The Implementation of Education for Sustainable Development in Higher Education and Teacher Training in Uzbekistan

By Khaydarov Sherzod

Table of Content

1. Introduction

2. The Role of the Government in the Implementation of Education for Sustainable Development in Uzbekistan

3. The Incorporation of ESD in Higher Education and Teacher Training Institutions in Uzbekistan

3.1. ESD Implementation in Higher Education 

3.2. ESD Implementation in Teacher Training Institutions 

4. Challenges and Recommendations 

5. Conclusion

6. References

7. About the Author

1.     Introduction

Education for sustainable development (ESD), its implementation and its efficiency to build sustainable communities, is a major concern for researchers and policymakers. The announcement of 2005-2014 as the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) by the United Nations (UN) encouraged worldwide implementation of practices intended to contribute to sustainable development. The central goal of DESD was to facilitate the accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals and to advance ESD globally (UNESCO, 2009). In 2015, the UN launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an extension of MDGs. However, various controversial opinions arose regarding the concepts of ESD in respect of environmental education (EE), considerations of neoliberal ideology, and, more importantly, contextual differences in use (Jickling and Wals, 2008; Hopwood, Mellor and O’Brien, 2005; Kopnina, 2012). Although authors expressed their worries by claiming that EE’s eco-centric perspective might be deterred with the emergence of ESD, this entry’s argument is grounded on McKeown and Hopkins’ (2003) perspective, which envisions the relationship between the two as healthy and symbiotic. 

UNESCO (2009) highlighted that the integration of ESD in education should be based on the settings and circumstances of each sub-region or country. Uzbekistan (Figure 1) started implementing ESD within its own context in cooperation with international organisations (IOs). This study aims to examine the endeavours to implement ESD in Uzbekistan. The entry focuses on higher education (HE) and teacher training institutions (TTIs), because these stages are efficient ways of disseminating SDGs by preparing future teachers and training current ones. The most challenging aspect of this topic is a research gap on an academic level; therefore, this entry relies on reports and resources of IOs. It serves to fill aninformation gap which can be helpful for students, teachers, and researchers who refer to Uzbekistan.

Figure 1.  The map of Uzbekistan (Retrieved from ).

Figure 1. The map of Uzbekistan (Retrieved from

2. The Role of the Government in the Implementation of Education for Sustainable Development in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan’s current state of economic transition is facing multiple challenges, but the most salient is the environmental challenge. The Aral Sea catastrophe, one of the worst man-made ecological disasters (Figure 2), has led Uzbekistan to prioritise water policy. Being a double land-locked country, Uzbekistan has to rely on its restricted water resources to support sustainability in agriculture, the backbone of its economy. Therefore, SD became a priority direction in the development of the country and ESD has become one of the significant tools in raising awareness of the emerging environmental challenges.

Figure 2.  The Aral Sea Disaster (Retrieved from: ).

Figure 2. The Aral Sea Disaster (Retrieved from:

As a member of the world community, Uzbekistan embarked on the policy for Sustainable Development (SD) in 1997 by establishing the National Commission for Sustainable Development to achieve the tasks set in the Agenda for the 21stcentury and the World Summit on SD in Johannesburg (Country Profile, 2002). This was followed by the adoption of the ‘State Strategy for Sustainable Development’ in 1999 (Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC), 2009). However, economic and agricultural recessions in the early years of independence caused shortages in funding for SD activities; thus the government relied on the aid of IOs, such as UNESCO, UNDP, and the World Bank (CAREC, 2006).

In 2005, the National Commission for SD and its operational working group was abolished and its functions were allocated to a department in the Cabinet of Ministers. CAREC (2009) also stated that the authorisation of ESD into education systems had a ‘declarative character’, and in fact little was done practically (p. 48). Even though the ‘Concept of Education for Sustainable Development’ was adopted by Uzbekistan in 2011 (Vlek et al., 2017). Azizov (2016) reported that the integration of ESD in the curriculum was partial and not implemented in practice. Furthermore, the term ‘sustainability’ cannot be found in any of the state curricula of primary, secondary or higher education. These curricula may characterise some universal notions of ESD, but they cover only basic knowledge with a limited number of hours. 

3. The Incorporation of ESD in Higher Education and Teacher Training Institutions in Uzbekistan

In Uzbekistan, there are 78 tertiary institutions administered by the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialised Education and 16 teacher training institutions under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Education. The implementation of ESD in HE and TTIs is mainly related to ESD’s environmental dimension. EE is compulsory in all tertiary institutions due to the law on the ‘Nature Protection’ of Uzbekistan in 1992. EE existed long before in higher education curriculum.

