Teacher Training for Education for Sustainable Development in China

By Wang Qian (Bonnie)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Background to Teacher Training for Education for Sustainable Development

3. Status of Teacher Training for ESD in China

4. Experience from Germany and the United Kingdom

5. Recommendations

6. References

7. About the Author

1. Introduction

United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD, 2005-2014) indicates that education should serve to enable sustainable economy, society, and environment (Shi, 2008). The key function of education is forming sustainable awareness and behavior among people, which is good for future generations. To some extent, this statement shows that sustainable development includes individual development and is related to complex social contexts. Thus, it is indispensable that governments, schools and teachers should examine how to implement Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Strengthening teacher training is an effective way to help teachers supply valuable theoretical knowledge and practical activities to students for their understanding and practicing of sustainable development. This entry aims to explore the status of teacher training for ESD in China, and consider China’s application of teacher training models from Germany and UK for China.

2. Background to Teacher Training for Education for Sustainable Development

Based on the core value of sustainability, ESD focuses on systematic causes for environmental issues by using comprehensive analytical methods; that is, environmental issues are related to economic, social and cultural issues. ESD is beneficial to the continued development of the world and next generations. It expands from ESD1 to ESD2, with the former mainly focusing on instant environmental protection methods which are useful in a short-term, while the latter leads the public to critically review experts’ ideas, which reinforces that we can make change for sustainable development ourselves rather than following policies only (Vare & Scott, 2007). From China’s official guidelines, it is certain that China values ESD1 and ESD2.

Teacher training for ESD implies that the government or schools provide lectures, courses, and guidelines to teachers and student-teachers for them to acquire knowledge and skills relevant for teaching about sustainable development issues. It serves two main functions; on one hand, it aims to help teachers and student-teachers possess sustainable awareness and take sustainable actions, and on the other hand, it enables them to give ESD courses to students or add ESD concepts into various courses for the formation of students’ sustainability education. Thus, teacher training for ESD can be provided to pre-service and in-service teachers.

3. Status of Teacher Training for ESD in China

In China, teacher training for ESD has been influenced with the introduction of ESD and DESD. China has made efforts to reinforce teacher training for ESD with students. However, many actions are minimal rather than comprehensive, and practice is limited. For example, teacher training includes lectures, where teachers may find it difficult to participate positively and subjectively to know how to deal with their specific teaching challenges. In the context of the main aims of teacher training, which are to introduce theories or practices from schools or teachers, opportunities for teachers to learn particular practices for how to implement ESD are not a major focus.

At the national level, the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO (CNC-UNESCO) holds workshops (jiangxiban) each year for principals and in-service teachers. These workshops last approximately three days, inviting experts who come from academic fields to give lectures or seminars about ESD. Some principals or teachers will be given chances to share their successful experience on practice of ESD. Apart from this, international forums are also held. Some representatives from international organizations or non-government organizations (NGO) and academic experts are invited to discuss new issues and challenges of ESD. In addition, the government or universities cooperate with international organizations or companies to provide short-term training for in-service teachers, focusing on theories of ESD and reforming of teaching methods (Wei, 2007). As can be seen, the country provides training on ESD in different ways, but most formats aim at presenting a nationwide view of development of ESD for in-service educators, but no systematic methods and long-term plans for how to make change are provided. Furthermore, quite limited training is provided to pre-service teachers.

At the local (province/city) level, different districts set up their own plans for teacher training for ESD under guidelines of the national government. They spend much time reforming courses through discussions among policy-makers, educational experts, principals and teacher representatives. The results of that, such as new teaching materials, teaching guidelines, and examination systems, are taught to in-service teachers by short-term training, but practical processes are limited. Training for ESD is not provided to all teachers, but only those teachers who will teach relevant courses about sustainable development.

At the school level, some detailed training is provided to pre-service and in-service teachers, including theoretical study and practical opportunities. As in the district training, short-term training is offered to teachers thought short-term courses that do not demonstrate a systematic training process. The universities and vocational schools have the most potential to provide systematic courses about ESD for students who want to be teachers in the future, but most do not. Concepts of ESD have not permeated into teacher education, and courses about ESD are in shortage.

Thus ESD teacher training in China faces certain challenges. The training mostly targets in-service teachers and does not cover pre-service training. This may lead to teachers’ limited knowledge of and skills in ESD. Second, universities and vocational schools have not taken responsibility in fostering ESD skills and knowledge in students who will become teachers. Third, training includes such methods as lectures or discussions and neglects the importance of including practical process for teachers. As a result, most teachers’ practical abilities in ESD are limited. Finally, most training does not provide teachers with skills in how to introduce ESD themes into other subjects.

