing authors to the special issue. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper is based on the review of relevant literature and reflections on the articles that constitute this special issue. It also reflects the authors' observations through their extensive interactions with theoreticians, practitioners and policy makers on ESD in the context of the United Nations decade of education for sustainable development (DESD) and higher education for sustainable development (HESD). Findings ‐ The paper recognises a highly complex nature of the conceptualizations of competences for SD and their articulation in educational programmes. It also highlights a growing interest in competence-based approaches from institutions of higher education and their stakeholders in different parts of the world. Practical implications ‐ The paper provides a broad picture of influential international processes and diverse players driving competence-based approaches in ESD and indicates a need for more coherent critical multi-level analysis of such processes. Originality/value ‐ The paper contributes to a broader debate on strategies of implementation of ESD and education for sustainability (EfS) by mapping arguments on competences for SD and sustainability with a particular focus on higher education institutions.

Keywords: Competences; Higher education; Societal organization; Sustainable development

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 21, 2010


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