Scholarly Technical Education Publication Series (STEPS) Vol. 1

Innovative Initiatives for Sustainable Development


    Prof. Kalpana Mathur
    Head, Department of Management Studies,
    JNV University, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India
    [email protected]


Education in the 21st century should focus on the development of skills, attitudes and understanding which are necessary for occupations and life in the fast changing world. Vocational education and training programs are, therefore, vital in order to increase the workforce in various fields and to improve skills to meet the dynamic demands. It must be recognized, that TVET is a complex differentiated socioeconomic system by itself, which is influenced by involved individuals, state and companies/economy which have partly different interests.

A precondition for TVET to fulfill a role in contributing to Sustainable Development is the identification of sustainable development and action processes in the world of work. Based on identified sustainable action processes in companies, it is possible to create suitable contribution of TVET to support these processes. Sustainable Development in the end is to be achieved only in a global framework – by acting regionally and locally

Keywords: sustainable development, labor market, action process, global framework, social equity


In December 2002, Resolution 57/254 on the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development 2005-2014 (DESD) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and UNESCO was designated as lead agency for the promotion of the decade. The decade pursues a global vision of a world where everyone has the opportunity to benefit from quality education and learn the values, behaviour and lifestyles required for a sustainable future and for positive societal transformation.

The overall goal of the DESD is to integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning. This educational effort will encourage changes in behaviour that will create a more sustainable future in terms of environmental integrity, economic viability, and a just society for present and future generations (UNESCO, 2005).

Education for Sustainable Development

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) has a substantial role in realizing and advancing sustainable development. In this era of the world becoming a global village, it is imperative that TVET brings out a workforce that is not only committed and motivated but also skilled enough to understand the global changes affecting local opportunities for business and employment. The sphere of work in borderless economies has gone through a sea of change, especially due to the information and communication revolution. These changes have signficant impact upon the quality of local socio-economic and environmental conditions. TVET institutions are sizable provider of workforce who will be in the forefront in dealing directly with sustainability issues. To ensure a sustainable future, it is important for TVET to ascertain that every employee balances his role between the place of work and the community in which he lives and serves, thereby contributing to social, economic and environmental sustainability.

There are a number of key themes in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and while the dominant focus is on environmental concerns, it also addresses themes such as poverty alleviation, citizenship, peace, ethics, responsibility in local and global contexts, democracy and governance, justice, human rights, gender equality, corporate responsibility, natural resource management and biological diversity (UNESCO, 2012).

It is generally accepted that certain characteristics are important for the successful implementation of ESD, reflecting the equal importance of both the learning process and the outcomes of the education process. Thus, in the concept of sustainable development three principal dimensions (Holmberg J. ed., 1992; Reed D. ed., 1996; Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 1992) are combined:

  1. Economic Dimension:

    An economically sustainable system that is able to produce goods and services on a continuing basis.

  2. Environmental Dimension:

    An environmentally sustainable system that is able to maintain a stable resource base, avoiding over-exploitation of renewable resource systems, and depleting non-renewable resources, maintenance of biodiversity, atmospheric stability, and other ecosystem functions not ordinarily classed as economic resources.

  3. Social Dimension:

    A socially sustainable system that is able to achieve distributional equity, adequate provision of social services including health and education, gender equity, and political accountability and participation.

In view of the fact that sustainable development stands on three pillars namely, economic, environmental and socio-cultural, it is paramount that TVET policies and practices be deliberated taking a holistic viewpoint and addressing each pillar as a central area for development. If economic development is ignored, it may dissuade funding from prospective sponsors or investors. Disregarding the environmental sustainability issue would project TVET as seeking short term gains with a poor social and ethical image. Indifference to the socio-cultural development would go in the direction of losing local identity due to lack of interest of the local populace.

To incorporate the three pillars, TVET should embrace the green technology that is economically feasible and environmentally-friendly. If TVET cannot create the new green technology, at least it should be able to support and adopt the technology by preparing the future workforce with high awareness and capability in handling the technology (Paryono, 2010).

Ideas such as: curricular sensitivities, learning resources, teaching-learning and evaluation processes, research, consultancy and extension should be integrated into the broader TVET agenda and should also be reflected in institutional governance and leadership. TVET institutions and stakeholders appropriately create awareness and be the driving force that promotes sustainable development in its day to day approach. Thus, TVET does not only play the role of teaching education for sustainable development but also practicing it through its policies and practices.

Education and training are the primary agents of transformation towards sustainable development by increasing people’s capacities to transform their visions for society into reality. When re-oriented towards sustainable development, TVET not only provides appropriate scientific and technical skills, it can also provide the understanding, motivation and support needed for applying them in the interest of helping create a sustainable future (International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education, 2006).

