Education for sustainability is a lifelong learning process that leads to an informed and involved citizenary having the creative problem-solving skills, scientific and social literacy and committment to engage in responsible individual and cooperative action.
Sustainable development education aims to introduce a holistic approach, as opposed to the reductionist approach common in most education systems nowadays. It also stresses that besides cognitive aspects, experiential aspects are of importance as well. Pupils need to be taught concrete abilities, which can be put into practice in every day life. To accomplish this goal, out-of-the-classroom-activities are of vital importance. One hour outside the classroom is often more effective than 8 hours inside.
Too often, environmental education is based on doom-scenarios and as a effect experienced as burdensome. Sustainable development education needs to be based on a hopeful vision of the future.
Research has been carried out aiming to identify quality criteria for environmental education and to develop a system of standardisation and certification. Six domains in schools are relevant: (a) the policy; (b) the organisation; (c) the activities; (d) the place of environmental education in teaching; (e) external relations; and (f) environmental care. Embedding environmental aspects in the policy and organisation is essential. If this is not realised, schools might react defensively towards environmental education. Another potential bottleneck when integration in policies does not occur, is that environmental education will only be tolerated, but not actively worked on. A possible side effect of integration is assimilation: environmental education is completely integrated in education renewal, but the environmental perspective is forgotten at the end.