Sustainable development, education and literacy

Ann Dale (Royal Roads University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
Lenore Newman (Royal Roads University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Publication date: 1 December 2005



To distinguish sustainable development education from environmental education and stress the importance of problem‐based interdisciplinary learning to sustainable development education.


A range of published works relating to sustainable development education are critiqued, an introduction to complexity theory is given and related to sustainable development education, and a case study is provided to demonstrate an example of incorporating sustainability into course delivery and to demonstrate problem‐based interdisciplinary learning.


Our discussion supports our claim that reconciling sustainability and development requires a complex interdisciplinary approach beyond that found in some areas of traditional environmental education.

Research limitations/implications

Our literature search is not exhaustive and focuses on sustainable development education. A much greater body of literature relating to environmental education exists.

Practical implications

Our discussion and case study suggests practitioners designing and teaching sustainable development related programs should incorporate an interdisciplinary approach and allow for problem‐based applied learning to take place.


This paper distinguishes sustainable development education from environmental education and suggests practical courses of action for initiating sustainable development education in a meaningful manner.



Dale, A. and Newman, L. (2005), "Sustainable development, education and literacy", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 351-362.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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