Education for Sustainable Development is an internationally recognized educational approach that moves beyond educating about sustainability to educating for sustainability. Thus, it focuses on engaging people to help create a better future by building people’s capacity for transformational change instead of just imparting knowledge about the environment (The Australian Research Institute for Environment and Sustainablity, n.d.).

Principles of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

The following are principles and foundation proposed for governing ESD:

  1. Envisioning

    Envisioning a better future creates a link between where we are now and where we want to be in the future, so we can plan a series of steps to get us there.

  2. Systems Thinking

    Systems thinking can help us to understand the big picture we are working within, and to create solutions that go beyond just addressing the isolated symptoms of a larger problem.

  3. Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking and reflection challenges us to examine and question the underlying assumptions that affect the way we interpret the world.

  4. Participation

    Participation goes beyond consultation, to empower people by directly involving them in the decision-making process to create a greater sense of commitment and action.

  5. Partnerships

    Creating partnerships for change strengthens ownership of a problem and a commitment to sustainability amongst diverse stakeholders.

Holistic Approach Regarding TVET and Education for Sustainable Development:

A holistic approach to sustainable development has always been emphasized but always come short to be realized. In spite of this, Education for Sustainable Development has permeated in the agenda of many countries since the UN Education for All (EFA) and the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) have been set as international agenda. The development of skills to support this realization has similarly generated high interest from many players (Majumdar, 2011).

In 2004, the Bonn Declaration on Learning for Work, Citizenship and Sustainability became instrumental in defining the role of TVET to sustainable development, emphasizing that: “Preparation for work should equip people with the knowledge, competencies, skills, values and attitudes to become productive and responsible citizens who appreciate the dignity of work and contribute to sustainable societies (UNESCO, 2004a).” The figure below shows the relationship between TVET and the labor market.

Figure 1: Interaction between TVET and the Labor Market

TVET for the world of work has been identified by UNESCO Member States as a priority area within UNESCO’s range of program activities. This is to be expected since there is overwhelming evidence to demonstrate that TVET can play an essential role in promoting economic growth and the socio-economic development of countries, with benefits for individuals, their families, local communities and society in general. Improving education for the world of work can help improve the incomes of poverty stricken farmers, provide citizens with more choices in their lives, help alleviate poverty and empower individuals who would otherwise be marginalized (Maclean, 2005, p. 269).

In recognition of the service function of TVET regarding the labor market and its development there should exist relevant elements in TVET, which can address specific questions and demands. Figure 2 provides areas of action in TVET in relation with the labor market requirements.

Figure 2: Areas of Action
Source: Stolte, H. (2011)

Most work opportunities in the 21st century are likely to be centred on new processes and services with regard to specialized knowledge and skills which are not yet available in general education institutions. In the least developed countries, more effective TVET skills are particularly needed to best cope with the demands of the informal sector, integrating education and training for decent work, empowerment and citizenship (Singh, 2005).

Focal areas for inputs and contributions of TVET regarding the realization of changes in processes have to start from motivation and understanding of sustainability as a critical success factor leading to identification of related challenges. In view of these, appropriate strategy development has to follow which is directed towards the implementation phase for needed capabilities and competencies. Continuous monitoring and evaluation is required for effective long term outcomes as shown below:

Figure 3: Action Process
Source: Stolte, H. (2011)

In view of the objective of identifying strategies and approaches for curriculum changes and integration of sustainable development in TVET curricula, ESD should:

  • be embedded in the curriculum in an interdisciplinary and holistic manner, allowing for a whole-institution approach to policy making;
  • share the values and principles that underpin sustainable development;
  • promote critical thinking, problem solving and action, all of which develop confidence in addressing the challenges to sustainable development;
  • employ a variety of educational methods, such as literature, art, drama and debate to illustrate the processes;
  • allow learners to participate in decision-making on the design and content of educational programs;
  • address local as well as global issues, and avoid jargon-ridden language and terms and;
  • look towardsthe future, ensuring that the content has a long-term perspective and uses medium and long-term planning.

Sustainable Development in the end is to be achieved only in a global framework focusing on action areas at the regional and local level. However, to achieve the results of TVET for sustainable development requires proactive cooperation and systematic linkages in an international framework with this purpose.

In the “Bonn Declaration” on Learning for Work, Citizenship and Sustainability by UNESCO-UNEVOC , the following range of activities have been elaborated for Action Plan for TVET and Sustainable Development during the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) (UNESCO, 20004a; UNESCO, 2004b).

