Kari Anttila, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Education and

Mr. Kari Anttila, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland
Written Statement by Finland on occasion of the 2014 UNESCO World Conference on Education for
Sustainable Development, 10-12 November 2014 in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan
Education for Sustainable Development - Best Practices from Finland
The United Nations Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) has been implemented in
Finland through various activities involving a wide spectrum of actors. The decade was the inspiration for
designing the national strategic framework for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).
This written statement shares two best practices that are central in boosting the implementation of the
ESD in Finland, as well as the future within the Global Action Programme. In order to truly achieve the ESD
goals, ESD needs to be integrated in the relevant national policies and programmes. The purpose is that
ESD is and will be implemented in the everyday life of educational institutions and the wider community.
Inclusion of ESD in the core curriculum for basic education
In Finland basic education consists of nine years of compulsory education free of charge provided for the
whole age group in comprehensive schools. Nearly all children complete their compulsory schooling, which
makes an ordinary classroom an excellent example of the whole society in mini-scale, offering an inclusive
learning environment for all pupils.
The national core curriculum for basic education is a very important guiding instrument to boost
sustainable development (SD). The main goals (for subjects that are important in terms of culture and
society) and the distribution of lesson hours between the subjects in basic education is determined by a
government decree. The Finnish National Board of Education formulates the national core curriculum for
basic education on the basis of the government decree.
The current core curriculum (2006) includes the objectives and core contents of different subjects, as well
as the principles of pupil assessment, special-needs education, pupil welfare and educational guidance. The
education providers, usually the local education authorities and the schools themselves, draw up their own
curricula for basic education within the framework of the national core curriculum.
SD has been one of the seven topics emphasized in the core curriculum for basic education since 2006. The
curriculum is now under revision and the new version will come into effect in 2016. There will be even
more emphasis on SD in the revised curriculum. The need for a sustainable way of living and eco-social
understanding will be emphasized in the value basis of education. The working culture of all schools is
expected to be developed so that the school itself is a learning community which exemplifies responsibility
for the environment and futures orientation. The goals and objectives of education will be defined for
transversal competences and for subject-based competences. One of the seven transversal competence
areas is described as “Participation, influence and building a sustainable future”. It will be included in all
subjects so that each subject can promote this competence in its own specific field. The aim is to support all
students to develop their knowledge, skills, values and attitudes, which promote their ability to understand
the importance of a sustainable future and to act as responsible citizens from individual, local and global
The Society’s Commitment to Sustainability
The national strategies for SD and ESD are other important guiding instruments. Finland’s national strategy
for sustainable development, originally entitled "Towards sustainable choices - A nationally and globally
sustainable Finland" (2006) was revised in 2013 into the new form of "Society’s Commitment to
The Commitment includes a vision, shared objectives, indicators and a mechanism to present and report on
individual commitments and actions on the web. ESD is integrated within the objectives of the
Commitment. In order to reach the eight objectives, the idea is that operational commitments are
established on the voluntary basis by all stakeholders in the society, such as administrative sectors,
companies, municipalities, NGO’s, educational institutions and local operators as well as individual citizens.
The operational commitments need to include concrete measures, changes in operating procedures and
habits and/or innovative trials to promote the shared goals. The commitments should also be new and
measurable. By far the biggest share, around 30% of all the operational commitments are currently related
to the education sector (situation in October 2014). This indicates that the education sector is delightfully
interested in sustainable development.
Examples of ESD-related operational commitments:
A challenge for all educational institutions
The Trade Union for Education in Finland (OAJ) and the OKKA Foundation for teaching, education and
personal development, together with a wide range of actors, have challenged all educational institutions to
make their own operational commitments for SD. The commitment may include creating an SD plan, a goal
to achieve a sustainability certificate or other activities and models that enhance ESD.
LUMA* Centre Finland promotes ESD
LUMA actors have pledged to choose topics related to sustainability in the research and development
activities of the universities involved. LUMA actors will develop a minimum of three new operational
models for ESD, targeted especially towards early-childhood and basic education by 2019.
*LUMA is abbreviated from “luonnontieteet”, the Finnish word for natural sciences and mathematics.
LUMA Centre Finland is an umbrella organization for the LUMA network. The aim in LUMA activities is to
inspire and motivate children and young people to become interested in mathematics, natural sciences and
technology using the latest methods and activities in science and technology education. The aim is also to
support the life-long learning of teachers working on levels of education from early childhood to
universities, and to strengthen the development of research-based teaching.
More information on The Society’s Commitment to Sustainability:
More information on OAJ: http://www.oaj.fi/cs/oaj/public_en
More information on OKKA Foundation: http://www.koulujaymparisto.fi/sivu.php?id=1820
More information on LUMA: http://www.luma.fi/en