3.1. ESD Implementation in Higher Education

There are two examples of integrating ESD at the tertiary level. The first is a partnership between the National University of Uzbekistan and the National Commission of the Republic for UNESCO. In cooperation, they established ‘the Coordination Council for EE and ESD’ which dealt with organising forums and seminars to introduce the goals of ESD, preparing Uzbek translation of multimedia programs for teaching and learning, and creating ESD guidebooks for teachers (UNESCO, 2013). The second is the launch of the UNESCO Chair on ESD at the State University of Urgench in 2011, to promote research, create a database on the subject, prepare and train staff, and establish cooperation between distinguished foreign researchers and the teachers of national universities ‘within the framework of train-the-trainers module’ in the field. (UNESCO, 2013, p. 27). Another major goal of this collaboration was to study and investigate the environmental conditions of the regions surrounding the Aral Sea. 

All regional universities provide bachelor’s courses on Ecology, Environment or Nature, and most technical universities have environmental engineering specialties. However, UNECE (2010) observed that no university curricula has fields of study such as ‘Environmental monitoring’, ‘Environmental Law’ or ‘Environmental Management’ despite being core courses of environmental studies. This is a very critical omission in the curricula, as the majority of specialists working for the government and non-government organisations will have to increase their qualifications by studying abroad. From the given examples, it is apparent that current curricula largely focus on environmental protection, but do not address other concepts of ESD. CAREC (2006) attributed the issue to lack of awareness of university teachers and administration about SD.

By contrast, Azizov (2016) asserted that ESD was partly integrated into subjects of ‘Ecology’ and ‘The Protection of the Environment’ in pedagogical institutions andpointed out that the syllabus included some general ESD notions, such as gender equality, HIV/AIDS prevention, and health. However, ESD’s aim of ‘capacity building’ (Vare and Scott, 2007) of individuals was overlooked by authorities and therefore by most students, and even teachers. 

3.2.ESD Implementation in Teacher Training Institutions

Despite the fact that tertiary institutions have general EE classes, graduating future educators are not well trained to include ESD concepts in their practice. Therefore, training current and early career teachers has become the task of TTIs. However, ESD at TTIs is also still focused on environmental topics (UNECE, 2009). This can be explained in the same way that was mentioned above, in the example of HE.  However, the EE of TTIs is slightly different from HE courses, because the duration of teacher training courses is limited to one month. Thus, the task of training for ESD is an extra load to in-service training courses. As the time frame of training cannot cover complete training of ESD, these courses are mostly restricted to delivering only the basics of ESD within several hours of training. One of the leading TTIs in Tashkent reported that they had only an eight-hour program of ESD training (UNESCO, 2010). Obviously, the integration of ESD in teacher training programmes is not fully applied, but considering the limitation of time, it should not be regarded as unsatisfactory. Rather, policymakers should consider solving the problem in a rational way. 

In general, EE has been the main course both in HE and TTIs. This is completely reasonable from the environmental perspective of the country. However, economy, society, and the environment are inextricably linked to each other. It is impossible to maintain the sustainability of the one without considering the others.  Therefore, maintaining the environmental sustainability will remain a challenge, without addressing social and economic problems in the country. 

4. Challenges and Recommendations

Vlek et al. (2017) pointed out three major challenges in the implementation of ESD: lack of competent trainers, deficiency of ‘networks’ to share experience, and the absence of teaching and learning materials (p. 60). Assimilating the experiences of foreign countries might be one of the possible solutions. For example, establishing an ‘ESD Society’ as a national network for SD in HE, or ‘eco-school programmes’ as an agenda to encourage schools to create their own sustainability programmes, such as in Hungary, would be very effective (UNECE, 2009, p. 35). Moreover, launching a journal of ESD would also enhance communication among researchers and practitioners, and strengthen the dialogue between administrators, scholars, and other benefited stakeholders. However, these are associated mainly with teaching processes. 

There are some other challenges which address a broader scope of ESD. One of the main challenges is to develop a consciousness of sustainability amongst students, teachers, and university staff. The implementation of ESD is not only restricted with the introduction of the subject into the curriculum and textbooks, but it also includes shaping the attitudes and behaviours of people towards SD (UNECE, 2005). It would be more logical to take regular practical actions such as roof gardening, “ditch disposable" campaigns, eco-energy programs, waste management within campuses (which are successfully implemented at the University of Hong Kong). They are very cost-effective and practically viable for most HE institutions.  

