Four SDSN Networks Highlight Critical Need to Build Teachers Capacity on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

On May 3, 2024, a regional-scale webinar organized by four SDSN Networks presented country pathways toward Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Experts shared country-specific challenges and bolstered areas for focus moving forward. The joint session by SDSN Southeast Asia, SDSN Malaysia, SDSN Philippines, and SDSN Thailand was attended by 127 participants. It featured Dr. Iwan Syahril from Indonesia, Associate Professor Subarna Sivapalan from Malaysia, Associate Professor Dominador Mangao from the Philippines, and Associate Professor Fuangarun Preededilok from Thailand. The session was structured in three parts: ESD country pathways, challenges, and country-specific questions. Karen Chand, Director of Education Studies at SDSN Kuala Lumpur Office, moderated the session.

The convening of country experts from four Southeast Asian countries enabled a rich comparison of individual ESD pathways. SDSN’s regional and country networks have the capacity to identify subject-specific experts for the advancement of sustainable development. This joint webinar allowed each country expert to set their country’s context and highlight the takeaways from past national-level endeavors to achieve ESD at scale.

“ESD is not a one-size-fits-all concept,” mentioned Sivapalan, Head of the Nottingham University Malaysia School of Education. Efforts are required in translating ESD concepts to local contexts in order to make ESD relevant and relatable to teachers. Teacher support avenues and mechanisms for the localization of ESD concepts are much needed.

To collectively move ahead, all speakers emphasized enabling these mechanisms to support teachers. Teacher training models localized to country contexts make global ESD concepts and frameworks relevant and relatable to teachers. Such teacher training is being carried out in both Malaysia and Thailand through models that see private, civil, and government players jointly delivering ESD value to educators.

A proposal to embark on localized, in-service teacher professional development in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand. “I hope we can actually come together at another time to scale [Localized Teacher Training] across the Philippines, Indonesia, and also Thailand with the help of all our speakers today,” proposed Sivapalan.

In Indonesia, teachers are being trained as change agents. This training is carried out using the following approaches: 1) Intrinsic motivation, and 2) Making these teachers school leaders or supervisors or principals. Such training empowers teachers to problem-solve at the local level. “We have seen these pockets of ecosystems change and move forward,” Sivaplan reflected, as the teachers have a mindset of problem-solving and are crafting solutions using resources available to them.

The biggest challenge in Thailand is teacher competency. Empowering teachers is the way forward. “If we would like our students to have the [ESD] competencies, the teachers should have the competency before [their students],” mentioned Preededilok, Chair of the Department of Educational Policy, Management and Leadership at the Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University.

In the Philippines’, the three ESD initiatives highlighted require teachers to integrate learning across different subjects. School Inside the Garden (SIGA) makes the garden a collaborator for learning, as multiple subjects are taught using the garden. The Gulayaan Sa Paaralan (GSP) initiative aims to support school feeding programs whilst inculcating values. Lastly, the Disaster Risk Reduction Resource Manual has served to support teachers in incorporating preparedness across school curricula. Mangao from the College of Alternative and Lifelong Learning Faculty at the Philippine Normal University praised government departments for spearheading sustainability programs and competitions to spur school-level actions and mentioned building teachers’ capacity moving forward.

Speakers illustrated their points with rich country-specific initiatives. To view the webinar, visit Ateneo de Manila University’s Youtube channel.