Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures

Submitted by admin on 21. July 2023 - 14:59

Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures

Research project led by University of Bristol, UK

The University of Bristol, United Kingdom, concluded on 17 July 2023 a truly unique research project on Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures (TESF) addressing today's crisis in education faced with the challenges of climate change and the need for sustainable livelihoods. Such education should build on synergies with the planet and each other, establishing a new social contract for education grounded in human rights, non-discrimination, social justice, and a plurality of voices from the global South. In responding to Sustainable Development Goals 8 on sustainable livelihoods, 11 on sustainable cities, and 13 on climate change, it turned research on its head by supporting researchers in the South to tackle the deep inequalities in their communities, strengthening relationships, and co-creating and democratising knowledge combining science, indigenous knowledge and local experience. The aim was to empower local communities to become their own agents of change.

The project coordinated out of the University of Bristol ran for three and a half years, from November 2019 to July 2023. It worked with partners in India, Rwanda, Somalia/Somaliland, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. It addressed the role of education in climate action, decent work and sustainable cities, with cross-cutting themes concerning inequalities relating to poverty, gender and the status of indigenous knowledge, while foregrounding marginalised voices and decolonising research. It critically reviewed colonially-inherited education systems to find more relevant approaches that come alive at the local level.

research projects

The research team led by Professor Leon Tikly was coordinated initially by IEF member Terra Sprague and including among other advisors IEF President Arthur Dahl. It accompanied 67 project teams in India, Rwanda, Somalia/Somaliland, and South Africa. This was not a typical top-down aid project, but empowered each local research team, often in the most difficult situations of extreme poverty and exclusion, to set its own priorities and to determine the educational needs responding to those priorities.

Among the principles applied were:
- everyone should be involved
- education should be transdisciplinary and multimodal (songs, cooking, food gardens, etc.)
- active learning, transformative, transgressive, experiential
- systemically-minded, expansive, regenerative
- transgressive of unsustainable norms, using citizen science.


The external evaluator for the project, Ash Brockwell, was previously a partner in the values-based indicators for education for sustainable development (ESDinds) project developed by Professor Marie Harder, Arthur Dahl and others at the University of Brighton. The evaluation showed how the TESF project provided support and mobilised local capacity for relational ethics, encouraging safe spaces for critical empathy minimally distorted by power relations. It created communities of practice to share knowledge among peers. This was really a model of how unity in diversity should be expressed in research and education.

Sources for the TESF project results

TESF website with lots of materials

Video "Reimagining the Future of Education Together"

Presentation "Putting Knowledge Co-creation into Practice"

Calls to Action

Ethical partnerships…

Knowledge co-creation…

Education for Environmental and Climate Justice…

Education for Sustainable Livelihoods

Education for Sustainable Cities and Communities…

Education for Tackling Intersecting Inequalities

Future Research Agendas (video with Leon Tickly)

research responses

View dynamic archive of TESF (Prezi)

IEF logo

Last updated 23 July 2023