The implementation of ESD in formal education has a preliminary character, and legal bases are outdated, mostly reflecting MDGs. Therefore, the concept of ESD should be revised to consider future focal points towards achieving SDGs based on national interests. More emphasis should be directed to monitoring of the implementation. Also, there is a huge gap in awareness between the actors on the top and performers at the bottom. According to Vare and Scott (2007), policymakers regard ESD as a tool for delivering knowledge about SD and the authors expressed their worries against such policy. They pointed out that ESD should be a ‘learning process’, i.e., a bottom-up process in order to be successful (p. 5). Therefore, the government should also pay attention to raising awareness of the people through non-governmental organisations and volunteering groups. There are only a small number of such groups in the country and their activities are limited to specific areas, specifically in the capital only. 

5. Conclusion

Extensive implementation of ESD requires amending curricula, creating new textbooks, training teachers, renovating and modernising school buildings and so forth, which have been an excessive economic burden for the government. However, when financial barriers mount, goals seem unachievable, making the situation even worse. Today, if humanity transgresses the boundaries of the environment, the outcomes will be detrimental to the population of the world. Hence, maintaining the sustainability of the environment, economy and society has become a necessity in each country. The best way to do so is to educate people to live, act and think sustainably by infusing values of sustainability. Education can play a critical role in transformation to sustainability and long-term development in the country. The people of Uzbekistan have already experienced the dire consequences of unsustainable water management and irrigation, such as with the Aral Sea destruction and water crisis. Therefore, there is a need for further consideration of state policy to create efficient and sustainable learning environments at HE systems through combined efforts of stakeholders, community, government officials and international organisations.

6. References

Azizov, A. A. (2016). Оценка действий Республики Узбекистан по внедрению образования в интересах устойчивого развития в систему среднего и среднегоспециального образования [The Assessment of Actions of the Republic of Uzbekistan on the Implementation of Education for Sustainable Development in the System of Secondary and Secondary Special Education]. UNESCO Report, Tashkent.  

Country Profile. (2002). Johannesburg Summit 2002. Uzbekistan. United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Retrieved from

Hong Kong University Sustainability Office. (2017). HKU Sustainability Report 2015.Retrieved from

Hopwood, B., Mellor, M., & O’Brien, G. (2005). Sustainable Development: Mapping Different Approaches. Sustainable Development. 13, 38-52. doi: 10.1002/sd.244  

Jickling, B., & Wals, A. E. J. (2008). Globalisation and Environmental Education: Looking beyond Sustainable Development. Journal of Curriculum Studies40(1), 1–21.doi: 10.1080/00220270701684667 

Kopnina, H. (2012). Education for Sustainable Development (ESD): The Turn Away from ‘Environment’ in Environmental Education? Environmental Education Research18(5), 699-717. doi: 10.1080/13504622.2012.658028

McKeown, R. & Hopkins, Ch. (2003). EE p ESD: Defusing the Worry. Environmental Education Research, 9(1), 117-128. doi: 10.1080/13504620303469 

National Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Sustainable Development (NCSD). (1998). Концепция устойчивого развития Республики Узбекистан [The Conception of Sustainable Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan].Retrieved from

Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC). (2006). Progress Review on Education for Sustainable Development in Central Asia. Almaty. Retrieved from

Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC). (2009). Legal Acts, Programmes and Regulatory Frameworks of Education in the Central Asian Region.Almaty. Retrieved from

The Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialised Education. (2015). Higher Educational Institutions.Retrieved from  

Vare, P. & Scott, W. (2007). Learning for a Change: Exploring the Relationship between Education and Sustainable Development. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development1(2), 191-198. doi: 10.1177/097340820700100209

Vlek, P. L. G., Eshchanov, R., Khodjaniyazov, S., Rudenko, I. & Lamers, J. P. A. (2017). From Theory to Practice: Challenges and Constraints to Introducing Education for Sustainable Development in Uzbekistan. In Michelsen, G. & Wells, P. J. (Eds.). A Decade of Progress on Education for Sustainable Development: Reflections from the UNESCO Chairs Programme (pp. 59-65).Paris: UNESCO. 

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). (2005). The UNECE Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development.Vilnius. 

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). (2009). Learning from Each Other: The UNECE Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development.New York and Geneva. 

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). (2010). Environmental Performance Reviews: Uzbekistan. Second review, 29. New York and Geneva. 

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). (2009). Review of Contexts and Structures for Education for Sustainable Development 2009.Paris: UNESCO. 

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). (2010). Education for International Understanding through In-service Training: Uzbekistan Experience, EIU Best Practices, 10. APCEIU.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). (2013). UNESCO Country Programming Document for the Republic of Uzbekistan (2014-2017).Tashkent: UNESCO. 

Uzbekistan State World Languages University. (2017, January 24). Education in Uzbekistan to Focus More on Sustainable Development.Retrieved from

About the Author

Khaydarov Sherzod

MEd, The University of Hong Kong


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