4. Experience from Germany and the United Kingdom

China can learn what other countries in this context. Germany and UK both comparatively perform well in teacher training for ESD. Pre-service and in-service training are both provided, with theoretical and practical contents. And the two countries emphasise teachers’ formation of awareness of sustainable development, which may help them understand ESD well and put it into any courses. Because China, Germany and UK are multinational countries with economic capabilities and good educational research institutions and universities, China can learn something from these two countries.

Universities take responsibilities for teacher training for ESD in Germany, so whoever wants to be a teacher must obtain relevant degrees and do internships, and then they can obtain teacher certificates. The federal and state governments introduce new standards of teacher education into educational policy, and sustainable development concepts are added into teacher education courses in universities, which is beneficial for student-teachers’ individual development (Yu, 2014). Different states in Germany can also develop special courses for teacher education in universities, so ESD can be complemented by a focus on local experiences. In addition, each state decides their own financial policies, holding different types of forums and establishing cooperation with other counties and institutions to spread ESD.

Although there are four different nations in UK, they all have reviewed their ESD curricula within the last decade (Bamber et al., 2016). Students should receive environment education in courses during compulsory education, so there are specific teacher training goals about teaching ESD. There are standards required of student-teachers related to awareness and behavior in sustainable development before they start their careers. Additionally, before teachers start careers, they must complete environmental education courses in universities, which helps them develop critical thinking, sustainable awareness and behavior which can help them in teaching students. In-service teaching training is provided by schools, NGOs or ministries of education, including short-term and long-term-training. Apart from these, some professional groups or companies provide courses or teaching materials to schools for training.

There are four similarities of Germany and the UK: firstly, universities or vocational schools take responsibilities for pre-service teacher training, which enhances student-teachers skills for ESD; secondly, the contents of teacher training for ESD focus on how to help teachers combine concepts of ESD with other courses; thirdly, there are teaching standards and much in-service training for teachers; and fourthly, different districts can put forward their own special courses under the guidelines of the federal government.

5. Recommendations

Based on experience from Germany and the UK, China can pay more attention to both pre-service and in-service teacher training for ESD. Universities or vocational schools should take responsibilities for pre-service teacher training, and ESD courses and concepts should be provided to students who want to be teachers in the future. If student-teachers have awareness of ESD, they will be better able to teach ESD courses. For in-service teacher training, different types of training should be held with more cooperation with communities and/or companies, and practical processes should be added into training. Furthermore, standards for in-service teachers should also be emphasized, which encourage teachers to improve their teaching capacity and enhance their skills in ESD. The national government should have guidelines and goals, but different districts and schools should have the capacity to make their own training plans, which can be better matched with local experiences for the training to be useful. Finally, the most important core idea of teacher training is that teachers themselves can make changes to become people who model sustainability in various aspects. Thus, students will know how to achieve sustainable development by imitating good models.

6. References

Bamber, P., Bullivant, A., Glover, A., King, B., & Mccann, G. (2016). A Comparative Review of Policy and Practice for Education for Sustainable Development/Education for Global Citizenship (ESD/GC) in Teacher Education Across the Four Nations of the UK. Management in Education, 30(3), 1-9. Doi: 10.1177/0892020616653179.

Liu, L. (2006). The Research on Teacher Training for Sustainable Development in Middle and Primary School in UK. Capital Normal University.

Mckeown, R. (2014). The Leading Edge of Teacher Education and ESD. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 8(2), 127-131. Doi: 10.1177/0973408214548366.

Shi, G. (2008). Innovational Characteristics of Education for Sustainable Development in China-To Commemorate the project on ESD in China for Ten Years. Education Research, 12, 80-83.

Summer, D. (2013). Education for Sustainable Development in Initial Teacher Education: From Compliance to Commitment - Sowing the Seeds of Change. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 7(2), 205-222. Doi: 10.1177/0973408214526490.

Summers, M., Childs, A., & Corney G. (2005). Education for sustainable development in initial teacher training: issues for interdisciplinary collaboration. Environmental Education Research, 11(5), 623-647. Doi: 10.1080/13504620500169841.

Vare, P. & Scott, W. (2007). Learning for Change: Exploring the Relationship between Education and Sustainable Development. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, Vol. 1(2):191-198. Doi: 10.1177/097340820700100209.

Wei, D., & Wang, M. (2007). The Research on the Status Quo of Teachers’ Training on ESD in China. Essays of Professional Regional Center International Forum on Education for Sustainable Development.

Yu, Z., & Qu, T. (2014). New Development of the Reform of German Pre-service Teacher Education under Education for Sustainable Development. Teacher Education Research, 26(1), 97-102.

About the Author

Wang Qian (Bonnie)

MEd, The University of Hong Kong

Email: Bonnie_Wang0114@163.com