  • Advocacy and vision building
  • Support for the review and development of national TVET policies
  • Guidelines for planning and implementation
  • Capacity building and training programs
  • Learning support materials, resources and equipment
  • Networking and partnership in TVET
  • Ongoing monitoring, evaluation and research/li>

Indian Context

As India’s economy grows, there is an urgent need to produce skilled manpower of international standard to meet the industry’s rising demand. However, the vocational education stream in India is quite small, enrolling less than 3 percent of students at the upper secondary level. Analysis also shows that the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system is not responding to the needs of the labor market. Less than 40 percent of its graduates find employment. Industry’s limited involvement in the management of vocational training is a key constraint to matching skills between demand and supply. Public training institutions also need to be given incentives to improve their performance.

In improving social equity for TVET the following should be considered:

  1. The scheme should target the poor and deprived sections of society in both urban and rural areas specifically, women, SCs/STs/minorities, school dropouts, street children and physically handicapped.
  2. A micro survey for identification of priority needs for training programs of few villages clustered or isolated must be done. NGOs, voluntary organizations, village panchayats, retired teachers, engineers and other target groups should be involved in the process.
  3. The programs may be flexible and informal accessible to all without any precondition of age, sex and educational qualification.
  4. Emphasis should be made for multi-disciplinary skills training to facilitate self employment in the service sector. While for employment in production centers, training may be given either on specialized designated skills or multi trade skills depending on the needs and requirements.
  5. Recognition through issuing certificates, indicating level of proficiency the beneficiary has attained through participation in the programs, may be given by concerned institutes for reference of the employing agencies
  6. Sharing of financial/technical skill resources, available with different institutions/agencies may be availed.
  7. Vocational schools wherever available may be utilized for skill development/ training programs using them as extension centers.
  8. Development of competency-based curricula.
  9. Proper mechanism to know the post training status of the trainees specifically with regard to their self/wage employment.

Issues and Challenges

More vocational education is required to adequately prepare youth for current jobs. This requires:

  • Expanding vocational education
  • Setting common standards for training
  • Defining goals that ensure learning in fields where there is demand for jobs
  • Ensuring accountability and good use of resources

The objectives of manpower development programs are broadly classified as follows:

  1. Providing basic skills, knowledge and attitudes for self/wage employment in their own village or nearby areas
  2. Imparting entrepreneur skills for initiating small/tiny enterprises with specially designed programs for the rural youth and community
  3. Offering programs for upgrading of skills on their specialized fields, or for adoption of appropriate technologies for enhancing their employment prospects e.g., a mason can be trained for construction of bio gas plants; a black smith can be trained in welding or fabrication, etc
  4. Identifying and conducting special training program for women, SCs/SCs, minorities, school dropouts, street children and the physically handicapped
  5. Training for effective maintenance and operation for promoting developmental activities in the villages
  6. Creating special training programs on hygiene, sanitation and mechanical means for cleaning for creation of awareness and liberation and rehabilitation of scavengers

The National Knowledge Commission of India has made the following recommendations:

  • Increase flexibility of VET within the mainstream education system
  • Quantify and monitor the impact of vocational education
  • Increase resource allocation to vocational education
  • Expand capacity through innovative delivery models
  • Enhance the training options available for the unorganized and informal sector
  • Ensure a robust regulatory and accreditation framework
  • Undertake a re-branding exercise
  • Compile best practices in TVET for poverty reduction

The Government of India are making every possible effort to reduce the poverty and to improve the lifestyle of the people. A need-based training must be developed to provide the upcoming members of the labor force with the skills necessary for a gainful employment. There should be an emphasis on the conpetency-based approach and should incorporate monitoring and evaluation mechanisms such as graded exercises, keeping in view the market requirement for various trades. Short-term non-formal, modular courses lasting for 3-6 months duration, depending on the local needs should be established and should commensurate with available local resources with proper structures. It should have the flexibility to offer a self-paced open learning mode (OLM)for the benefit of including people that have the least of skills but would want an increase in living standards through employment. In most cases, the multi skill training may be offered to make self employment viable in the rural economy. Preferences may be given to the training courses with technical leanings.


An important dimension of India’s rapidly growing economy is the development of a skilled and educated workforce keeping in view its current demographic advantage. For the system to become more relevant in the changing context and to leverage this demographic advantage in the future, there is a need to create a model of imparting vocational education that is flexible, sustainable, inclusive and creative.

The introduction of new technologies necessarily creates new types of jobs at different levels. Hence, the skills requirements of occupations also change continually in response to technological changes. This necessitates change in curriculum and training programs in order to make education relevant to man new jobs. Linkages should always remain established with trade and industry and support services in designing curriculum and on the-job-training facilities. Vocational education and training therefore needs concerted re-branding to increase its value.


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